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Joaquin Phoenix Praises Heath Ledger in Latest Award Acceptance Speech

Gettyimages | Kevin Winter
By Zachary Holt

Joaquin Phoenix, the actor who played Arthur Fleck in Joker, has been making quite the victory lap since the award season started. The critically acclaimed film portrays more than just a spinoff from a comic book. It has functioned as a portal that provides an accurate representation of the development of mental health issues as a result of a society that denigrates individuals and what it means to be human. Rightfully so, Phoenix has been gathering quite a bit of hardware, including the Golden Globe for Best Male Actor. More recently, though, Phoenix won the award for Best Actor at the Screen Actor's Guild and he thanked a well-known person as the inspiration for his character.

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The Legend of Heath Ledger and His Role as the Joker

Gettyimages | Niki Nikolova

Back in what seems eons ago, the now-deceased Heath Ledger provided us with one of the most amazing acting performances as The Joker in the Dark Knight. The work that it required to get into character was unprecedented, but Ledger did what was necessary as someone who was undoubtedly passionate about his craft.

Through his interpretation of the character, we saw a dark and haunting individual with a vast array of mental health issues. Getting into character for the film, though, would ultimately prove to cost everything for Ledger.

For the actor, it was difficult to adjust to life after the filming and he subsequently overdosed on medication prescribed for the purpose of acclimating him back to normal, everyday living. This passion and performance by Ledger was referenced by Phoenix, citing the late actor as his favorite.

Phoenix Shares That Heath Ledger Is His Favorite Actor

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In thanking Ledger for his inspirational acting, Phoenix quoted Sir Isaac Newton by saying, "I'm standing here on the shoulders of my favorite actor, Heath Ledger," as he accepted the award for Best Actor at the SAG ceremony.

And it's true that Ledger was a giant, at least as it comes to the long line of people who have played The Joker. Despite a number of successful films by the late actor, Ledger revolutionalized the character in The Dark Knight. It was no longer simply a criminal committing crime, but something much more dark, complex, and layered. Phoenix without a doubt channeled these same dynamics that are ultimately winning him award after award.

Joker Actor Praises Another Unforeseen Inspiration

Gettyimages | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin

During his award acceptance speech, Phoenix also addressed another actor that he inspires to be, and it was someone you'd never believe. Phoenix shared his audition experience for films and how he seemingly always lost the role to one person: Leonardo DiCaprio. Yet, he was appreciative of Leo's influence, as well as, the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood actor being an inspiration.

"When I started acting again and going to auditions, I'd always get to the final callback and there would always be two other guys we'd be up against. And we would always lose to this one kid," Phoenix said. "No actor would ever say his name 'cause it was like too much, but every casting director would whisper like, 'It's Leonardo, it's Leonardo.' Leo, you've been an inspiration for over 25 years to me and so many people. I thank you very, very much."

Phoenix Odds-On Favorite to Take Best Actor Award at Oscars

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Phoenix might have to make more room in the trophy case as Joker has been nominated for multiple awards for the upcoming Oscars ceremony taking place in February, including Best Actor. And ironically, if Phoenix takes home the award, it won't be the first time that an actor portraying The Joker has done so. Heath Ledger won the award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Dark Night. Perhaps we'll see another shout out to the late actor if Phoenix wins the award, which he is currently the odds-on favorite to do.

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