Capping a nearly immaculate waltz through this year’s awards season, Joaquin Phoenix danced to victory on the biggest stage of them all, taking home the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Arthur Fleck in Joker.
At Sunday’s Oscars, Phoenix once again took the stage to accept top acting honors in a sweep through awards season that’s also earned him BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globe trophies.
Continuing a pattern through his other awards speeches this year, an emotional Phoenix delivered a politically charged acceptance speech that also touched on the personal, especially his appreciation for the opportunity to act — and, perhaps in a nod to the complex character he portrayed in Joker, to seek redemption.
“I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees, or anyone in this room, because we share the same love: the love of film,” said Phoenix. “And this form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life.”
Confessing he’d “been a scoundrel” in the past, Phoenix tapped the idea that human character flaws don’t paint a complete picture of a person — and that he’s been grateful for his own second chances. “When we guide each other toward redemption — that is the best of humanity,“ he said.
With the win, Phoenix becomes the second actor to pick up an Academy Award for portraying the DC villain. Heath Ledger also won a posthumous Oscar in 2012 for creating his iconic version of the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. In his acceptance speech at last month's SAG Awards, Phoenix gave a heartfelt nod to his predecessor: "Really," he said, "I'm standing here on the shoulders of my favorite actor: Heath Ledger."
Phoenix edged out what’s by now become a familiar field of best actor nominees: Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory, Leonardo DiCaprio for Once upon a Time ... in Hollywood, Adam Driver for Marriage Story, and Jonathan Pryce for The Two Popes. As for Joker itself, director Todd Phillips’ dark take on DC’s famous Batman villain earned an astounding 11 Oscar nominations in all, including nods for Best Picture, and Best Director.