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Joaquin Phoenix is an actor known for such films as Gladiator and Walk the Line, in which he played Johnny Cash.
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He was with his famous brother, River, partying at the Viper Room nightclub. Outside the club, River collapsed and began having convulsions. Joaquin phoned for help, and paramedics arrived to resuscitate River. Their efforts failed, however, and River was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead in the early hours of October 31. Later, Joaquin's anguished 911 call was played and replayed by the media, only compounding his grief.
Returning to acting,
Phoenix played an alienated underachieving teen who is seduced by a success-hungry news reporter (Nicole Kidman) in Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995). A wave of films soon followed. In the romantic drama Inventing the Abbotts (1997), he was paired up on screen with Liv Tyler. That coupling evolved into an off-screen relationship. Phoenix worked with director Oliver Stone on the neo-noir thriller U-Turn (1997). Despite having a strong cast, which included Sean Penn and Claire Danes, the film was a box office dud. The following year, Phoenix earned raves for his performance as an American imprisoned in Malaysia on drug charges and facing the death penalty in Return to Paradise (1998). Vince Vaughn and David Conrad co-star as his two friends who must decide whether to return there and help remedy the situation by acknowledging their roles in the crime. Another pairing with Vaughn, Clay Pigeons (1998), failed to attract much notice from critics or movie-goers.
In 2000, Phoenix nearly stole the Roman epic Gladiator from its star Russell Crowe with his turn as the twisted, jealous emperor Commodus. His work in this summer blockbuster, directed by Ridley Scott, netted him nominations for many of the acting profession's most prestigious awards, including his first Academy Award nod. That same year, Phoenix continued to demonstrate his range as a performer, playing a slick operator in The Yards (2000) opposite Mark Wahlberg. He tackled another historical tale, this one set in 18th century France. In Quills, Phoenix portrayed Abbe Coulmier, a French religious official who oversaw the madhouse where the perverse writer Marquis de Sade was imprisoned.
Working with director M. Night Shyamalan for the first time, Phoenix had a supporting role as Mel Gibson's younger brother in the eerie thriller Signs (2002), which brought in more than $227 million at the box office. He took the lead for his next collaboration with Shyamalan, The Village (2004), playing a young man who puts his small community at risk by exploring the mysterious woods that surround his town. By this time, Phoenix had become known for his tendency to immerse himself completely in the lives of his characters. "He's acting on a different plane. He's almost superhuman," co-star Bryce Dallas Howard told The Record. That same year, Phoenix starred in the blockbuster action film Ladder 49 (2004) with John Travolta, Robert Patrick, and Balthazar Getty. Phoenix went through professional training to prepare for his role as a new firefighter, and the extra work made an impression on viewers; the film not only made more than $22 million in its opening week, it earned complimentary reviews from critics and fans.
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