Joaquin Rafael Bottom (aka Joaquin Phoenix), born in Puerto Rico, but raised in the US, Mexico, and South America is Jewish.
His father, John Lee Bottom, was a Catholic from Fontana, California. His mother, Arlyn Dunetz) was born in the Bronx, New York to Jewish parents from Hungary and Russia. In 1968, Arlyn left her family and moved to California, meeting Phoenix's father while hitch-hiking. They married in 1969, then later joined the religious cult the Children of God. They began traveling throughout South America.
His parents eventually became disillusioned with the Children of God; they made the decision to leave the cult and returned to the U.S. in 1978. They changed their last name to "Phoenix" to symbolize a new beginning. This was also around the time Phoenix had begun calling himself "Leaf", desiring to have a similar nature-related name like his siblings (he was inspired by spending time outdoors raking leaves with his dad). This is the name he would use as a child actor; at fifteen, he changed it back to 'Joaquin'.
In order to provide food and financial support for the family, the Phoenix children performed on the streets and at various talent contests, singing and playing instruments. In Los Angeles his mother started working as a secretary for NBC, and his father worked as a landscaper. Joaquin and his siblings were eventually discovered by one of Hollywood's leading children's agents, Iris Burton, who got the five children acting work, mainly doing commercials and television show appearances. Phoenix went on to establish himself a child actor before deciding to withdraw from acting for a while and travel to Mexicoand South Americawith his father.
Phoenix came back into public view under tragic circumstances: on October 31, 1993, his brother, River Phoenix, suffered a fatal drug overdoseand died, outside the famed Hollywoodnightclub The Viper Room, which was owned by Johnny Depp. Joaquin's call to 911to save his brother was recorded and repeatedly played over the airwaves and on television. The sudden media intrusion into his life proved to be too overwhelming; once again, he retreated from the public eye. A year later, at the insistence of his friends, Phoenix reluctantly re-entered the world of acting.
Some of Phoenix's Popular Roles
Walk the Line - Johnny Cash
Hotel Rwanda - Jack Daglish
Brother Bear (animated) - Kenai
Signs - Merrill Hess
Buffalo Soldiers - Ray Elwood
Gladiator - Commodus
Parenthood - Garry Buchman-Lampkin
Space Camp - Max
Recently Phoenix has become quite eccentric. His classic interview on David Letterman and his recent Fight during a Miami Rap concert are 2 examples of how he has gone through a personality transformation. Is it an act or is it real??
Video of Joaquin on Letterman