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Joaquin Phoenix Wins 1st Oscar for Best Actor in ‘Joker’: See His Emotional Speech

Something to celebrate! Joaquin Phoenix won his first Academy Award on Sunday, February 9, following his October 2019 Joker performance.

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“I’ve been a scoundrel in my life,” the actor, 45, said in his acceptance speech. “I’ve been selfish, I’ve been cruel at times, I’ve been hard to work. I’ve been grateful [because] so many of you in this room have given me a second chance. … We help each other to grow, we educate each other, we guide each other to redemption. That is the best of humanity.”

Joaquin Phoenix Wins 1st Oscar for Best Actor Oscars 2020
Joaquin Phoenix wins at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards on February 9, 2020. Rob Latour/Shutterstock

He concluded with an homage to his late brother, River Phoenix, who died of a drug overdose in 1993 at age 23, saying, “When he was 17, my brother wrote a quote: ‘Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.'”

When the Grammy winner, 45, was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar in January, he felt “honored and humbled” by the news. “The Academy’s encouragement helped ignite and sustain my career and I am incredibly grateful for that support,” the actor said in a statement at the time. “I’d like to also congratulate my fellow nominees for being recognized for their inspiring performances that have enriched our art form.”

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The following month, Prince William admitted to Phoenix that he was unable to watch the award-winning movie at night.

“Lovely to meet you. I absolutely loved the Joker,” the Duke of Cambridge, 37, told the Walk the Line star at the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) in February. “It was brilliant. I put it off and put it off before watching it, as people kept telling me, ‘Be careful when you choose to watch it.’”

The royal added at the time: “I’m glad I didn’t watch it before bed, but huge congratulations on an amazing performance.”

Phoenix thanked William for his speech about the lack of diversity in the business. While accepting his Lead Actor award at the ceremony, the Golden Globe winner also spoke about “systemic racism,” admitting he feels “ashamed” for being “part of the problem.”

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“BAFTAs have always been supportive of my career and I’m deeply appreciative. But I have to say, that I also feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege,” Phoenix said. “I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from.”

Phoenix won Sunday’s Oscar over Antonio Banderas, Leonardo DiCaprio, Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce. He was previously nominated for his roles in Gladiator, Walk the Line and The Master.

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