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Joaquin Phoenix Pays Tribute To Deceased Brother River In Oscars Speech

Gettyimages | Steve Granitz
By Michael Coe

Last night proved to be an emotional night for Joaquin Phoenix, who took home his first-ever Academy Award for his role as the titular character in Todd Philip's Joker. Phoenix had previously been nominated three times over the past 19 years by the Academy but had never won. While accepting the award, Phoenix appeared overcome by emotion and expressed deep gratitude for the admiration of his peers and for the opportunities afforded to him due to his status as a popular actor.

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“I think the greatest gift that [acting] has given me and many of us in this room is the opportunity to use our voice for the voiceless,” Phoenix stated, before continuing on to discuss how actors could use their platform to champion various causes. Phoenix remarked upon the importance of standing up for a belief system by stating, “I think whether we’re talking about gender and equality, or racism, or queer rights, or indigenous rights, or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice."

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Phoenix went on to discuss the more specific issues of animal rights and ecological injustice. Phoenix spoke about the increasing disconnect between people and the natural world and stated, "we go into the natural world and plunder it of its resources.”

Phoenix then concluded his speech with a moving tribute to his late brother, actor River Phoenix. Joaquin quoted a lyric that River had written when he was 17, which read "run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.”

Gettyimages | Barry King

River Phoenix was an acclaimed actor who was initially the most well-known member of the Phoenix family. River starred in now-classic films such as Stand By Me and My Own Private Idaho (which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor). River Phoenix was also a musician and performed as the frontman of alternative rock band Aleka's Attic. River Phoenix died in 1993 of a drug overdose outside of the Hollywood nightclub The Viper Room, then owned by actor Johnny Depp. He was 23 years old.

Gettyimages | Nancy R. Schiff

During his lifetime River Phoenix was a vocal advocate for animal rights. He was a committed vegan who often spoke out in support of organizations such as PETA. He contributed funding to several environmental causes and helped purchase endangered land in Costa Rica. River Phoenix once described his aversion to eating meat by stating, "when I was old enough to realize all meat was killed, I saw it as an irrational way of using our power, to take a weaker thing and mutilate it. It was like the way bullies would take control of younger kids in the schoolyard.''

It is clear that Joaquin Phoenix is intent on carrying out his brother's legacy by continuing to champion animal rights and speak out about environmental issues. He recently attended a vigil outside a slaughterhouse to protest the meat industry and released a short film about the importance of fighting climate change.

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