Birth Date: October 28 1974
Birth Place: N/A
Born in Puerto Rico October 28 1974 to Children of God missionaries John Bottom Amram and Arlyn Dunitz Jochebed (a.k.a. Heart), Joaquin was the middle child in a brood of five. As a youngster he took his cues from older siblings River Phoenix and Rain Phoenix, changing his name to Leaf to match their earthier monikers. When the children were encouraged to develop their creative instincts, he followed their lead into acting. Younger sisters Liberty Phoenix and Summer Phoenix rounded out the talented troupe.
The family moved often, but by the time Joaquin was 6 they had more or less settled in the Los Angeles area. They eventually found an agent who was willing to represent all five children, and the younger generation dove into TV work. Commercials for meat, milk, and junk food were off-limits (the kids were all raised as strict vegans), but they managed to find plenty of work pushing other, less sinister products.
Joaquin's first real acting gig was a guest appearance on River's sitcom "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (1982). He made his big-screen debut as the youngest crew member in the interstellar romp SpaceCamp (1986), then won his first starring turn in the Cold War-era drama Russkies (1987).
In the late '80s, the Phoenix clan decided to pull up stakes and relocate again--this time to Florida. Universal Pictures had just opened a new studio in the area and he was cast almost immediately as an angst-ridden adolescent in Parenthood (1989). His performance was very well-received, but Joaquin decided to withdraw from acting for a while.
Joaquin returned to the public eye three years later under tragic circumstances. On October 31, 1993, he was at The Viper Room (an L.A. nightclub partly owned by Johnny Depp) when his brother River collapsed from a drug overdose and later died. Joaquin made the call to 911, which was rebroadcast on radio and TV the world over.
Months later, at the insistence of friends and colleagues, Joaquin began reading through scripts again, but he was reluctant to re-enter the acting life until he found just the right part. He finally signed up to star as Nicole Kidman's obsessive devotee in To Die for (1995). His career began to take off after that, due to critical praise. The film that confirmed Phoenix as a star was Gladiator (2000).
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