Joaquin Rafael Phoenix (born October 28, 1974) is an American actor, producer, and animal rights activist.
Phoenix’s life is remarkably simple compared to what people might imagine. He lives with Mara in the Hollywood Hills (he’s never been married and has no children) and is usually asleep by 9 p.m. and up at 6. When he’s not working his daily routine consists of answering emails, ‘‘chilling’’ with his dog, meditating, taking a karate class, eating lunch, reading scripts and dinner — but for most of last year he’d been on location. He watches documentaries on Netflix (and he watched the 10-hour true-crime doc ‘‘The Staircase’’ recently because Mara wanted to) but rarely watches new movies. When asked if any recent films have excited him, he thinks about it, stuck, and then answers, genuinely surprising himself: ‘‘ ‘Moana’! I thought it was beautiful.’’ (He later corrects himself and says it was actually ‘‘The Lost City of Z,’’ James Gray’s latest — Phoenix has starred in four of Gray’s seven films.)
Twelve years ago Phoenix went into rehab for alcoholism. ‘‘I really just thought of myself as a hedonist. I was an actor in L.A. I wanted to have a good time. But I wasn’t engaging with the world or myself in the way I wanted to. I was being an idiot, running around, drinking, trying to screw people, going to stupid clubs.’’ There was no intervention, Phoenix says, he just checked himself in. ‘‘I thought rehab was a place where you sat in a Jacuzzi and ate fruit salad. But when I got there they started talking about the 12 steps and I went: ‘Wait a minute, I’m still gonna smoke weed.’ ’’ He offers a startled, questioning look, and then later admits: ‘‘I think at the core of the program is a spirituality that is important to me, but . . . I am a hippie, you know.’’ Though he still drinks when he flies (the last drink he had was a month ago on a flight to London) he has stopped smoking marijuana. ‘‘There’s too many things I enjoy doing and I don’t want to wake up feeling hungover. It’s not a thing I fight against — it’s just the way I live my life. Some of it’s probably age.’’
On Losing 52 Pounds for Joker
Before undergoing an extremely restrictive diet, Phoenix met with a doctor to ensure his health wasn’t put at risk. “It’s something I’ve done before and you work with a doctor regimented and overseen and safe,” he told Access Hollywood. (In fact, he worked with the same doctor who helped him drop weight for 2012’s The Master, which also coincidentally earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.) Most of the process involved restricting calories in a short time span so that his character would appear malnourished, with his ribs and spine protruding.
Initially, Phillips was a bit nervous. “It was already like June and he hadn’t started [losing weight] and we start shooting in September,” he said. And he’s like, 180 pounds. He wasn’t fat but we’re talking about getting to 125 pounds.”
Rumors swirled that Phoenix ate only an apple a day to prep for the role, but he brushed that one off. “It wasn’t an apple a day. No, you’ve also got lettuce and steamed green beans,” he said.
However, in an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live last October, Phoenix admitted the process was “difficult” physically and even walking up flights of steps “takes like 30 seconds” to “talk yourself into it” (making his now-iconic stair dance scene even more meaningful).
He also explained that he obsessed over even tiny changes in figure. “So much of what’s difficult is waking up every day and being obsessed over, like, 0.3 pounds. Right? And you really develop a disorder,” he revealed to the Associated Press.
However, Phoenix said the weight loss also gave him a sense of control and the confidence to dig deep into the Joker’s persona.“I felt like I could move my body in ways that I hadn’t been able to before. And I think that really lent itself to some of the physical movement that started to emerge as an important part of the character,” he told the AP.
Still, speaking at the Venice Film Festival last August, Phoenix was clear about the ramifications of taking such extreme measures for Joker, which is nominated for a total of 11 Academy Awards. “As it turns out, that impacts your psychology,” he said, “and you really start to go mad when you lose that much weight in that amount of time.”