Animal Times Summer 2001

This sexy poster, shot by Steven Klein, was plastered all over New York during Fashion Week. Joaquin wanted style mavens to know that fur doesn't fly at SPA, the city's hottest hangout.
Oscar-nominee Joaquin Phoenix, star of Gladiator and Quills, talks to PETA about the influence of animal rights on his career and life.

Q - Some people don’t know that you care deeply about animals. When did you become vegan?

A - I was 3 years old - to this day, it is a vivid memory. My family and I were on a boat, catching fish. As one fish was caught, he was writhing, then he was thrown against the side of the boat. You couldn’t disguise what it was: This was what we did to animals to eat them. The animal went from a living, vibrant creature fighting for life to a violent death. I recognized it, as did my brothers and sisters.

Q - What is your favorite dish?

A -Tofu and lots of it. I like anything homemade, and if it’s organic, all the better. I also love tabouli salad. I don’t even really go for the fake meat stuff.
I like veggies, straight up. I also wear synthetic stuff, especially shoes. I remember when all I could wear were my Converse canvas All-stars, and now it seems like most shoes are synthetic.

Q - You are on the road so much. Is it easy to find places to eat and things to wear?

A - Ten years ago, it felt strange to be the only one objecting to fur and asking for vegan stuff, but now [vegan stuff] is a given. Everywhere I go, I find great veg food. I just got back from Toronto, where there was a great health food store, and even this small town in Germany that I visited recently had a veg restaurant.

Q - Do you find ways to incorporate the principles of animal rights into everyday living?

A -That’s just it: Animal rights is a part of my everyday life. When you live by example, you create a certain level of awareness. Friends of mine, people I have never discussed animal rights or vegetarianism with, are adopting vegetarian habits because they see it.

Q - Does your view of animals influence your professional decisions?

A - Of course. For example, when it came to making Gladiator, I was sure to say I would wear only fake leather outfits, and my clogs in Quills were synthetic as well. My lifestyle is part of who I am and therefore is always a consideration when working. I always discuss this with producers, and they respect my lifestyle decisions and are very accommodating. Now there are so many cruelty-free options available, people would be foolish not to take advantage of them. It is also easier to work with computers and animatronics than animals, and that makes a difference, too. Technology has allowed us to recreate animal images, like the tigers in Gladiator.

Q -Your poster promoting SPA nightclub’s “No Fur” policy went up in New York during Fashion Week. What kind of impact do you think it made?

A - I really hope it has an impact. It is hard to fathom that anyone is still wearing fur. It is so plain to see that killing animals for their fur is completely barbaric. The only purpose is vanity. Look at the alternatives we have now. Wearing fur won’t be tolerated.