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Martin Adam Pavlík
November 7, 2022, 6:00pm
Reading time: 8:00

Joaquin Phoenix: He Grew Up In A Cult, Almost Died In A Car Accident And Lost Almost 24Kg In A Few Months For The Role Of Joker

10 interesting facts about Joaquin Phoenix that you didn't know.

Martin Adam Pavlík
November 7, 2022, 6:00pm
Reading time: 8:00
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Joaquin Phoenix: He Grew Up In A Cult, Almost Died In A Car Accident And Lost Almost 24Kg In A Few Months For The Role Of Joker
Zdroj: Warner Bros. US
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In the nineties, he began to fully show his talent in the films To Die For, 8 MM, Inventing the Abbotts and Return to Paradise. He started the new millennium with the role of a demonic villain in the historical drama Gladiator directed by Ridley Scott, which earned him his first Oscar nomination. Subsequently, he pleasantly surprised in the mysterious thrillers Signs and The Village.

In Walk the Line he showed everyone that he belongs among the elite, and further confirmed it in the dramas Two Lovers, The Master and Her. He also gave a suggestive performance in the gritty thriller You Were Never Really Here and showed his peak in the disturbing psychological drama Joker, for which the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally awarded him a gilded Oscar statuette.


Joaquin Phoenix is ​​an example of an actor who ages like fin wine. Over time, he gradually took our the breath away more and more, he kept pushing his own limits, and he always gave his best. Today he is not only one of the most sought after, but also one of the best actors on the planet. The American recently celebrated his 48th birthday, and on this occasion, we have prepared an article in which you will learn some interesting facts from his life that you may not have known.



He grew up in a cult that abused children


His strongly religious parents became part of a sect called Children of God (COG) in the 1970s. It was a controversial community of Christians, and as the actor revealed to Playboy magazine, he also grew up in it and thanks to it, he and his siblings and parents traveled a lot through South America. When his parents realised that it was not just any ordinary community, they left the dubious community in 1978.


Actress Rose McGowan also knows about the Children of God, whose family was also a part of this sect until allegations surfaced that COG members were sexually abusing minors. The community was later investigated by the FBI, after which the name was changed from Children of God to The Family International.

He changed his name because people couldn't pronounce it


You may also have trouble pronouncing the name Joaquin correctly. However, you don't have to make a big deal out of it. Most of the people around the actor allegedly had a similar problem. “I changed my name because no one could pronounce it correctly. As a child, I was incredibly ashamed of it," Phoenix revealed in one of the interviews. 


He even said that he himself sometimes had trouble pronouncing his name correctly. Only a four-year-old stubborn boy managed to change his name to Leaf (translated as "leaf"), as he was jealous of his siblings who had more symbolic and exotic names (River, Rain, Summer, and Liberty). In 1991, however, he decided to return to his original name.


A traumatic childhood experience


Joaquin Phoenix is also known as an animal rights activist. He talked about veganism during his speech after he won the Oscar for the movie Joker in 2020. "We take milk from a cow that is meant for her calf and put it in our coffee and cereal," he did not spare the audience in the hall and in front of the TV screens . However, few people know what led the actor to such radical attitudes that even on the film set he cannot wear any costume made of leather.


In an honest and open interview with Collider, he explained that it all started with a traumatic childhood experience when he witnessed the killing of fish on a boat. He is said to have been extremely affected by it and felt a sense of injustice. "It made me mistrust, angry and afraid of people, humanity. I saw it as a gross abuse of power. I think that's when my siblings and I knew we weren't going to eat meat anymore," Phoenix said.

The tragic death of an older brother

For Joaquin, his brother River, four years older, was a role model. In 1984, they starred together in the TV movie Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia, soon after that River shone in Rob Reiner's classic Stand By Me (1986). He also appeared in the third part of Spielberg's Indiana Jones.


River's highlight was Gus Van Sant's drama My Own Private Idaho, in which he appeared alongside Keanu Reeves and for which he won an award in Venice. Fame, however, led the young actor, like many others, to the "slippery slope" and drug pleasures unfortunately became fatal for him.


River died on Halloween, October 31, 1993, after overdosing during a party at Johnny Depp's nightclub, The Viper Room. On the fateful night, Joaquin was also there, and he was the one who called 911. The New York Post writes that the tragic death was preceded by River's wild partying with Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante. Joaquin named his son with actress Rooney Mara after his brother in 2020.

In Walk the Line, he sang and performed everything himself

In 2005, Phoenix starred in James Mangold's biographical drama Walk the Line, in which he played the famous musician Johnny Cash. He won the Golden Globe for the first time in his career for an extremely suggestive performance and was also nominated for an Oscar. Maybe while watching this movie, you thought that the singing numbers in the movie are just "for show" and the creators used the original recordings of Johnny Cash's voice.


In fact, everything was sung by Phoenix and he was able to imitate the color of Cash's voice beyond recognition. As he himself revealed to CNN, it was a huge challenge for him, as he had never sung properly before, and certainly not in front of an audience. "I had to use a part of my voice that I didn't know existed," the actor explained.

He was also the one who played the guitar. So it was all the more difficult for him on the job. But he never took the easy way out. It was also a paradox that he portrayed an alcoholic in the film, while it was during filming that the actor himself got into drinking problems.

He almost died in a car accident


It was during a tumultuous period of alcohol intoxication that Phoenix had an accident that could have cost him his life. Fortunately, he was saved by the famous German director Werner Herzog (Fitzcarraldo, Aguirre, the Wrath of God). This terrifying experience is said to have changed him forever. According to CBS News, it all took place in January 2006 in Los Angeles.


One night Phoenix lost control of his car while driving. The vehicle left the canyon road and fell from a height until it overturned and landed on the roof of another vehicle. According to Herzog (who happened to be following Phoenix's vehicle at the time), the actor was upside down in the car after the crash, and instead of trying to get out, he tried to light a cigarette.

However, since the car was leaking gas, the director quickly explained that it wouldn't be the best idea and took the lighter from his hand. He then broke the glass and dragged Phoenix out of the car. He calmed him down, while spoking to him in a fatherly manner. Phoenix checked himself into "rehab" at a treatment facility shortly thereafter.


"I was an idiot, I ran around, I drank, I tried to piss people off, I went to stupid clubs," the actor recalled of a period that could have ended tragically, similar to the case of his older brother. In the end, however, he managed to sober up and today he is not only vegan, but also abstinent.

He suffers from great anxiety and nausea

His performances are sometimes literally chilling. In places, it even goes beyond the limits in terms of physical or mental health. He prefers methodical acting and is able to empathize with the characters he portrays with every cell, which is not always the most pleasant process. But being so good on screen takes its toll.


As Phoenix revealed to Interview magazine in 2012, he always suffers from nausea the day before filming, and for weeks after filming begins, he has incredible anxiety and is extremely nervous. One of the signs is excessive sweating. “They have to put pads in my armpits because I sweat so much it drips all over my wardrobe. For the first three weeks of filming, I'm just sweating. It's pure anxiety, but I love it," said the Oscar winner.


Source: Film Europe

He pranked people with a bizarre mockumentary

If the term mockument seems confusing to you, we are not wrong. It is a fictional documentary whose task is to deceive the viewer and make him believe that he is watching something real, when it is not. In this way, he decided to "prank" Phoenix viewers together with his good friend Casey Affleck (Ben Affleck's brother) with the film I'm Still Here (2010).


The bizarre film, full of various outrageous and disgusting scenes, follows Phoenix's life since he decided to end his acting career in 2008 (paradoxically, he actually gave up all other acting roles for two years to make it seem as believable as possible) and start a career as a rapper. As Ranker writes, one of his first rapping public appearances was in a Miami nightclub where he rapped absolutely horribly and ended up falling off the stage.


The film also includes Phoenix's interview with David Letterman on his Late Show in 2009, in which the actor behaved absolutely strangely, intentionally embarrassing himself and no one understood what actually happened to him. However, it was all just part of a sophisticated game. Phoenix's antics and public appearances over the course of two years were an elaborate ruse in an attempt to criticise the media's desire to cover celebrity failures and scandals.

He doesn't like fake orgasms

You must have seen the great sci-fi romantic drama Her (2012), in which Phoenix starred alongside several beautiful and smart actresses, such as Olivia Wilde, Amy Adams or Rooney Mara, with whom he lives today. It was on the film set during the filming of this movie that they met. However, the filming of Her was allegedly not so problem-free.



In one scene, Phoenix also played with Scarlett Johansson, who is not seen in the film. She can only be heard. Really well. In Her, Johansson plays a robotic sex doll who has virtual sex with Phoenix and pretends to have an orgasm. It was during the recording of these specific sounds, when they both had to pretend to have sex in the studio, that Phoenix became extremely nervous, even angry, according to the actress.

At one point, he was even so uncomfortable that he ran away from the studio, leaving her alone in the room. "He said he couldn't do it and was very upset... He needed to take a break for a while, but then he came back," explained the actress. "You definitely don't want to hear how you sound when you're faking an orgasm," added Johansson.

He lost weight radically, over 22 kilograms in a few months

Phoenix clearly pushed his limits the most with the movie Joker. According to Insider, the actor has confirmed that he will take on the role in the DC comic in July 2018, with filming beginning in September. He lost an incredible 52 pounds in just this short time, which translates to almost 24 kilograms.


Although he was under the supervision of doctors, according to experts, such radical weight loss was far from healthy for his body or mind. The actor himself revealed that he started to go a little crazy and had unpleasant psychological problems. Allegedly, this weight loss gave him an eating disorder, as he began to avoid socialising, became estranged from friends, was sometimes so tired he couldn't walk up the stairs, and was obsessive about what he ate.


Source: Warner Bros. US


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