On Sunday night, Phoenix took dwelling the coveted Best Actor prize — his first-time-ever claiming the accolade — for his role in Joker.
He was up against fellow nominees Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory, Adam Driver for Marriage Story, Jonathan Pryce for The Two Popes and Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood for the honor.
While accepting his award on stage, Phoenix, 45, emotionally touched on the “distressing issues” that the world is facing, but said that he considers them as more of a unifying ingredient than a divide one, and recommended everyone to live with love and compassion.
To make his degree, Phoenix recited a lyric written by his late brother, River, who died from a drug overdose at 23 years old in October of 1993 outside of the iconic Viper Room in Los Angeles.
“I’ve been a scoundrel all “peoples lives”. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been brutal at times, hard to work with, and I’m grateful that so many of you in this room have given me a second chance, ” he told the audience. “And I think that’s when we’re at our very best, when we support each other. Not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other towards redemption. That is the best of humanity.”
“When he was when he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric, ” he went on. “He said,’ Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.’”
Phoenix previously paid tribute to his brother River this awards season in September. While being honored with the TIFF Tribute Actor Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, the actor credited his brother for persuading him to return to acting.
At another point in his speech on Sunday, Phoenix told the crowd that acting has allowed him and many others in the room to “use our voice for the voiceless.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively, ” he said. “And I imagine at times we feel or were made to feel that we champ different induces. But for me, I determine commonality. I belief, whether we’re talking about gender inequality, or racism or homosexual privileges or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the struggle against injustice.”
“I think that when we use love and tendernes, as our guiding principles we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment, ” he added.
The win on Sunday scores Phoenix’s firstly Oscar and fourth nomination. The actor was previously selected in the Best Actor category for The Master and Walk the Line in 2013 and 2006, respectively, and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Gladiator in 2001.
Phoenix’s Oscar win caps off a successful accolades season for the Joker star, who likewise won a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Critics’ Choice Award and a Golden Globe Award last month. In the comic book origin story, Phoenix showed a mentally ill comedian named Arthur Fleck who turns to violence and crime, eventually becoming the Batman rascal Joker.
Phoenix told reporters backstage at the Globes that getting into attribute “was a long process.”
“I think the path I worked on this was quite erratic, ” Phoenix said. “I didn’t attack it linearly. I was most curious about the medication that he was taking and the effects and side effects of the medication. That contributed us to realize that we had to have this wavering of weight.”
“I dug into understanding medication and the side effects of what he was taking, so that was the beginning, ” he continued. “I read several books about political assassins that share a similar personality type.”
The 92 nd Annual Academy Awards aired live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 9 at 8 p. m. ET on ABC.
Read more: people.com