Actor of the Week: Joaquin Phoenix
This week’s Actor of the Week winner is more than worthy. He is a three-time Oscar nominee and has starred is plenty of top-notch films - the Hollywood ever-present Joaquin Phoenix! Somewhat sadly, he is also our final Actor of the Week winner, as we are moving on to an exciting new feature, so keep ‘em peeled!
Early days, Joaquin starred in a lot of television projects, often under the name ‘Leaf’ Phoenix, a name he used to fit in with his siblings’ names of Rain, and the late River. Some of these projects were TV movie Six Pack, and the series Mr Smith, as well River’s own series Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. His big screen bow would come in the form of 1986’s SpaceCamp.
I was personally something of a late-comer to Phoenix’s turns, and can only consciously recall Signs as being the first film I remember seeing him in, but what a film it is. Also starring Mel Gibson, Signs is one of M. Night Shyamalan’s better projects and tells the story of a family who live on a farm and come across the classic crop circles, which leads to encounters with an alien race with sinister intentions. Phoenix is excellent in Signs, going from utterly sceptical at the thought of an alien invasion, to being absolutely horrified at the truth of the predicament. There’s one particularly fascinating scene in which Phoenix’s Merrill Hess is watching a home-shot video on the news, showing the first real sighting of an alien, and the mere thought of the scene still gives me goosebumps now, and you can see this scene below. Phoenix’s reaction to the alien only adds to the gravitas of the scene, really providing the weight to make it feel real.
One of Phoenix’s classic roles, a role that also earned him one of three Oscar nominations to date, is that of Commodus in Gladiator. Here, he also starred alongside a former AotW winner in Russell Crowe. Gladiator tells the story of a betrayed Roman General who is out for revenge, after his family are murdered by the aging Emperor’s son, after he chooses Crowe’s General, Maximus, as his successor, as opposed to his own son, Phoenix’s Commodus. This film is iconic, from plot to actors to score, it really has it all. Phoenix and Crowe’s utter contempt for one another is a massive factor in its success, and Gladiator should really be a priority if you somehow haven’t seen it yet.
Phoenix’s other two Oscar nominations came for turns in The Master, and Walk the Line, where he portrayed the legendary country musician Johnny Cash, from early days in Arkansas to becoming the household name and icon he will forever be.
Other projects of Phoenix’s that are definitely worth checking out are Her, You Were Never Really Here, and Two Lovers.
For me, it’s a real pleasure to write about Phoenix, as he has quite the back catalogue and really seems to churn out top quality performances on a consistent basis. He is, in many ways, the only reason I’m remotely interested in DC’s upcoming Joker standalone origin film, which should be interesting to say the very least. For me, it’s a thumbs up for Joaquin, never a thumbs down!