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Joaquin Phoenix is Important For More Reasons Than His Incredible Acting

If you hear the name Joaquin Phoenix and immediately picture him in one of the many phenomenal performances he has given through the years, that’s okay. That’s normal, especially due to the hype and accolades following the release of “Joker.” How much do you know about Joaquin as a person though? If your answer ranges from “I know he’s an activist because of his Oscars speech. Not much else.” to “Nothing. I’ve just seen some stuff he’s been in,” you might want to do some research. You’ll find that Joaquin is a striking mix of simplicity and complexity. In addition to, and if you asked Joaquin probably more important than his Grammy Award, Academy Award and two Golden Globes, he is an animal rights and equality activist, an outspoken vegan, and he is a member of the board of directors of a foundation that provides daily meals to students in South Africa, called The Lunchbox Fund. Those are just a few of the many activist groups and non-profits he supports and is a part of. 


Joaquin has been through a good deal of loss and struggle throughout his life, and he has always been different from the majority of today’s well-known actors. When he was only 19 years old, his older brother River Phoenix lost his life due to a drug overdose; a tragic event taking place outside of a club called the Viper Room in California, which Joaquin was witness to. In 2005, he attended a rehab facility for issues with alcoholism, and in the following year, Joaquin was in a serious car crash that resulted in his car turning upside down and him escaping out the back window with the help of a famed director who was thankfully nearby. While he has mostly kept his personal life private, he has long been open about his anxiety and dislike for accepting awards. Even with his level of talent and experience, he has made statements about the fact that he still gets severe anxiety when he films, and is typically visibly uncomfortable on stage at award shows. He has made statements about how this is largely due to his belief that filmmaking is a collaborative process, so he feels uncomfortable accepting accolades for his individual part in it. 


Despite all of the good he has done, Joaquin is, as is any human being, very flawed. He is aware of that fact, and has actively worked to improve himself in every aspect of his life. He has been known as difficult to work with and difficult to interview, and he owns up to that. During his Oscar speech this year, he stated  “I’ve been a scoundrel in my life. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with, and I’m grateful that so many of you in this room have given me a second chance. And I think that’s when we’re at our best — when we support each other. Not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other towards redemption. That is the best of humanity.” It is not easy for Joaquin to stand up and accept an ovation for his work to begin with, so to use the exposure to bring his past mistakes to light in front of so many of his peers and make himself so vulnerable for the rest of the world is all-the-more a brave act. In the same speech, Joaquin brought attention to a variety of other important topics. This is not the first time he has done so, as he addressed climate issues and suggested that his fellow artists make a change within rather than just talking about their political stances. He even included a bit of a jab at those who take their “private jets to Palm Springs.” 


Joaquin Phoenix is one of the few celebrities who manages to simultaneously keep a sense of privacy in their lives and also use their platform to spread important messages. While it’s not feasible to suggest that the next time Joaquin comes up in a conversation, you don’t acknowledge his amazing acting, it is also important to look into other aspects of his work. He is a well-rounded individual who is not afraid to express his values and try to make a difference. So when you have some time, do some research on the aspects of Joaquin’s life that are not so often in the spotlight, because when it comes to this man, “interesting” is an understatement.


Jenna Fanelli

Marymount '21

My name is Jenna Fanelli, I am 21 years old and I am a student at Marymount Manhattan College. I moved from Long Island into Manhattan this past Fall, but the city has always been my second home. My passions include writing, music, performing, animals and food, and I hope to someday write in the entertainment industry or be a broadcast journalist as well as to perform on Broadway!
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