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Joaquin Phoenix won best actor at the 2020 Oscars on Sunday for his role as Arthur Fleck in Joker.
In claiming the top prize, Phoenix beat out fellow nominated actors Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story) and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes).
This marks Phoenix’s first Oscar win, having been nominated three times before for The Master (2013), Walk the Line (2006), and Gladiator (2001).
Phoenix continued a trend seen in recent acceptance speeches of humbly thanking his fellow nominees before spotlighting injustices, from climate change to racial issues.
“I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees,” he began his speech. “We share the same love, the love of film, and this form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life.”
Phoenix said that throughout his Oscar campaign, he has been thankful for the opportunity to use his voice “for the voiceless.” He continued that whether he, or other nominees, are discussing gender inequality, racism, queer rights, indigenous rights or animal rights, “we’re talking about the fight against injustice.”
The actor then turned his speech toward animal rights, noting how “we go into the natural world, we plunder its resources.”
“We fear the idea of personal change because we think we have to sacrifice something to give something up,” Phoenix noted. “Human beings are so inventive and creative…when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles…we can create systems of change for the environment.”
Phoenix finished his speech with an emotional reading of a lyric written by his brother, the late River Phoenix, when he was 17.
“He said ‘run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.'”
Phoenix’s win is the second time an actor has been honored by the Academy for playing the supervillain. Heath Ledger’s version of the character won the Academy Award for best actor in a supporting role in 2009.
The 2020 Oscars aired live on ABC from the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood.
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