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Joaquin Phoenix suffered from terrible anxiety following his brother's death in 1993; here's his real-life story

Tragedy struck the family when he died at the age of 23 years of a drug overdose prior to a live music performance in Los Angeles

Time and again, Joaquin Phoenix has shown the world his unparalleled brilliance as an actor. From playing  Roman emperor Commodus in 'Gladiator' to the resolute husband in 'It's All About Love', the versatile actor through his searing portrayals has become a cult figure in Hollywood.

Speaking of cult figures, one of the most iconic villains in the DC universe is The Joker.  The chalk-white face, the ruby red lips and the green hair with a permanent demonic grin etched on his face, the character is known for his sick humor and the sadistic pleasure he derives by creating chaos.

That Joaquin Phoenix was roped in to play the character meant that he had some big shoes to fill after Jack Nicholson, and Heath Ledger definitive portrayals of a man who simply wanted to watch the world burn.

In the trailer, we are introduced to Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian, who is ridiculed in society to a point where he completely loses his sanity.

Phoenix, on his part, has probably dished out one of his most ground-breaking performances to date where he evolves into the criminal clown after frequently rail-roaded by the people around.

It is evident that the Joker has been through a lot that has now made him the person he is and yet, looking at Phoenix's own life, it's not hard to see a disturbing, yet similar pattern.

In 1970, the Phoenix family was part of a religious cult, 'Children of God,' now known as 'The Family International' that looked at committing to bettering the world through empowering people to develop a personal relationship with God, in addition to humanitarian assistance.  Phoenix, his parents, and siblings - River, Rain, Liberty, and Summer - spent a major chunk of their time traveling with the group to different parts of the country.

In an interview with the US Weekly, the actor spoke candidly about his experience with the cult experience as a child and how his parents were disillusioned after the sect allegedly encouraged the children to explore their sexuality with their parents.  Following their disaffiliation with the cult, the family moved to California. There was no respite from things going south as abject drudgery followed and the family of seven had to be holed up in a tiny single-room apartment.

Things started to look a tad brighter for the Phoenix's when River Phoenix, the older brother made a promising start in Hollywood with notable performances in movies such as 'Explorers' (1985), 'Stand By Me' (1986), and 'My Own Private Idaho' (1991). Tragedy struck the family when he died at the age of 23 years of a drug overdose prior to a live music performance in Los Angeles.

Following River's death, Phoenix went on a two-year hiatus from films amid speculations that the loss had done some irreparable damage to the actor. Adding to this was the self-confession that he was prone to constant anxiety attacks while filming and his drinking habits, courtesy his role as a drug and alcohol addicted Johnny Cash in 'Walk The Line', meant that he had to undergo rehab.

That he steered clear of press conferences and interviews further fueled that theory that Phoenix is a sort-of-a-troubled spirit.

While the biggest plus was his arduous preparation for getting into the skin of the character, the actor went overboard during certain instances when he gave monosyllabic responses during the chat show with David Letterman, while he was in character as a rapper for the movie 'I'm Still Here.'

With the odds just being there every step of the way, there isn't much of a difference to the on-screen persona that the world will see when the Joker releases.


The Joker isn't about an insane man on a murderous rampage. And Phoenix has shown that he is the perfect choice for the man who gradually lost his grip on reality which the former, in all probability, would have come perilously close to given the way his early days panned out.

Perhaps it was destiny that Phoenix was chosen for a role that needed a person who has been in troubled waters to come close to relating to the Joker. The physical abuse, the loss of loved ones, the meltdown with his colleagues, are pretty much in sync to what the variations iterations of the Joker in comics and movies that led to him becoming the criminal mastermind of Gotham and Batman's dreaded archnemesis.

Now, will Phoenix be able to put a smile on everyone's face? Only time will tell.