Throughout this year’s awards season, Joaquin Phoenix had won many awards for his portrayal of the Joker, so it did not come as a shock when the Academy awarded the 45-year-old actor with his first Oscar. Phoenix has also made a number of controversial speeches at many of this year’s awards shows. However, few could have predicted the breadth and scope of his acceptance speech for Best Actor, which included references to inequality, animal cruelty, and cancel culture.

Phoenix started off his speech by thanking his fellow nominees. “I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees or anyone in this room, because we share the same love, the love of film,” said Phoenix. He then continued, saying that he and his fellow artists in the film industry have a responsibility to use their clout for good, to, “use our voice for the voiceless.”

“I think whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice — against the belief that one nation, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control, and use and exploit another with impunity,” said the actor. Phoenix, a life-long vegan, then made an extended comparison to animal rights, lamenting how a calf is separated from its mother and then is milked for human consumption. The comment received no reaction from the audience.

Phoenix then discussed cancel culture. “I’ve been selfish, I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with,” said the actor, who went on to thank the audience for giving him, “a second chance.” Phoenix continued, saying, “I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes.”


At the end of his speech, Phoenix gave a tribute to his late brother, River. “When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric. He said, ‘Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.’ Thank you,” concluded Phoenix.

Watch Phoenix’s full acceptance speech below.

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