Posted on January 21, 2015
From his childhood in the Children of God cult to his presence at River Phoenix’s death outside the Viper Room to his outstanding film career and eccentric ways, Joaquin Phoenix’s life seems like something out of a novel rather than real life.
Born Joaquin Rafael Phoenix in San Juan, Puerto Rico to John Lee Bottom and Arlyn Sharon Dunetz. His parents joined the Children of God cult and changed their last name to Phoenix. His siblings are Summer Phoenix, Rain Phoenix, Liberty Butterfly Phoenix, and River Phoenix. Early on, Joaquin adopts the name “Leaf” to match the nature-themed names of his siblings.
Makes his film debut in Space Camp.
Stars in Russkies.
Appears in the Ron Howard film, Parenthood, with Steve Martin.
His brother River Phoenix dies of a drug overdose of heroin and cocaine outside Johnny Depp‘s Viper Room club in Hollywood. Joaquin makes the 911 call for his dying brother. The call is later broadcast in the media.
Appears in To Die For with Nicole Kidman and Matt Dillon.
Stars in U-Turn with Sean Penn, Billy Bob Thornton, Jennifer Lopez, Jon Voight, Claire Danes, and Nick Nolte.
Stars in 8mm with Nicolas Cage and James Gandolfini.
Stars in Return to Paradise with Vince Vaughn and Heche.
Stars in Quills with Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet and Michael Caine.
Stars in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs with Mel Gibson.
Stars in Ladder 49 with John Travolta.
Stars in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village with Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Bryce Dallas Howard.
Stars in Hotel Rwanda with Don Cheadle and Nick Nolte.
He checks himself into rehab for alcohol dependency. His publicist says he was “uncomfortable with the way that he was living his life and found the courage to deal with his disease.”
Phoenix wins the Golden Globe for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy for his role in Walk the Line. Walk the Line also wins Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Reese Withersoon wins Best Actress – Musical or Comedy.
His brakes fail and his car overturns on a winding road in the Hollywood Hills. He is found by famed German director Werner Herzog. Phoenix recalls: “I remember this knocking on the passenger window. There was this German voice saying, ‘Just relax.’ There’s the air bag. I can’t see, and I’m saying, ‘I’m fine. I am relaxed.’ Finally, I rolled down the window and this head pops inside. And he said, ‘No, you’re not.’ And suddenly I said to myself, ‘That’s Werner Herzog!’ There’s something so calming and beautiful about Werner Herzog’s voice. I felt completely fine and safe. I climbed out.”
Is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for Walk the Line, but loses to Philip Seymour Hoffman for his role in Capote.
He announces that he is retiring from acting in order to pursue a rap career. He says that Two Lovers will be his last movie.
He appears on the Late Show with David Letterman to promote Two Lovers but hardly speaks and seems intoxicated.
Two Lovers is released in theaters. The film also stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw, and Isabella Rossellini.
A mockumentary called I’m Still Here is released, directed by Casey Affleck and written by Affleck and River Phoenix. It follows Joaquin Phoenix as he pretends to have a public meltdown in which he retires from acting and says he wants to become a rapper. At the time, people believed he was really giving up acting and that he had lost his mind thanks to his bizarre behavior.
He appears on the Late Show with David Letterman again and says that his bizarre behavior the last time he was on the show was part of the filming for I’m Still Here.
Stars in the Paul Thomas Anderson film The Master with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Laura Dern.
He wins the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for Best Actor for The Master.
The Spike Jonze movie Her premieres at The New York Film Festival, starring Joaquin, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, and Scarlett Johansson.
Begins work on an as-yet-untitled Woody Allen film co-starring Emma Stone.
Stars in the Paul Thomas Anderson film Inherent Vice alongside Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, and Katherine Waterston. The movie is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Thomas Pynchon.