|The Standart Times - 1997|
|Phoenix shuffles into
By Mark Kennedy, Associated Press writer
Even through the fog of a nasty late-winter flu, Joaquin Phoenix remains achingly polite. "Thanks," he says softly when offered a ragged, perforated sheet of Bounty from the kitchen. The 22-year-old actor, who is unavoidably known as brother of the late actor River Phoenix, blows his streaming nose. "Sorry," he apologizes.
For a performer who has carved out an
offbeat movie career playing angry, alienated teens, his off-screen
persona is marked more by floor-gazing and foot-shuffling. "I'm
just a private person," he
admits exhaling a haze of chain-smoked Marlboros. "Sorry."
Joaquin was a TV adolescent-for-hire before bursting onto Hollywood
screens in 1989
His next big role came in the form of the
memorably menacing Jimmy -- the socially inept slacker with a dangerous
crush on Nicole Kidman in Gus Van Sant's 1995 black comedy "To Die
For." But between those roles, tragedy brought his private world
crashing down on Oct. 31, 1993. As his famous brother, River, lay
convulsing from a drug overdose outside a hot Los Angeles club on Sunset
Strip called the Viper Room, Joaquin was several yards away pleading for
help on a pay telephone. "You
must get here, please, you must get here,"
his anguished brother said, somehow remembering to say
"please" and "thank you" to the 911 emergency
thinking he had Valium, or something." River
was pronounced dead Halloween morning at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. His
surviving brother's private grief is still raw.
Joaquin took a multiyear hiatus from
Hollywood. He admits, somewhat sheepishly, that the script for "To
Die For" sat unread for many months. "I
just wasn't interested," he
says. "I just
have this tendency to expect the worst from a story. You know, I always
see really bad acting, for some reason."
Cajoled, he finally picked it up -- and then couldn't put it down. "It
was one of those strange experiences where, as I'm reading it, I know
what Jimmy's going to say before I read it. The feelings just sort of
pop out at me."
This month, Phoenix leads some of
Hollywood's hottest young stars in director Pat O'Connor's touching
Eisenhower-era drama, "Inventing the Abbotts." He joins Billy
Crudup as two working-class brothers snared in a complex relationship
with three wealthy Midwest sisters, played by Jennifer Connelly, Joanna
Going and Liv Tyler. This time, there was no delay getting on board the
things just touch you, for whatever reason, and this felt so honest to
me," he says of the screenplay. "It
wasn't trying to be anything that it wasn't."
Born in Puerto Rico, he spent much of his
childhood on the move, living in Oregon, Mexico, South America and
Florida with his talented siblings -- River, Rain, Liberty and Summer --
while his parents struggled with odd jobs. "When
you grow up with a large family,"
he says, "you
have friends right there." One
day, while raking leaves with his father, Joaquin decided that he wanted
an earthy name like his siblings. His parents