Joaquin Phoenix on Sunday night added yet another notch on his awards season belt at the 2020 SAG Awards, as the Joker star received the prize for outstanding performance by a male actor in a film, beating out a familiar circle of Hollywood heavyweights and fellow nominees including Leonardo DiCaprio and Adam Driver.
During previous awards speeches, Phoenix has pointed to the ceremonies’ vegan menus, director Todd Phillips and the film’s tackling of topics like mental health and childhood trauma, but the actor spent his SAG acceptance speech spotlighting the work of his fellow nominees, starting with an anecdote about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star DiCaprio, whom Phoenix said has been an inspiration to him for over 25 years.
“When I started acting again, and going to auditions, I’d always get to like the final callback, and I think many people know what that’s like,” he said. “And there would always be, like, two other guys that I was up against. And we’d always lose to this one kid. No actor would ever say his name because it was, like, too much, but every casting director would whisper, ‘It’s Leonardo.'”
The Joker star then moved on to Ford v Ferrari actor Christian Bale, who he said “never turns in a bad performance.”
“It’s infuriating,” Phoenix said to laughs. “I wish you would one time just suck once.”
He then highlighted Marriage Story lead Driver’s “beautiful, nuanced” performances and his “devastating” portrayal in the Noah Baumbach-directed film. Phoenix also praised Golden Globe winner Taron Egerton for his portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman before saying, “I can’t wait to see what else you do.”
Phoenix was previously nominated in the category for his role in Walk the Line, which he also alluded to at the beginning of his acceptance speech.
“I was here many years ago, and I couldn’t fully appreciate it at the time,” he admiitted. “I now realize how fortunate I am to be a part of this community. I have such reverence for actors and what we do. I’m really honored to be here.”
His final onstage note, however, went to deceased Dark Knight star Heath Ledger, whom Phoenix not only called his favorite actor, but someone “I’m standing here on the shoulders of.”
The Joker actor has been on a winning streak during this year’s road to the Oscars for his portrayal of Arthur Fleck, a failing stand-up who descends into darkness. Set in 1981, the Joker serves as director Phillips’ take on the famed Batman villain’s origins story and offers one of the iconic character’s most discomforting live-action interpretations, examining how a man succumbs to insanity and nihilism and ends up launching a violent revolution against Gotham City’s elite.
The 26th Annual SAG Awards aired on TBS and TNT from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.