Top 10 Joaquin Phoenix
Way before Joaquin Phoenix made a name for himself as an established actor or even begun rapping to the beat of his own allegedly crazed drum, he was getting himself noticed alongside Steve Martin in Parenthood. Not known for his comedic roles, Phoenix made a brief stop off in films of the funny variety, before moving onto more straight laced and serious projects. The film went onto to be a television series which featured writer Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and a string of soon-to-be stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, David Arquette, and Thora Birch, before being cancelled.
To Die For (1995)
Gus Van Sant’s gritty drama sees a pimply looking Phoenix on the receiving end of a wily Nicole Kidman’s seductive charms. Falling victim to Sant’s Mrs. Robinson style scenario put Phoenix on the map, making him the envy of high school boys everywhere. On set Phoenix sparked up a lasting friendship with now brother-in-law Casey Affleck, who played his pal Russell Hines. Based on a novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard, the film echoed events from the Pamela Smart story. School media services coordinator Smart was imprisoned for convincing a high school boy to kill her husband.
Up until the late nineties Phoenix was overshadowed by his late brother River’s legacy as an actor. Hailed as a great emerging talent, River died tragically in his prime after a drug overdose at the legendary Viper Room. Joaquin’s talent went largely unrecognised by mainstream cinema goers that is, until he landed a supporting role alongside heavy weight Nicolas Cage in 8mm. The film centres on the snuff film industry and sees Phoenix as side-kick cop Max California.
Complete with religious robes and a dog collar to match, Phoenix proved his worth as an actor by keeping up with co-star Geoffrey Rush in Philip Kaufman’s psychological period drama, Quills. In a film which focuses on the life and work of the Marquis de Sade, Phoenix held his own amongst an all-star cast as Abbé du Coulmier, an administer at the Charenton asylum. Rush received critical acclaim for his interpretation of the Marquis but the film wasn’t so favorably acknowledged amongst historians, who cited it as inaccurate.
Ridley Scott’s historical epic sees Phoenix squaring up to a very buff looking Russell Crowe in a role which alerted film critics and audiences to an untapped talent. Phoenix’s sinister performance as the sociopathic Commodus earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and opened up a world of possibilities for the then twenty-six year old. In 2001 there were talks of a prequel in the pipeline but the film fell flat. Crowe is said to have researched bringing his character Maximus back to the screen in a sequel, but his ethereal ideas never took off.
Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
After many years playing second fiddle to actors of a grander stature, Phoenix finally managed to secure a successful starring lead as Ray Elwood in Gregor Jordan’s Buffalo Soldiers. The film shied away from war and instead decided to take a controversial look at what soldiers do when they’re not fighting. Drugs, bullying and black market dealings featured heavily in the film's satirical plot, giving Phoenix the perfect opportunity to have fun with his off-beat character. As a mark of respect for the September 11 attacks, the film’s release date was pushed back two years.
Plot twister extraordinaire M. Night Shyamalan signed Phoenix up to play Mel Gibson’s younger brother, and former minor league baseball player Merrill. Showing off a more humorous side, the role saw Phoenix toying with tinfoil in an attempt to thwart the aliens’ mind reading powers. And engage in some whimsical banter with Gibson over their plot to run and hide from imminent alien invasion. In the final moments of the film it is Merrill’s baseball bat and the cryptic message “swing away”, said by Graham’s deceased wife, which save the day.
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Hotel Rwanda depicts true events surrounding hotelier Paul Rusesabagina’s attempt to save lives during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Phoenix stars as Jack Daglish, an English journalist who has been granted entry into the country to follow events surrounding the Genocide. Phoenix’s part in the film was small, but conveyed his enthusiasm to be involved in a film rich in cultural and historical subtext.
Walk The Line (2005)
This 2005 biopic sees Phoenix stepping into the shoes of guitar strumming, Country legend Johnny Cash. The film echoes the life and music of Cash in his youth, before his tragic death in 2003. Phoenix drummed authenticity into the role by researching his part thoroughly and singing all of the Country singer’s songs himself. Reese Witherspoon took on the part as the leading lady in Cash’s life, June Carter. Witherspoon and Phoenix were credited for their crackling on-set chemistry which later won them critical acclaim. However, Cash’s daughter Rosanne Cash criticised the film, comparing it to, "having a root canal without anesthetic."
We Own The Night (2007)
James Gray’s gripping tail of family rifts set against the backdrop of drug trafficking in New York, sees Phoenix returning to his darker roots as the confused, irresponsible son of a police chief (Robert Duvall). Brother to police captain Joseph Grusinsky (Mark Whalberg) Phoenix plays off the rails club owner Bobby Green, who becomes part of a plot to sabotage the Russian mafia. This was one of Phoenix’s alleged final films before he decided to call it quits on the acting industry, grow an enormous beard and keep everyone guessing about his lyrical stylings as a rapper.
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