Biographic by Steve McGarry for March 05, 2006
His parents were missionaries for the Children Of God religious movement and adopted Phoenix as the family surname. When the family settled in Los Angeles. After spending years in central and South America, the five Phoenix kids jumped enthusiastically into acting careers- although, they refused to appear in tv commercials for meat, milk or junk food. Back then, he was known as Leaf Phoenix, as a teen, he revertated back to his given name of Jaoquin Phoenix... and he has gone on to become one of the most talented and acclaimed actors of his generation. Joaquin Rafael Phoenix was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on October 28, 1974. When the family relocated to Los Angeles, all five Phoenix kids were signed by a Hollywood agent. Joaquin, who was billed as Leaf Phoenix, first appeared in TV shows alongside his older brother River Phoenix. He made his movie debut in 1986 in "Spacecamp" before starring in 1987's "Russkies" and appearing in the 1989 Steve Martin hit "Parenthood." He dropped out of the business in the early '90s and moved to Mexico with his father for three years. But in 1993 he was back in the public eye when tragedy struck the family. River Phoenix, one of the brightest young movie stars, died at the age of 23 after collapsing outside a Hollywood nightclub. Joaquin, who was with his brother that night, was deeply affected and considered leaving the movie business for good. At the insistence of friends, he began to read scripts again and returned to the screen in 1995's "To Die For." His stardom was assured with his Oscar-nominated performances at the brutal Commodus in 2000's "Gladiator" and more recently cemented by his awar9dwinning portrayal of country legend Johnny Cash in "Walk The Line."