It’s fair to say that Joaquin Phoenix provided several talking points at the 2020 Golden Globes. For one, there was his Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama award for Joker. Then there was his slightly bewildering acceptance speech. But perhaps none of these moments compared to Phoenix’s behavior on the red carpet with fiancée Rooney Mara – and how the star chose to act may have left many open-mouthed.
As fans know, though, Phoenix has had his fair share of Golden Globes glory in the past. He first bagged a prestigious award at the 2006 ceremony for his measured portrayal of country music legend Johnny Cash in biopic Walk the Line. The star has also earned Golden Globe nominations for his performances in Gladiator, The Master, Her and Inherent Vice.
But Phoenix’s 2020 victory at the film industry’s second-biggest night of the year was perhaps his most notable. What’s more, the actor arguably garnered more headlines for his acceptance speech than for his actual win. And it was his words on one timely issue in particular that got everyone talking.
After taking to the stage, Phoenix first paid tribute to his fellow nominees Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Antonio Banderas and Christian Bale. Then he addressed his fellow actors by saying, “We all know there’s no f**king competition between us. It’s like this thing that is created to sell advertisements for the TV show. I’m inspired by you. I’m your f**king student.”
However, in a somewhat cryptic statement, Phoenix subsequently seemed to turn his attention to the subject of climate change. He added, “Contrary to popular belief, I don’t want to rock the boat. But the boat is f**king rocked.” And the actor concluded his slightly wayward speech with another call to arms to the vast array of Hollywood stars in the audience.
“Hopefully, we can be unified and actually make some changes,” Phoenix explained. “It’s great to vote, but sometimes we have to take that responsibility on ourselves and make changes and sacrifices in our own lives. We don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs for the awards sometimes.”
Phoenix also gave thanks to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for providing plant-based food at the ceremony. He additionally gave a shout-out to Todd Phillips, hailing the Joker director as an “amazing friend and collaborator.” But Phoenix saved his final words of gratitude on the night for his fiancée Rooney Mara.
Mara and Phoenix initially encountered each other on the set of 2013’s romantic drama Her. The pair had very different statuses within the production, though; while Phoenix was the leading man, Mara only had a minor role. And in an interview for the November 2019 edition of Vanity Fair, the actor explained that sparks didn’t exactly fly during their brief time together on set.
In fact, Phoenix had believed that Mara actually “despised” him, as the two had barely chatted. Ultimately, however, he had discovered that the actress was simply a little bashful and that his initial feelings of admiration had actually been reciprocated. Phoenix confessed to the magazine, “[Mara’s] the only girl I ever looked up on the internet. We were just friends, email friends. I’d never done that. Never looked up a girl online.”
Then, five years later, Phoenix and Mara shared the screen once again in Mary Magdalene. In that picture, the actor played Jesus; Mara, meanwhile, portrayed the movie’s title character. And, in time, rumors suggested that the duo’s on-screen romance had become a very real one. The couple made things official, too, when they appeared together at the Cannes Film Festival.
An unnamed insider who was at the Cannes premiere of You Were Never Really Here reportedly told People magazine, “[Phoenix and Mara] were talking to one another non-stop. Small talk between them. Then they went for their car, and he’s holding her hand like it was unconscious. Like it fits. They seem a totally natural and easy couple.”
Then, later that year, Phoenix dropped the news that he and Mara had moved in together during a chat with T: The New York Times Style Magazine. The star also revealed that, while at home, the pair enjoyed chilling out with their dogs, meditating and making their way through the documentaries hosted on Netflix. And their shared passions don’t end there.
You see, the couple are both committed animal rights activists and vegans who have marched in West Hollywood to celebrate the ninth year of National Animal Rights Day in 2019. Mara and Phoenix also served as co-chairs for Heaven – an exhibit about connection created by Michael Muller and organized by the collective The Art of Elysium.
During his interview with T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Phoenix even suggested that Mara had inspired him in a professional capacity – particularly when it came to taking the part of Jesus in Mary Magdalene. He said of the role, “I was looking for something meaningful. I was looking for an experience. I was friends with Rooney.”
Yet even though Phoenix and Mara appeared to be loved up, Us Weekly reported in 2018 that the A-listers had no plans to get married. Indeed, an unnamed insider is said to have told the gossip magazine that the pair considered the concept of getting wed “too mainstream.” Fast-forward a year, however, and the two appeared to have changed their minds.
Mara first sparked rumors of an engagement in May 2019; that month, she was spotted wearing a sparkling ring on her left hand while running errands in Los Angeles. And while the couple initially kept quiet about all the speculation, a surprisingly candid Phoenix later admitted to Good Morning America that all the reports were actually true.
This wasn’t the first time that Phoenix had announced to the world he was engaged, though. In 2014, you see, the Gladiator star had appeared on David Letterman’s iconic late-night show and revealed that he’d proposed to a yoga instructor. He even came up with an elaborate story in which he apparently popped the question while partaking in a yoga move named “harnessing the hog.”
But this far-fetched tale did indeed prove to be too good to be true, as Phoenix later revealed to Good Morning America that it had all been a sham. He admitted, “I think my life is so boring. And it seemed like something exciting to talk about, and I wanted the audience to like me.”
Phoenix hasn’t refrained from making outlandish statements since then, either. Indeed, upon accepting the Toronto International Film Festival’s Tribute Actor Award in January 2020, the star paid his own unique tribute to Mara, saying, “One last thing, somewhere here – I don’t know where – is a filthy dragon, and I want to rip its wings off and fasten a blanket and sleep with it forever. I love you. Thank you.”
Still, Mara isn’t actually the first A-list actress with whom Phoenix has entered into a relationship. In 1995, for instance, he began dating Empire Records actress Liv Tyler, with the pair going on to share the screen together in 1997 drama Inventing the Abbotts.
And Tyler in particular appeared to be truly smitten at the time. In a 1997 interview with The Morning Call, the actress freely admitted, “I fell in love with Joaquin the second I saw him.” However, in order to keep the tabloids at bay, the pair decided to keep their blossoming romance entirely secret from the public.
Tyler explained, “[Joaquin] would sit at the other end of the makeup trailer and say, ‘Oh, my God, [Liv’s] such a babe’ and talk to the makeup girl. It would be like, ‘I could never get her,’ and she believed him.” Sadly, though, the pair’s once-secretive romance came to an end in 1998 when they decided to go their separate ways.
Yet Phoenix and Tyler have remained friends. In 2015 the actress told Elle, “I consider Joaquin and all of his sisters to be like family. We were so young when we were together – like, 18 to 21. He was my first love. So he’s a huge part of even my sense of humor…I have so much love for that family.”
Phoenix has also had nothing but kind words to say about his first long-term relationship. According to PopSugar, he once remarked of Tyler, “She’s a darling. I’ve said it over and over again. When Liv and I met, it was for a reason: I really needed her, and she really needed me.”
Phoenix is then said to have dated journalist and model Jessica Joffe for a short time before briefly stepping out with Anna Friel. But while Anna Paquin, Lisa Ebeltoft and Amelia Warner were just a few of the other actresses that the Oscar winner was later linked to, the star has never officially gone on the record to say that he’s dated any of them.
Then, in 2001, Phoenix began stepping out with South African model Topaz Page-Green. The couple stayed together for four years, too, before ultimately splitting in 2005. After that, though, things seemed to be quiet on the romantic front. In fact, the star wasn’t seriously connected to anyone at all by the press over the decade or so that followed.
Yet that all changed when Phoenix entered into a relationship with Mara. And although they remain a relatively private couple, there have still been several occasions when the pair have let the whole world know they are an item. One of those times, moreover, was on the red carpet at the 2020 Golden Globes.
The duo were in attendance at the ceremony after Phoenix had earned a nomination for his magnetic turn in Joker. But even though it was his big night, the actor still wanted his fiancée to have her moment in the spotlight. And he ensured that this happened in the most adorable way.
As he and Mara posed for photos in front of the army of photographers, Phoenix suddenly stepped a few inches away from his long-term love. But the couple hadn’t just been involved in a very public argument. Instead, Phoenix just simply wanted to admire how beautiful his date looked in all of her glory.
And this genuinely charming moment was also captured by the red carpet photographers. In one particular image, Phoenix can be seen covering his mouth with his hand – seemingly in total awe at Mara’s appearance. The actress had chosen to wear a glamorous Givenchy dress made from black lace for the big event.
Furthermore, while Mara initially thought that Phoenix had stepped aside to pose for the cameras on his own, she soon realized that her famous fiancée had distanced himself for more romantic reasons. And she couldn’t stop smiling as a result, returning the gesture as she gazed adoringly at the nominated actor.
Mara is no stranger to the ceremony herself, of course. She was first in contention for a Golden Globe in 2012, in fact, when her leading turn in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was recognized in the Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama category. The star then found herself up for the same award four years later following her performance in Carol.
And Mara and Phoenix’s very public display of affection on the red carpet inspired many on social media to have their say. One Twitter user commented, “Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix look like loved up children on the #goldenglobes2020 red carpet,” concluding their message with a flurry of heart-shaped emojis.
Another person tweeted, “Get you a man who looks at you the way Joaquin Phoenix looks at Rooney Mara. Relationship goals.” That sentiment was seemingly echoed by one more Twitter user, who wrote, “Currently gushing over how cute Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix were at the Golden Globes.”
Over on BuzzFeed, meanwhile, a commenter remarked of Mara and Phoenix’s antics, “Even if staged, it sets a gorgeous example!” Another joked, on the other hand, that Phoenix’s expression was akin to them “admiring all the ice cream flavors yet knowing that [they’ll] get vanilla like always.” And one individual simply responded to the post with the words, “He’s like, ‘Damn!’”
Just in case some hadn’t yet gotten the message, though, Phoenix later made sure that everyone knew how besotted he was with Mara. After taking to the stage to accept his Golden Globe, the star said, “Rooney, I love you. I’m so grateful for this night and all of you. Thank you.”
Then, after that night of glitz and glamour, Phoenix and Mara were spotted in a rather more low-key setting. Two days after the ceremony, the sweats-clad pair were pictured strolling with their dogs around their Los Angeles hometown. Notably, Phoenix’s hoodie was emblazoned with the name of the LA Animal Save animal rights organization that he and Mara support.
Fans will get another chance to see the couple all dressed up, however, as Phoenix also has a Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards to contest. And his outfit on the night should look familiar, too. You see, designer Stella McCartney explained on Twitter that Phoenix plans to wear his Golden Globes tuxedo at every 2020 awards ceremony in a bid to cut down on waste.
McCartney – the daughter of Beatles legend Paul – took to Twitter to post an array of images of Phoenix in attendance at the Golden Globes. And alongside the photos, she wrote, “This man is a winner… wearing custom Stella because he chooses to make choices for the future of the planet and all of its creatures.”
When awards season is finally over, though, fans can still see Phoenix and Mara on the big screen. The actor will next appear alongside Gaby Hoffman in the Mike Mills-helmed drama C’mon C’mon. Mara, meanwhile, will join Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett in Nightmare Alley. The Guillermo del Toro thriller is about a psychiatrist and a fake mentalist who both use psychological trickery in order to hustle people out of money.
But Phoenix isn’t always as adorable as he often is around his fiancée. During the promotional campaign for Joker, for instance, the actor apparently took offense at a question posed to him by a British journalist. And Phoenix wasn’t going to simply take the remark on the chin, either. Instead, he rose from his seat – and stormed right out of the room.
When anyone mentions Phoenix these days, there’s only one question on their mind: is Joker any good? Well, if an eight-minute standing ovation at its August 2019 Venice Film Festival premiere is anything to go by, the answer is quite clearly “Yes.” And that’s also backed up by an 89 percent favorable audience review figure on website Rotten Tomatoes.
But it’s not just the quality of the film that’s hit the headlines, though, as we’re about to find out. It’s the amount of arguably gratuitous violence on display during the movie as well. And Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the eponymous anti-hero, added to the controversy during an awkward interview in September 2019.
As with most film releases today, the cast participates in various press junkets to promote their work around the world. Joker was no different in that regard. And ahead of its highly anticipated arrival in October 2019, Phoenix took part in a number of interviews with various media outlets. But one chat really stuck out.
As part of the promotion for Joker, Phoenix sat down for a conversation with U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. Asking the questions on behalf the publication was movie critic Robbie Collin. As the interview progressed, however, Collin appeared to touch upon a seemingly sensitive topic. And as a result of the chat’s unexpected direction, the former Oscar nominee stormed out of the room.
Born in October 1974, Phoenix spent his early years traveling around South and Central America with his parents. For you see, the future actor’s mom and dad were members of a spiritual group named the Children of God. In 1978, however, they made a big decision. Indeed, the pair opted to abandon the cause, packing their bags for the United States.
At that stage, Phoenix’s family made Los Angeles, California, their new home. Alongside his brother, River, and his three sisters Liberty, Rain and Summer, the future movie star was then encouraged to find work by his parents. And as a result of that, the young quintet tried to showcase their talents in a number of ways, including street performance.
Thanks to those efforts, Phoenix eventually made his small screen debut back in 1982. He featured in an episode of the television series Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, playing a character named Travis. From there, the aspiring performer popped up in some other TV projects over the next few years.
Then, after Phoenix established himself on the small screen, he appeared on the big screen for the first time in 1986. The youngster bagged a part inSpaceCamp, which also starred the likes of Lea Thompson and Kate Capshaw. And he wouldn’t have to wait long for his next movie role.
Around 12 months later, Phoenix appeared in the drama Russkies, before taking on more television work. To round off the decade, he returned to the big screen in 1989’s Parenthood, joining stars such as Diane Wiest, Steve Martin, Keanu Reeves and Mary Steenburgen. But no one could’ve predicted what happened next.
Off the back of that notable performance in Parenthood, Phoenix took a break from acting to go traveling. The teenager ventured through South America once again, ahead of coming back to L.A. As for his hiatus, that came to an end in the mid-1990s when he co-starred in To Die For.
Following that, Phoenix went on to appear in movies such as U Turn, 8MM and Clay Pigeons in the late 1990s. However, the rising star had to wait until the year 2000 before he truly made an impact in Hollywood. At that time, he took on a significant role in Ridley Scott’s latest feature Gladiator.
In Gladiator Phoenix played the villainous character of Commodus, and turned in a quite remarkable performance. As a result, he earned his first Academy Award nomination at the 2001 ceremony for Best Supporting Actor. Unfortunately for the star, though, he lost out to Benicio Del Toro, who won for his efforts in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic.
But that wouldn’t be the last time Phoenix would bag an Oscar nomination over the next few years. Indeed, after starring in a string of movies throughout the early 2000s, the actor was then cast in 2005’s Walk the Line. Taking on the part of music legend Johnny Cash, he led the film alongside Reese Witherspoon.
Thanks in part to Phoenix and Witherspoon’s performances, the biopic proved to be a big success at the worldwide box office. It earned over $186 million from a budget believed to be in the region of $28 million. Meanwhile, the film’s two stars picked up several award nominations soon after.
Phoenix also nabbed a second Oscar nod for his work on Walk the Line, this time in the Best Actor category. Yet he went on to miss out again, with Philip Seymour Hoffman winning for Capote. The same couldn’t be said for his co-star Witherspoon, though, as she won the Best Actress gong.
After Walk the Line, Phoenix appeared in four more movies over the next five years, including Reservation Road and I’m Still Here. Then, in 2012, he produced another stunning performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Playing the character of Freddie Quell, the Hollywood star subsequently bagged his third Oscar nomination in 2013.
While Phoenix came away empty-handed again that night, he continued to produce some notable movie work. Indeed, the talented performer featured in films like Her, You Were Never Really Here and The Sisters Brothers in the following five years. But few could’ve imagined what would happened in 2019, as a new comic-book movie was slated for release.
In a somewhat surprising move, Phoenix was cast in the lead role of Todd Phillips’ Joker, a stand-alone story about the famous DC villain. He joined an impressive collection of actors in the movie, with Zazie Beetz and Robert De Niro lending their talents as well. Yet unlike most comic-book films today, this would be more serious take.
For you see, this film is a back-story affair tracing how the Joker was tipped over the edge into crime and madness. Speaking to Empire magazine, director Phillips said, “We just wrote our own version of where a guy like Joker might come from.” Given how well-known the character is, that can’t have been a simple task.
The Joker made his debut back in 1940, popping up in the very first issue of the Batman comic. Since then, the two characters have been entwined together on the page and the big screen. For instance, the pair both made their film debut at the same time, appearing in 1966’s Batman movie.
On that occasion, Cesar Romero took up the Joker’s mantle, before Jack Nicholson tried his hand in the next Batman adaptation in 1989. Nicholson’s performance went on to define the character for a lot of people, while Mark Hamill portrayed the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. But that wasn’t all.
Off the back of those iconic performances, the character was brought back again by director Christopher Nolan in 2008. Heath Ledger was tasked with playing the Joker at that point, appearing in the smash-hit The Dark Knight. And although Ledger passed away before the film’s release, he went on to win a posthumous Oscar for his stunning performance.
Following those efforts, Jared Leto was cast as the next live-action Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad, ahead of Phillips’ film three years later. Compared to the other movies, though, the director wanted to look at the character through a very different lens this time around. Indeed, he cited influences such as The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver.
So with that in mind, Joker was never going to be a typical blockbuster, especially when measured against other comic-book films. “You can’t beat Marvel,” Phillips admitted to The New York Times in September 2019. “It’s a giant behemoth. Let’s do something they can’t do. It’s just another interpretation, like people do interpretations of Macbeth.”
As for the movie itself, we’re introduced to Arthur Fleck, an arch outsider with severe self-esteem problems. He’s a failed stand-up comic, and his crushing lack of success pushes him into dark criminality and the persona of the Joker. Phoenix grabs the role by the scruff of the neck and wrings every drop of grotesque social deviance from it.
Famously, at the prompting of Phillips, Phoenix showed his commitment to the movie by losing no fewer than 56 pounds before shooting, so that he’d be the right size for the part. The Joker starts his life of crime after street bullies beat him and the humiliation of failure overwhelms him. From there, he gets hold of a gun and kick-starts a movement.
Prior to Joker’s release, Phoenix explained why he was attracted to this unique project. As he told The New York Times, “I didn’t really know what it was. I didn’t know how to classify it. I didn’t say, ‘This is the character I’m playing.’ I didn’t know what we were going to do. It was terrifying.”
After much anticipation, Joker finally hit the big screen in October 2019 and made a huge impact on fans around the world. As we previously mentioned, the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes stands at 89 percent at present. However, the critics score is a lot lower than that, resting at 69 percent.
If you’re questioning that disparity, there might be a reason for it. For you see, the graphic bloodshed in the film has caused a heap of controversy and much disapproval from critics. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich wrote on the website that the movie was “a toxic rallying cry for self-pitying incels.”
And then Phoenix himself waded into the debate – or more accurately, failed to engage with it. The occasion was an interview with Robbie Collin, the film critic for British newspaper The Telegraph. The encounter started well enough, as the pair sat down and began their conversation. But Collin went on to light the fuse.
Collin asked Phoenix if he considered the idea that Joker “might perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results?” A few moments later, the actor replied, “Why would you…? No… No.” After sharing that response, he got up and walked out of the interview.
Incredibly, though, the interview didn’t conclude there. Around an hour later – apparently time Collin spent with the PR people for Warner Brothers – Phoenix came back. Once the air was cleared, the Oscar nominee explained that the query caught him off guard. But in the end, the reviewer never did get an answer to his question.
Going back to the film’s production, Phillips grew used to Phoenix’s penchant for storming out of a room. As it turned out, the Hollywood star didn’t hesitate to leave a scene if he was unhappy with his own performance. Yet his co-stars didn’t always know that, believing they were the problem.
“In the middle of the scene, [Phoenix will] just walk away and walk out,” Phillips recalled while talking with The New York Times. “And the poor other actor thinks it’s them and it was never them. It was always him, and he just wasn’t feeling it.” But the star didn’t do this with everyone on the set.
When Phoenix worked with De Niro, he very much stayed put, regardless of how he felt. The veteran actor said, “Joaquin was very intense in what he was doing, as it should be, as he should be. There’s nothing to talk about, personally, on the side, ‘Let’s have coffee.’ Let’s just do the stuff.”
Regarding the controversy about Joker’s violent content, De Niro also offered up his own take on the matter. Although the character inspires a movement off the back of his actions in the film, the Hollywood stalwart couldn’t see that happening in the real world. After all, he himself has played some damaged characters in the past.
In addition to that, De Niro then shared another fascinating point as well, tying in with the previous fears. According to the acting legend, characters like the Joker have their place in cinema. He added, “People identify with it in some way – not that they go to those extremes. They can understand the sentiment. Sometimes those things are cathartic.”
Meanwhile, not every critic out there agreed with the negative points raised in other reviews of the movie. For instance, Jim Vejvoda from the IGN website showered it with praise. After comparing Joker’s aesthetic to classic movies from the 70s and 80s, the writer zoned in on the director and his star.
Vejvoda wrote, “Director Todd Phillips’ Joker presents a Gotham City that is unmistakably a stand-in for the hellish New York City of the era. Phoenix delivers a tour de force. Joker isn’t just an awesome comic-book movie, it’s an awesome movie, period.” As for the film’s box office performance, it’s continuing to deliver.
Joker might not be a traditional blockbuster, but it’s bringing in blockbuster money right now. Incredibly, Phillips’ movie has earned over $936 million worldwide so far, from an estimated $55 million budget. Yet while the film is undoubtedly a massive hit, one question still remains. Will Phoenix nab his fourth Oscar nod in 2020? Only time will tell.