Joaquin Phoenix tells The Sunday Times in a new interview that he was “full of fear” at the 2020 Oscars when he took the stage to accept the Academy Award for Best Actor. Phoenix won the Oscar for his performance in Todd Phillips’ “Joker.” While the actor was the frontrunner after winning Best Actor prizes from the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the BAFTA Film Awards, he still was terrified to take the Oscars’ stage and make an acceptance speech.
“I’ll be honest with you here,” Phoenix said. “I did not want to get up anywhere and do anything. I was not excited about the opportunity. It’s just not who I am. I was full of fear.”
Phoenix’s Oscar speech had less to do with “Joker” and more to do with fighting for animal rights, which is the main reason his speech went viral on social media. “We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow,” the actor memorably said while accepting the Oscar, “and when she gives birth we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable, and then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”
Reflecting on his speech to The Times, Phoenix said, “I was in that situation and there was a part of me that just wanted to say, ‘Thanks so much, great, goodnight.’ But I felt like I had to…If I’m up here, I can’t just thank my mum.”
Phoenix’s pro-animal rights speech hit a nerve with Victor Kossakovsky, the director of the acclaimed documentary “Gunda.” The film explores animal sentience by following the daily life of a pig, two cows, and a one-legged chicken. After Phoenix’s Oscar speech made its way to Kossakovsky, the filmmaker reached out to Phoenix to ask if he wanted to get involved with the movie. Phoenix would board “Gunda” as an executive producer.
“People started calling me and saying, ‘Did you write his speech? Because what he says is exactly what you’re saying to us every day before shooting,’” Kossakovsky told The Times about Phoenix’s Oscar speech. “So we decided, ‘OK, we have to show him the film.’”
While “Gunda” technically marks Phoenix’s first project since his Oscar win, he will next be seen onscreen in Mike Mills’ “C’mon C’mon.” The comedy-drama is backed by A24 and is expected to release later this year.