Joaquin Phoenix

On this date in 1974, Joaquin Phoenix was born Joaquin Rafael Bottom in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Children of God missionaries. His parents became disillusioned with the cult-like aspects of the Children of God and left the group when he was a small child. At age 4, his family, which included siblings River, Rain, Liberty and Summer, moved to Los Angeles, where the children sang and played music and eventually gained small roles on television.

Phoenix’s film debut was in “SpaceCamp” (1986) but he landed his first successful role in 1989 in the Ron Howard film “Parenthood.” While his brother River was becoming a hot new star in Hollywood, Joaquin decided to leave the business at age 15 to travel around Latin America. At 19 he was by 23-year-old River’s side as he died of an overdose outside an L.A. night club.

He achieved success in the 1990s with the films “To Die For” (1995), “Inventing the Abbotts” (1997) and “Return to Paradise” (1998). His most critically acclaimed roles occurred in the next decade, with his Academy Award-nominated role as Commodus in “Gladiator” (2000), Mel Gibson’s brother in “Signs” (2002), a reporter in “Hotel Rwanda” (2004) and the lead in “The Village” (2004). His most famous role, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe, was playing country music legend Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line” (2005).

He then had roles in “Reservation Road” (2007), “Two Lovers” (2009), “I’m Still Here” (2010), “The Master” (2012, for which he was Oscar-nominated), “The Immigrant” (2013), “Inherent Vice” (2014), “You Were Never Really Here” (2017, Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award), “Mary Magdalene” (2017, playing Jesus) and “The Joker” (2019).

A longtime vegan, he has been a spokesperson for the Lunchbox Fund, which provides healthy meals to needy children, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He has dated actress Rooney Mara since 2016. Outspoken about his atheism, he told the Sunday Times (UK) in April 1999, “I’m not into organized religion.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation