Joaquin Phoenix dedicates his acting career to his late brother River in emotional speech

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Joaquin Phoenix (Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Joaquin Phoenix said that he is 'indebted' to his late brother River Phoenix for his acting career in an emotional speech at the Toronto Film Festival.

The actor, who is gaining plaudits and Oscar buzz for his role in Batman spin-off movie Joker, was accepting the TIFF Tribute Actor Award, when he began speaking about the effect his family has had on his work.

Read more: First reviews call Joker a ‘masterpiece’

“I feel overwhelmed with emotion, because I’m just thinking about all the people that had such a profound influence on me,” Phoenix told the audience at the gala event.

“When I was watching those clips, I thought about my family. My sisters Rain and Liberty and Summer, who are still my bests friends.”

He then went on to speak about River, who was on the cusp of a glittering career in Hollywood before he died from an overdose in 1993, aged just 23.

“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,” Phoenix said.

River Phoenix with his younger brother Joaquin Phoenix and mother Arlyn Phoenix (Credit: John Roca/NY Daily News via Getty Images)

“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.’

“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.”

He added that his father instilled upon him his hard work ethic, and his mother remains ‘a constant source of inspiration'.

Read more: Could Joker cross over with The Batman?

“Everything I do is for her,” he went on.

He wound up saying: “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. I love you. Thank you.”

This may have been a reference to Rooney Mara, his girlfriend and star of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but who knows.

Joker, which has been dubbed a 'masterpiece', is due out in the UK on October 4.