Joaquin Phoenix


28 Oct 1974


San Juan, Puerto Rico


Joaquin Rafael Bottom


Joaquin Phoenix was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Arlyn (Dunetz) and John Bottom, and is the middle child in a brood of five. His parents, from the continental United States, were then serving as Children of God missionaries. His mother is from a Jewish family in New York, while his father, from California, is of mostly British Isles descent. As a youngster, Joaquin took his cues from older siblings River Phoenix and Rain Phoenix, changing his name to Leaf to match their earthier monikers. When the children were encouraged to develop their creative instincts, he followed their lead into acting. Younger sisters Liberty Phoenix and Summer Phoenix rounded out the talented troupe. The family moved often, traveling through Central and South America (and adopting the surname "Phoenix" to celebrate their new beginnings) but, by the time Joaquin was 6, they had more or less settled in the Los Angeles area. Arlyn found work as a secretary at NBC, and John turned his talents to landscaping. They eventually found an agent who was willing to represent all five children, and the younger generation dove into TV work. Commercials for meat, milk, and junk food were off-limits (the kids were all raised as strict vegans), but they managed to find plenty of work pushing other, less sinister products. Joaquin's first real acting gig was a guest appearance on River's sitcom, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982). He worked with his brother again on the after-school special ABC Afterschool Specials: Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia (1984), then struck out on his own in other made-for-TV productions. He made his big-screen debut as the youngest crew member in the interstellar romp SpaceCamp (1986), then won his first starring turn in the Cold War-era drama Russkies (1987). In the late '80s, the Phoenix clan decided to pull up stakes and relocate again--this time to Florida. River's film career had enough momentum to sustain the move, but Joaquin wasn't sure what lay in store for him in the Sunshine State. As it happened, Universal Pictures had just opened a new studio in the area and he was cast almost immediately as an angst-ridden adolescent in Parenthood (1989). His performance was very well-received, but Joaquin decided to withdraw from acting for a while--he was frustrated with the dearth of interesting roles for actors his age, and he wanted to see more of the world. His parents were in the process of separating, so he struck out for Mexico with his father. Joaquin returned to the public eye three years later under tragic circumstances. On October 31, 1993, he was at The Viper Room (an L.A. nightclub partly-owned by Johnny Depp) when his brother River collapsed from a drug overdose and later died. Joaquin made the call to 911, which was rebroadcast on radio and TV the world over. Months later, at the insistence of friends and colleagues, Joaquin began reading through scripts again, but he was reluctant to re-enter the acting life until he found just the right part. He finally signed up to work with Gus Van Sant (who had directed River in My Own Private Idaho (1991) and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993)) to star as Nicole Kidman's obsessive devotee in To Die For (1995). The performance made Joaquin (who had dropped Leaf and reverted to his birth name) a critics' darling in his own right. His follow-up turn in Inventing the Abbotts (1997) scored more critical kudos and, perhaps more importantly, introduced him to future fiancée Liv Tyler. (The pair dated for almost three years.) He returned to the big screen later that year with a supporting role in Oliver Stone's U Turn (1997), then played a locked-up drug scapegoat in Return to Paradise (1998). He and "Paradise" co-star Vince Vaughn re-teamed almost immediately for the small-town murder caper Clay Pigeons (1998), which Joaquin followed with a turn as a porn store clerk in 8MM (1999). The film that confirmed Phoenix as a star was Gladiator (2000). The Roman epic cast him as a selfish, paranoid young emperor opposite Russell Crowe's swarthy hero. Determined to make his character as real as possible, Phoenix gained weight and cultivated a pasty complexion during the shoot. Later that year, he appeared in two indies, playing a dock worker in The Yards (2000) (which he counts among his favorite experiences--and one of the only films of his that he can sit through) and the priest in charge of the Marquis de Sade's asylum in Quills (2000).

Actor ( 75 credits )

Far Bright Star (2017)
Mary Magdalene (2017) Jesus (rumored)
The Sisters Brothers (2017) (rumored)
You Were Never Really Here (2017) Joe
Unity (2015) Narrator (voice)
Irrational Man (2015)
Flat Earth & Revelation 10 (2015)  Himself (archive footage) (uncredited) (1 episode, 201
Inherent Vice (2014) Doc Sportello
Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart (2014) Jimmy Emmett (archive footage)
Autopsy: The Last Hours Of (2014)  Himself (uncredited) (1 episode, 2015)
Her (2013) Theodore
The Immigrant (2013) Bruno Weiss
The Master (2012) Freddie Quell
Welcome to the Basement (2012)  Himself (archive footage) (1 episode, 2013)
I'm Still Here (2010) Himself
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (2009)  Himself - Guest (1 episode, 2013)
CMT Star Crossed (2009)  Himself (1 episode, 2009)
Two Lovers (2008) Leonard Kraditor
Reservation Road (2007) Ethan Learner
We Own the Night (2007) Bobby Green
Chelsea Lately (2007)  Theodore in 'Her' (1 episode, 2014)
4Real (2007)  Himself (1 episode, 2007)
Earthlings (2005) Narrator (voice)
Walk the Line (2005) John R. Cash
Hotel Rwanda (2004) Jack Daglish
Ladder 49 (2004) Jack Morrison
The Village (2004) Lucius Hunt
CMT Insider (2004)  Himself (1 episode, 2006)
Omg! Insider (2004)  Himself (archive footage) (1 episode, 2014)
Brother Bear (2003) Kenai (voice)
It's All About Love (2003) John
Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2003)  Himself (1 episode, 2010)
Shootout (2003)  Himself (2 episodes, 2005-2006)
Common Ave. (2003)  Himself (1 episode, 2003)
Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show (2003)  Himself - Guest (1 episode, 2015)
Signs (2002) Merrill Hess
RI:SE (2002)  Himself (1 episode, 2003)
Buffalo Soldiers (2001) Ray Elwood
Anatomy of a Scene (2001)  Himself (1 episode)
The Yards (2000) Willie Gutierrez
Quills (2000) The Abbe du Coulmier
Gladiator (2000) Commodus
8MM (1999) Max California
Clay Pigeons (1998) Clay Bidwell
Return to Paradise (1998) Lewis McBride
U Turn (1997) Toby N. Tucker
Inventing the Abbotts (1997) Doug Holt
Corazón de... (1997)  Himself (5 episodes, 2005-2006)
Magacine (1996)  Himself (1 episode, 2005)
To Die For (1995) Jimmy Emmett
Late Show with David Letterman (1993)  Himself - Guest / ... (6 episodes, 1998-2010)
GMTV (1993)  Himself (1 episode, 2003)
Late Night with Conan O'Brien (1993)  Himself - Guest (5 episodes, 2001-2007)
HBO First Look (1992)  Himself (3 episodes, 1999-2005)
Walking the Dog (1991)
Parenthood (1989) Garry Buckman (as Leaf Phoenix)
Live with Kelly and Michael (1988)  Himself (3 episodes, 2004-2007)
Superboy (1988)  Billy Hercules (1 episode, 1989)
Inside Edition (1988)  Himself (archive footage) (1 episode, 2014)
Russkies (1987) Danny (as Leaf Phoenix)
SpaceCamp (1986) Max (as Leaf Phoenix)
The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986)  Himself (2 episodes, 2004-2005)
Morningstar/Eveningstar (1986)  Doug Roberts (7 episodes, 1986)
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985)  Pagey Fisher (1 episode, 1986)
Murder, She Wrote (1984)  Billy Donovan (1 episode, 1984)
Showbiz Today (1984)  Himself (1 episode, 1997)
The New Leave It to Beaver (1983)  Kyle Cleaver (1 episode, 1989)
Mr. Smith (1983) (1 episode, 1983)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982)  Travis (1 episode, 1982)
Hill Street Blues (1981)  Daniel (1 episode, 1984)
The Fall Guy (1981)  Kid (1 episode, 1984)
Entertainment Tonight (1981)  Himself (1 episode, 2007)
Good Morning America (1975)  Himself - Guest (1 episode, 2014)
ABC Afterschool Specials (1972)  Robby Ellsworth (1 episode, 1984)
Film '72 (1971)  Himself (2 episodes, 2005-2006)

Producer ( 3 credits )

I'm Still Here (2010) producer
We Own the Night (2007) producer
4Real (2007) executive producer (8 episodes, 2007)

Writer ( 1 credit )

I'm Still Here (2010) (written by)