Joaquin Phoenix Paid Tribute To Brother River In Emotional Oscars Acceptance Speech

by : Cameron Frew on :
Joaquin Phoenix Paid Tribute To Brother River In Emotional Oscars Acceptance SpeechPA Images

As an emotional Joaquin Phoenix picked up the Oscar for Joker, he took a moment to pay tribute to his late brother, River. 

The actor was widely predicted to take home the Academy Award, following a steady stream of wins at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes and other ceremonies.


However, each prize has brought powerful speeches to the fold – and his Oscar acceptance was no different, highlighting ‘the fight against injustice’ and quoting a lyric his brother wrote as a teenager.

You can watch Phoenix’s full speech in the video below: 

River – most famous for his roles in Stand By Me and My Own Private Idaho – died in October 1993 from a drug overdose aged 23, following a night out at The Viper Room in West Hollywood. Joaquin, who was with his brother that same night, was only 19 at the time.


As he took to the stage to accept his Oscar, Phoenix said: 

I’m full of so much gratitude right now. I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees because we share the same love – the love of film. This form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life. I don’t know what I would be without it.

The greatest gift it’s given me is the opportunity to use your voice for the voiceless. I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the frustrating issues that we are facing collectively and at times we feel or are made to feel that we champion different causes, but for me I see commonality.

The 45-year-old, in line with his powerful messages in previous speeches, added: ‘I think whether we’re talking about gender and inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights – we’re talking about the fight against injustice.’

Joaquin Phoenix OscarsPA Images
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Closing his speech, he thanked and left the audience with a quote River had penned when he was 17 years old: ‘Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.’

During a 60 Minutes interview in January, Phoenix discussed the immediate aftermath of his brother’s death, when he and his family learned the full extent of the actor’s fame.

Phoenix said:


We were so removed from the entertainment world. We didn’t watch entertainment shows. We didn’t have the entertainment magazines in our house. You know, River was a really substantial actor and movie star and we didn’t really know it.

During that time in which you’re most vulnerable, there are helicopters flying over, there are people that are trying to sneak onto your land. Certainly, for me it felt like it impeded on the mourning process.

More than 25 years later, the family are still going through the grieving process. The actor’s mother Heart explained it ‘happens out of nowhere. You know, I’ll be driving and all of a sudden I will feel it. And I’ll just welcome it’.

Alongside Phoenix, Hildur Guðnadóttir also took home a Best Original Score Oscar for her breathtaking work on Joker.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Film and TV, Academy Awards, Film, Joaquin Phoenix, Joker, Oscars