It stays in the family.
By Susanne Johansson , The Danish newspaper “BT” 29th of August 2002

The Phoenix children have all become actors. But for 27 year old Joaquin it is a road with sharp edges.
If there is one thing Joaquin Phoenix hates about his job, then it is to watch his own movies.
“I become so embarrassed” he says almost in a shy way and looks down. “ Well it is because there is this huge version of yourself. There is a 15 meter tall version in front of you and in front of hundreds of people. And with that a possibility to humiliate yourself totally.”
Still it cannot be different for him. Just like it cannot be different for his siblings. Phoenix who had his big breakthrough in Gladiator is from a hippie family consisting 5 children. Both parents were missionaries in an alternative religious movement called “ God’s children” that took them many places in the world. Joaquin who’s name is pronounced “Waa-keen” was born in Puerto Rico and lived in a collective until the family six years later went back home to the Los Angeles area.
“It sounds more romantic then it was” he says about his alternative childhood. And with that statement he is pointing out what the surroundings thought about it, not what he thought about it himself.
When they came back his mother got a job as a secretary at a television station and in that way got a good insight in a world where a good appearance is the ticket to much.
It started with commercials. Commercials carried on to television, television to movies. A road that was lead on by his brother River. River’s talent was well known all over Hollywood.
“I have no idea where it comes from” Joaquin says when asked about the Phoenix family’s actor gene. “Of course I cannot speak for others than myself, but as far back as I can remember we were always doing sketches all 5 of us, and dressing us in my mother’s clothes. So it must have been about having a very lively imagination. And then there is the effect that when one sibling does one thing, the rest of them follow. That is how it always has been in our family in every way. “
But fortunately there is one road the other siblings have not followed. Big brother River died young by an overdose in 1993  in front of the Viper room in Hollywood. The tragic death made little brother Joaquin unwillingly famous because he had to made the 911 call. A call that was repeated on television over and over again

Moved back home to mum.
Two years after the fame took a turn. Now it was the acting there was focused on. In the character as the simple young guy that lets himself getting manipulated by Nicole Kidman in To Die For  he had his big breakthrough on the big screen. From there the success has become bigger and bigger in Hollywood. The so far most famous role was when Joaquin got to play the young paranoid emperor in Gladiator. A performance that gave him an Oscar nomination and started a whole lot of attention about his person. So much attention that he moved back to his mother for a month to get down on earth again.
“Spending time with my family is very important for me. It was important to get back to reality. After 3 movies just after each other (Gladiator, The Yards and Quills) where you are surrounded by people who constantly are telling you how wonderful you are and wait on you hand and foot, I need to get back to my family. A place where someone would tell me out loud if I am behaving like an idiot” Joaquin says.
Even though he insist that the balance is important for him, he has difficulties dealing with the praise. One of the myths is that he gets a stomach cramp and throw up before he starts on a new movie. “ Sometimes that happens” he says with a smile when asked about it. “ I am always very nervous when I am starting on a new movie. Simply because there is so much on stake and so many unanswered questions. Before the shootings it is all purely theory and suddenly we have to go into action."

Nervous and insecure.
Actors, and I am probably one of the most pretentious in that world, are sitting for weeks together with the director and showing off their characters. And then the camera is rolling and you have to proof what it is you have been talking about and showing. Every time I get insecure and nervous. It stops after a while. But I am always very aware of my faults and weaknesses  and always feel that I could have done it better and never will be perfect. But even though I am aiming for perfection I never hope I will reach it, because what will be left then ? “
Perfect or not, we can watch Joaquin Phoenix in the beginning of next year in Thomas Vinterberg’s futuristic love drama It’s all about love and tomorrow in M. Night Shyamalan's new thriller Signs with Mel Gibson. Gibson plays the big brother Graham Hess who has lost the faith when mysterious crop circles suddenly appears and force him to take some things up for revision. But his little brother Merrill (Phoenix) who lives with Graham and his family, does not question his belief or actions.
“You would be an idiot if you had turned down that role” Joaquin says. He is not only a huge fan of the director but also of Mel Gibson. “ I have been a fan of his for a long time. Mad Max was one of the first movies I remember to have seen. He is extremely funny to work with. He is that kind of person that has an opinion about everything and is able to persuade everybody else that he is right.”
If there is, as the movie questions, a life outside the earth, Joaquin Phoenix has his own opinion. “ I guess it would be a bit too selfish to think, that in the whole universe we are the only intelligent creatures. “

You can see the pictures HERE