Joaquin Phoenix credits late brother River for acting career in touching TIFF speech — watch

'You're going to start acting again,' River Phoenix told Joaquin. 'This is what you're going to do.'

'You're going to start acting again,' River Phoenix told Joaquin. 'This is what you're going to do.'

During a TIFF award speech, the Joker actor credited his late brother River with getting him back into acting. (Variety)

Joaquin Phoenix is winning raves for his performance in the new film Joker, and in a touching award speech at the Toronto International Film Festival, he credited his late brother, actor River Phoenix, for his remarkable career. 

"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 going to start acting again. This is what you're going to do,'" Phoenix said after receiving the TIFF Tribute Actor Award.

"He didn't ask me, he told me. And I am indebted to him for that because acting has given me such an incredible life."


In his acceptance speech, Phoenix also honoured his sisters. "I feel overwhelmed with emotion, because I'm just thinking about all the people that had such a profound influence on me," Phoenix said. "When I was watching those clips, I thought about my family. My sisters Rain and Liberty and Summer, who are still my bests friends.

"I don't talk to them or see them," he quipped, "but I thought it'd be good for the speech to say that."

Phoenix credited his father for his work ethic, then poked fun at himself with a comment to Joker director Todd Phillips.

"Todd, I can literally hear your eyes rolling," said Phoenix, who also starred in Her, Inherent Vice and You Were Never Really Here. "I might have faltered slightly in my work ethic with him, but for all the other movies, I had a great work ethic."

Phoenix also called his mother "a constant source of inspiration."

"Everything I do is for her," he said.

To end the speech, Phoenix made a more mysterious comment, which many assume was meant for his romantic partner Rooney Mara, who starred in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

"One last thing — somewhere here, I don't know where, is a filthy dragon, and I want to rip its wings off and fasten a blanket and sleep with it forever," he said. "I love you. Thank you."

About the Author

Jennifer Van Evra is a Vancouver-based journalist and digital producer for q. She can be found on Twitter @jvanevra or email


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