Joaquin Phoenix is widely regarded as one of the most talented actors of his generation. He won the Best Actor award at the 92nd Academy Awards for his intense and impressive performance as Arthur Fleck in Joker. He has also been nominated on three other occasions, twice for Best Actor (Walk The Line, The Master) and once for Best Supporting Actor (Gladiator).
He has landed a total of 47 awards and 120 nominations across the globe, including a BAFTA and two Golden Globes, in a glittering career so far. He can act, there is no doubt about it. But the question we are addressing here is more pertinent to this site: is Joaquin Phoenix vegan?
Joaquin Phoenix Is Vegan!
The good news for animals and vegan activists everywhere is that, yes, Joaquin Phoenix is indeed unequivocally vegan. Unlike some other vegan celebs, some of whom are not completely, 100% vegan, Phoenix is not only vegan, he regularly talks about it in the media and at awards ceremonies.
In fact, he’s been vegan since he was three years old! He said the choice seemed obvious to him as he didn’t want to “cause pain to another living, empathetic creature”. Since his early introduction to veganism, which he says came from witnessing the brutal killing of fish, his voice has grown in stature as he looks for opportunities to help others develop rather than simply berating them for their choices.
Let’s take a look at some of the many instances when he’s nailed his vegan colours firmly to the mast, including during high-profile interviews and at awards ceremonies.
How Has Joaquin Phoenix Helped the Veganism Cause?
Phoenix has advocated for animal rights and veganism on some of the biggest stages there are, including at the Oscars. In one of the most impressive acceptance speeches there has been for years, Phoenix managed to link what he sees as the common causes of injustice such as gender inequality, queer rights, racism, and animal rights. Though we haven’t checked every speech at the Academy Awards over the years, we are confident this is the first to have mentioned the artificial insemination of cows!
Like one of the other green-minded Hollywood superstars, Leonardo DiCaprio (who he beat to the Best Actor Oscar), Phoenix has put his name and narrator’s voice towards documentaries that hone in on vegan issues. He narrated one of the best and most powerful vegan documentaries out there, Earthlings, which was released in 2005 and is still causing waves today. He also narrated the 2018 documentary Dominion, another hard-hitting documentary about how humans abuse animals in various ways. He’s also taken part in various vegan-related protests and campaigns for PETA and other organisations and he was even detained by police at a climate change protest in Washington DC.
He has attempted to avoid clothing and other things made from animal products during his acting career but was late to the vegan party in realising that wool is not vegan, something which he blamed on his naivety. Now he’s basically a megastar in Hollywood, he is able to call the shots more often on set and he insists that vegan leather alternatives are used instead of animal leather. And along with his various interviews and acceptance speeches at awards ceremonies, he’s able to influence a large number of people across the globe.
Is Joaquin Phoenix a Hypocrite for Preaching Veganism While Jetting Around the Globe?
Whatever good someone tries to do, there will always be a long line of people trying to disparage them. This is particularly true in the internet age in which people can say whatever they like as they cower behind the shroud of anonymity. Or indeed those whose egos are so grand they say idiotic things just to make some kind of social media splash (yes, we’re thinking of you, Piers Morgan). There are always people ready to take aim at high profile vegans or environmentalists if they can sense even the slightest whiff of hypocrisy.
This has been the case with Formula 1 superstar Lewis Hamilton, who treads the fine line between supporting various environmental causes and many of the principles of veganism, while also driving a highly polluting car and jetting around the world for a living. In a similar way, Joaquin Phoenix has been accused of hypocrisy for working in an industry that requires its stars to fly here and there to promote their latest films or to attend awards shows. But really, it’s not like they are destroying rainforests, killing millions of animals or endangering life on earth as we know it (which are legitimate concerns facing other industries such as cattle farming).
Many people who are drawn to veganism for environmental reasons might feel aggrieved that Phoenix works in an industry with a reasonably large carbon footprint. But as he said himself, as quoted in The Guardian:
The industry does consume a lot of power and a lot of resources so the way to mitigate that for me is to maintain a vegan lifestyle.
He’s actively attempted to promote change within his own industry, for instance, when he convinced the Golden Globes to serve an exclusively plant-based menu at their awards ceremony. Ultimately, people can only do so much. And, as with Lewis Hamilton, David Attenborough and others who support environmental or vegan causes while taking more flights than most people, their job (and all that their job entails) is the very reason anyone will listen to them in the first place. As such, people with such elevated profiles are likely to do much more good than harm by speaking out, rather than shying away from such issues for fear of being accused of having double standards.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Top 5 Film Performances
Joaquin Phoenix began his film career as Leaf Phoenix, a name he apparently gave himself, in the 1980s when he appeared in SpaceCamp and Parenthood, among a couple of other productions around that time. But his break really came when he appeared alongside Nicole Kidman in the Gus Van Sant film, To Die For. He’s appeared in around 40 films to date, but here – in no particular order – are his top five films, according to us.
- Gladiator – The film that earned Phoenix a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards, he played the morally corrupt antagonist, Commodus. His commanding presence and ability to unnerve the audience gave Russell Crowe a run for his money (Crowe would win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance).
- Walk the Line – Playing the music icon Johnny Cash, Phoenix was able to bring out some of the darkness of the subject. He earned a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars and won a Golden Globe.
- Her – This surprisingly romantic film written and directed by Spike Jonze tells the story of a relationship between Joaquin Phoenix’s character and an artificial intelligence virtual assistant (the voice of which was provided by Scarlett Johansson). His tender and understated performance led to one of the less well-known awards of his career, the award for the “Best Depiction of Nudity, Sexuality, or Seduction (shared with Scarlett Johansson)” from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards.
- The Sisters Brothers – Directed by Jacques Audiard, this Western crime flick was based on the excellent novel by Patrick deWitt. It was not universally loved but it is well worth a watch for Phoenix’s excellent interplay with on-screen brother played by the amiable John C. Reilly. There was always a nagging suspicion that the Coen Brothers might have made more of the source material had they acquired it, but it’s a decent movie nonetheless.
- Joker – In terms of intensity and creating an atmosphere that transcends the medium, Phoenix’s performance in the Todd Philips-directed, Joker, was outstanding. It was no surprise that he won his first Oscar for the portrayal of failed clown Arthur Fleck and the role allowed the actor to really show what a talent he is.
Joaquin Phoenix & Veganism: Conclusion
When it comes to celebs who walk the vegan walk as well as they talk the vegan talk, Joaquin Phoenix is up there with the best of them. He has regularly used his substantial fame to raise awareness about animal rights issues and other matters of concern to vegans, such as the environment and how climate change affect animals. A vocal supporter of PETA and other animal-related organisations and charities, Phoenix has never shied away from telling things how he sees them.
All in all, though he used to wear wool suits without really considering they compromised his veganism, we think Phoenix is one of the most committed vegan celebs out there. He has repeatedly shown that commitment to the vegan cause and indeed many others that would be considered very worthwhile. And, to top it all, he’s a damn fine actor too.