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Taking on ‘Joker’ wasn’t an easy decision for Joaquin Phoenix, who credits his late brother for his career

2019-09-10

During Monday night’s Toronto International Film Festival Tribute Gala, Tribute Actor Award honoree Joaquin Phoenix got candid about how his late brother, River Phoenix, made his career possible.

“When I was 15 or 16 my brother ...came home from work and he had a VHS copy of a movie called ‘Raging Bull’ and he sat me down and made me watch it,” the Golden Globe Award winner recalled. “And the next day, he woke me up and he made me watch it again. And he said, ‘You’re going to start acting again. This is what you’re going to do.”

“He didn’t ask me, he told me. And I am indebted to him for that because acting has given me such an incredible life,” Phoenix continued, while also giving props to his mother, sisters and father for their support and inspiration.

An acclaimed actor in his own right, River died of a drug overdose in 1993 at age 23, after becoming a teen idol and starring in 1991’s “My Own Private Ohio,” which netted him an Academy Award nomination.

Earlier at the festival, where Todd Phillips’ much anticipated “Joker” had its North American premiere, Phoenix said taking on the title role of one of the most famous villains of the DC cinematic universe “wasn’t an easy decision at first.”

“I didn’t f---ing know,” he continued during a Q&A. “I didn’t. But then there was something that was drawing me toward it. It just evolved as we worked together. It started becoming something more than I anticipated. It was one of the greatest experiences of my career.”

“Joker” opens Oct. 4.