Jewish Entertainment:
Jewish Actors, Playwrights, Comedians, Musicians

Joaquin Phoenix
Jewish Name is Joaquin Rafael Phoenix

Joaquin Rafael Phoenix play /hwɑːˈkn ˈfnɪks/; (born October 28, 2021), formerly credited as Leaf Phoenix,[1] is a Jewish born American film actor. He was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and his family returned to the continental United States four years later. Phoenix is from a family of performers, including his older brother, the late River Phoenix.

Phoenix has ventured behind the camera, directing music videos as well as producing movies and television shows, and has recorded an album, the soundtrack to Walk the Line. He is also known for his work as a social activist, particularly as an advocate for animal rights.

Family background and early life

Phoenix (birth name: Joaquνn Rafael Bottom) was born in Rνo Piedras, a sector of the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is the third of five children, including River (1970–1993), Rain (1972), Liberty (1976), and Summer (1978). He also has a half-sister named Jodean (1964) from a previous relationship of his father's.[2]

His father, John Lee Bottom, was a lapsed Catholic[3] from Fontana, California.[4] His mother, Arlyn (nιe Dunetz), was born in The Bronx, New York to Jewish parents whose families emigrated from Russia and Hungary.[3] In 1968, Arlyn left her family and moved to California, later meeting Phoenix's father while hitch-hiking. They married in 1969, then later joined the religious cult the Children of God. They began travelling throughout South America.[4]



His parents eventually became disenchanted with the Children of God; they made the decision to leave the cult and returned to the U.S. in 1978. They changed their last name to "Phoenix" to symbolize a new beginning. This was also around the time Joaquin had begun calling himself "Leaf", desiring to have a similar nature-related name like his siblings and inspired by spending time outdoors raking leaves with his father. (In a Jay Leno interview, Joaquin said he had originally called himself Antleaf as a child; it's unclear if he was being serious.[5]) Leaf became the name he would use as a child actor; at fifteen, he changed it back to "Joaquin".[6]

In order to provide food and financial support for the family, the children performed on the streets and at various talent contests, singing and playing instruments. In Los Angeles his mother started working as a secretary for NBC, and his father worked as a landscaper. Phoenix and his siblings were eventually discovered by one of Hollywood's leading children's agents, Iris Burton, who got the five children acting work, mainly doing commercials and television show appearances.[7] Joaquin went on to establish himself a child actor before deciding to withdraw from acting for a while and travel to Mexico and South America with his father.

Phoenix came back into public view under tragic circumstances: on October 31, 1993, his brother, River Phoenix, suffered a drug overdose and died, outside the Hollywood nightclub The Viper Room, which was co-owned by Johnny Depp at the time. Joaquin's call to 911 to save his brother was recorded and repeatedly played over the airwaves and on television. The sudden media intrusion into his life proved to be overwhelming; once again, he retreated from the public eye. A year later, at the insistence of his friends, Phoenix reluctantly re-entered the world of acting.[8]

Film career


Phoenix's first acting jobs were guest appearances on two television shows with his brother River in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982), and Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia (1984) as well as an episode in the first season of Murder, She Wrote (We're Off to Kill the Wizard) with his sister Summer Phoenix. In 1985, he appeared with JoBeth Williams in the CBS television movie Kids Don't Tell. He made his big-screen debut in Space Camp (1986), playing the role of Max, after starring in an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "A Very Happy Ending" the same year. His first starring role was in Russkies (1987). He later co-starred in Ron Howard's Parenthood (1989), in which he was credited as Leaf Phoenix.

Phoenix in 2002

During the comeback portion of his career, Phoenix went back to his birth-given name "Joaquin", and was often cast in supporting roles as conflicted, insecure characters with a dark side. He has earned positive reviews for his portrayals of various individuals: a troubled teen in Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995) co-starring with Nicole Kidman, a small-town troublemaker in Oliver Stone's U Turn, Inventing the Abbotts (1997), the cruel Roman emperor Commodus in Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000) (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), a conflicted priest in Quills (2000), a washed-up baseball player in M. Night Shyamalan's Signs (2002), the irresolute husband of a superstar-skater in the widely panned It's All About Love in 2003, a lovestruck farmer in Shyamalan's The Village (2004), a disillusioned cameraman in Terry George's Hotel Rwanda (2004), and heroic firefighter in Ladder 49 (2004).[9]

Upon being cast as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line after Cash himself approved, Phoenix responded by buying a guitar and learning how to play. Reese Witherspoon, who portrayed June Carter Cash in the film and won a Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance,[10] stated during an interview that when they first performed in-character before a live audience, she was so impressed with his impersonation that she knew she "had to step it up a notch". All of Cash and Carter's vocal tracks in the movie and on the accompanying soundtrack are played and sung by Phoenix and Witherspoon. In 2005, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor,[10] and won a Golden Globe in the same category.

In 2006, Phoenix was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[11]

Phoenix's film, I'm Still Here, debuted at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010.

Phoenix will make his return to acting in the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film The Master.[12]


He has directed music videos for the following bands: Ringside,[13] She Wants Revenge,[14] People in Planes,[15] Arckid,[16] Albert Hammond Jr.,[17] and Silversun Pickups.[18]


Phoenix served as one of the executive producers of a television show called 4Real, a half-hour series which showcase celebrity guests on global adventures "in order to connect with young leaders who are creating social and economic change."[19] He is also listed as a producer on the movie We Own the Night.

Social initiatives

Phoenix has long been a social activist, lending his support to a number of charities and humanitarian organizations, notably Amnesty International,[20] The Art of Elysium, HEART, The Peace Alliance (an organization which campaigns for a United States Department of Peace),[21]. Phoenix is also on the board of directors for The Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization which provides daily meals to students of township schools in Soweto of South Africa.

He is a member of P.E.T.A. and the organization In Defense of Animals, and has actively campaigned on their behalf.[21] He narrated the film Earthlings for Nation Earth, a video about the investigation of animal abuse in factory farms, pet mills, in industry and research. In 2005, he was awarded the "Humanitarian Award" at the San Diego Film Festival for his work and contribution to Earthlings.[22]

Personal life

Phoenix dated actress Liv Tyler for three years in 1990s.[23]

In early April 2005, Phoenix checked into rehab to be treated for alcoholism.[24]

On January 26, 2006, while driving down a winding canyon road in Hollywood, Phoenix ran off the road and rolled his car. The crash reportedly was caused by brake failure. Shaken and confused, Phoenix heard a tapping on his window and a voice say, "Just relax." Unable to see the man, Phoenix replied, "I'm fine. I am relaxed." The man replied, "No, you're not," and stopped Phoenix from lighting a cigarette while gas was leaking into the car cabin. Phoenix then realized that the man was famed German film director Werner Herzog. While Herzog helped Phoenix out of the wreckage by breaking the back window of the car, bystanders phoned in an ambulance. Phoenix approached Herzog to express gratitude, but Herzog downplayed his heroism and returned to his home nearby.[25][26]

Music career hoax

Phoenix unexpectedly announced in late 2008 that he had retired from acting to pursue a rapping career, and that the forthcoming Two Lovers would be his last film. On February 11, 2009, Phoenix appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman to promote Two Lovers. He seemed incoherent and was largely unresponsive towards David Letterman's questions about the film and his career plans.[27][28][29] Phoenix appeared on Late Show again on September 22, 2021 and revealed that his "retirement" and eccentric behavior were for a mockumentary, I'm Still Here (2010), that he and Casey Affleck were filming.


Year Film Role Notes
1984 Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia Robby Ellsworth Nominated — Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor in a Family Film Made for Television shared with River Phoenix
As Leaf Phoenix
1985 Kid's Don't Tell Frankie  
1986 SpaceCamp Max As Leaf Phoenix
1987 Russkies Danny As Leaf Phoenix
1989 Parenthood Garry Buckman Nominated — Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor Starring in a Motion Picture
as Leaf Phoenix
1995 To Die For Jimmy Emmett Nominated — Chlotrudis Award for Best Supporting Actor
1997 U Turn Toby N. Tucker a.k.a. TNT  
Inventing the Abbotts Doug Holt  
1998 8mm Max California  
Clay Pigeons Clay Bidwell  
Return to Paradise Lewis McBride Nominated — Csapnivalo Award for Best Male Performance
2000 The Yards Willie Gutierrez Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
San Diego Film Critics Society - Body of Work Award
Quills Abbι de Coulmier Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
San Diego Film Critics Society - Body of Work Award
Nominated — Chlotrudis Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated —
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Gladiator Commodus Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
San Diego Film Critics Society - Body of Work Award
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated — Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated —
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
2001 Buffalo Soldiers Ray Elwood Nominated — British Independent Film Award
2002 Signs Merrill Hess  
2003 Brother Bear Kenai Voice
It's All About Love John  
2004 Ladder 49 Jack Morrison Nominated — Movie Guide Award for Most Inspiring Movie Acting
Nominated —
Teen Choice Award for Movie Actor: Drama
The Village Lucius Hunt  
Hotel Rwanda Jack Daglish Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2005 Walk the Line Johnny Cash Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media
Hollywood Film Festival Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated — Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated — St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated —
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
2006 Earthlings Narrator San Diego Film Festival Humanitarian Award
2007 We Own the Night Bobby Green Also Producer
People's Choice Award for Favorite Leading Man
Reservation Road Ethan Learner  
2008 Two Lovers Leonard Nominated — Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
2010 I'm Still Here Himself Mockumentary
Also Producer/Writer
2012 The Master Freddie Quell[30]  

See also


  1. ^ Contemporary theatre, film, and television, Gale Research Co., 2002, p. 213, ISBN 978-0-7876-6360-5
  2. ^ "The Phoenix Family". Sacred Loving Stream. Retrieved 2021-08-21.
  3. ^ a b Naomi Pfefferman (2022-04-12). "The Days of Summer". Jewish Journal. Retrieved 2021-09-01.
  4. ^ a b Roberta and David Ritz (October 1995). "Strange Days". Us Magazine. Retrieved 2021-09-01.
  5. ^ Phoenix, Joaquin. "Joaquin Phoenix Interview". Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  6. ^ Paul Fischer (2000). "Gladiator". Dark Horizons. Retrieved 2021-08-22.
  7. ^ Mary Rourke (2008). "Iris Burton, 77; Hollywood agent represented child actors". LA Times. Archived from the original on April 14, 2022. Retrieved 2022-04-11.
  8. ^ John Clark (2021-09-06). "Quietly Making a Name". Variety Magazine. Retrieved 2021-09-07.
  9. ^ Joaquin Phoenix at the Internet Movie Database
  10. ^ a b "Oscars 2006 - Academy Award Winners, Nominees, Movies Released in 2005". Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  11. ^ Academy Invites 120 to Membership[dead link]
  12. ^ Fleming, Mike (May 9, 2022). "Harvey Weinstein Buys World Rights To Paul Thomas Anderson's Untitled Next Film". Deadline. Media Corporation. Retrieved June 2, 2022.
  13. ^ "Tired of Feeling Sorry". Ringside. Retrieved 2021-08-22.
  14. ^ "Tear You Apart". She Wants Revenge. Retrieved 2021-08-22.
  15. ^ "If you Talk Too Much (My Head Will Explode)". People In Planes. Retrieved 2021-08-22.
  16. ^ "I'll Stick Around". Arckid. Retrieved 2021-08-22.
  17. ^ "In Transit". Albert Hammond Jr. Retrieved 2021-08-22.
  18. ^ "Little Lovers so Polite". Silversun Pickups. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  19. ^ "4 Real". Direct Current Media. Retrieved 2021-08-22.
  20. ^ "End The Crisis In Darfur". Amnesty International. Retrieved 2021-08-22.[dead link]
  21. ^ a b "Joaquin Phoenix's Charity Work". Look To The Stars. Retrieved 2021-08-22.
  22. ^ "I Saw Cast and Crew". Retrieved 2022-03-17.
  23. ^ "An Interview with Liv Tyler". IGN Movies. Retrieved 03-19-12.
  24. ^ "Joaquin Phoenix Checks Into Rehab". CBS News. 2022-04-13. Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  25. ^ "Joaquin Phoenix Rescued from Car Crash by Director Werner Herzog". Retrieved 2 January 2009.
  26. ^ Interview of Herzog about Phoenix incident[dead link]
  27. ^ Thomson, Katherine. (2022-2-11), Joaquin Phoenix's Bizarre Letterman Appearance: (VIDEO), The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2009-2-11.
  28. ^ Ryan, Maureen. (2022-2-11), Weird star alert: Joaquin Phoenix mystifies David Letterman, Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-2-12.
  29. ^ Goodlett, Matt. (2022-2-13), Joaquin Phoenix and David Letterman Get Awkward, Paste Magazine. Retrieved 2009-2-15.
  30. ^ "Paul Thomas Anderson Film May Be About Scientology". The New York Times. Retrieved 2022-05-21.

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