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