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Published on Oct 2, 2019
From embodying country music icon Johnny Cash in Walk the Line down to his distinctive singing voice, to the vicious sadism of the Emperor in Gladiator, Joaquin Phoenix has proven that his range is virtually unmatched but his rise to fame was neither assured or straightforward.
Born Joaquin Rafael Bottom on October 28, 1974 in Puerto Rico, Phoenix had nomadic early years as his parents were members of the Children of God Christian missionary group, now classified as a cult. Because of their involvement in that organization, the Bottoms traveled all over south and central America, until the cult's increasingly sinister practices including alleged sexual abuse and incest began to disenchant Joaquin's parents.
After escaping Children of God, and returning to the US with their five kids in tow, the Bottoms eventually settled in Los Angeles. They changed their last name from Bottom to Phoenix, and Joaquin also decided to go by the first name Leaf so he could match better with his brother River, and their sisters Summer, Rain, and Liberty. The Phoenix kids played music on the streets for rent money until their mom, Arlyn (aka Heart), got a job as a secretary to an NBC casting agent. Through her networking, a well-known casting agent was won over by the family's talent and shepherded them into the bright lights of Hollywood.
Joaquin Phoenix went by his chosen name Leaf for the first few years of his acting career, but it was actually his brother who snagged the first screen role in the television show Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. River quickly brought his family along - Joaquin had his first TV role on that show too, immediately followed by a string of small roles on TV. As River's star began to rise in movies with his breakout in Stand By Me, Joaquin also landed juicy lead roles in SpaceCamp in 1986 and Russkies in 1987. Keep watching the video to see the untold truth of Joaquin Phoenix!
Started from the bottom | 0:16 Introduction to acting | 1:10 Losing his brother | 2:10 The first Joaquin-naissance | 2:52 A method to his madness | 3:37 Performance art detour | 4:30 "Indebted" to River | 5:21