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Joaquin Phoenix: Emotional Tribute

Learn English with Joaquin Phoenix. Renowned for his incredible acting prowess, Joaquin Phoenix, was honored at the Toronto International Film Festival Tribute Gala. Presented by actor Willem Dafoe, Joaquin gave an emotional acceptance speech, sharing memories of his late brother, River Phoenix, and touching upon his journey in the film industry. This poignant moment takes us closer to the heart of a man who has made significant contributions to cinema. Join us as we relive this touching evening.

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Joaquin Phoenix | Quote

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“Be brave. Risk it all.” Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix | FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Willem Dafoe: Listen, tonight I’m honored to present this inaugural TIFF Tribute Actor Award to one of the most talented and transformative actors in cinema: Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin has worked with heralded filmmakers such as Gus Van Zandt, Oliver Stone, Ridley Scott, James Gray, James Mangold, Spike Jonze, Paul Thomas Anderson, to name a few.

He played Johnny Cash, a drug-fueled PI, a bit… Hey, I’m giving… I’m introducing you. Okay, come here. Come here. You tell… You tell me if any of this is bullshit. This is a speech.

Joaquin Phoenix: It looks good. It looks good.

Willem Dafoe: Okay, let me keep on going. A drug-fueled PI, a bitable Navy vet… Bitable, you know what that means?

Joaquin Phoenix: No, I don’t even… I can’t read this.

Willem Dafoe: Okay, and a corrupt Roman Emperor, you know that one.

Joaquin Phoenix: That’s right.

Willem Dafoe: And he made us believe you could fall in love with a computer, but we already knew that. He even played a version of himself so well that we believed he was giving up acting for the world of rap music. And I gotta tell you, I went to one of his concerts in Miami…

Joaquin Phoenix: I remember you were there. Thank you so much.

Willem Dafoe: And I’m sorry, I gotta do it to personalize the speech. It lasted 30 seconds because he was in his first rap and some jerk in the audience started heckling him.

Joaquin Phoenix: He was an actor; he was a plant.

Willem Dafoe: I didn’t know that. Okay. Oh, okay. Well, I went for it. I went for it. I’m easy that way. I’m a believer. But anyway, Joaquin jumps off the stage, confronts them, security comes in, breaks it up; the concert’s over. That was it. That’s why I went to his concert. Okay, cool. Anyway, the point is he’s always surprising us and himself. Okay. I’m told he works instinctively and he’s here, so…

Joaquin Phoenix: He’ll tell you he doesn’t know exactly what he’s gonna do for this speech. To do in a scene until the cameras roll.

Willem Dafoe: True? They told me to be quick, okay, so let’s stop fooling around so long enough, right? In his latest film, in a role written for him, Joaquin gives a deeply realized portrayal of a struggling, lonely man who credibly becomes one of the world’s most nefarious villains. True?

Joaquin Phoenix: I think so. Nefarious means very kind, right? Thank you. And good night. I want to, I want to, Willem. Willem, thank you so much for presenting me with this. You’re my all-time favorite actor, really, it’s such an honor.

I don’t know who’s really giving me this award, who’s responsible for this, or why. And frankly, I don’t care. My publicist said, “Somebody wants to give you an award,” and I said, “I’m in. Let’s do it.” And honestly, I thought I was gonna come out and just make a lot of tasteless jokes at my expense and yours, but… watching those clips, I’m so embarrassed to admit this, but I feel overwhelmed with emotion.

So just thinking about all the people that had such a profound influence on me throughout my career, the people you don’t know… there was a man named Joel Thurm, who was the head of casting at NBC, and my mother was his secretary and he is the first man to introduce me to my agent, a woman named Iris Burton, an amazing old agent. And I’m… indebted to all of them so much. They changed my career and my life; it’s been my life. I’ve been acting since I was eight.

But mostly, when I was watching those clips I thought about my family. My sisters Rain and Liberty and Summer who are still my best friends. I don’t talk to them or see them but… I thought it’d be good for this piece to say that. When I was 15 or 16 my brother River came home from work and he had a VHS copy of a movie called Raging Bull and he sat me down and made me watch it and the next day he woke me up and he made me watch it again and he said, “You’re gonna start acting again. This is what you’re gonna do.” And he didn’t ask me, he just told me, and I am indebted to him for that because, acting has given me such an incredible life.

And I want to also acknowledge my dad, John Lee; he instilled in me a great work ethic. And… Todd, I can literally hear your eyes rolling. Sorry, Todd Phillips, the director, is here, and I know that his eyes are rolling right now. I might have faltered slightly in my work ethic with him, but for all the other movies, I had a great work ethic. But mostly, I want to thank my mother, Heart, because she’s a constant source of inspiration, and she taught me amazing values and principles that have guided me my whole career. Everything that I do is for her. I love you madly.

And one last thing: somewhere here, I don’t know where, is a filthy dragon, and I want to rip its wings off and fashion a blanket and sleep with it forever. I love you. Thank you.

Joaquin Phoenix