The Joker star did the most with his speech at the TIFF Tribute Gala.

By Isabel Jones
Sep 10, 2019 @ 10:30 am

Joaquin Phoenix was honored at Toronto International Film Festival’s inaugural TIFF Tribute Gala on Monday, but he wasn’t really sure why.

“I don’t know who’s really giving me this award, or why,” he told the audience at the Fairmont Royal York. “In fact, I don’t care. My publicist said someone wants to give you an award and I said, ‘I’m in. Let’s do it.’”

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But despite having little foresight in regard to the evening, the Joker star found himself “overwhelmed with emotion” after receiving an introduction from Willem Dafoe and watching a montage reel of his own best work.

“Watching those clips, I thought about my family, my sisters Rain and Liberty and Summer, who are still my best friends. I don’t talk to them or see them, but I just thought it would be good for the speech to say that,” he said, garnering laughs from the audience.

Phoenix also reminisced on the influence of his late brother, River Phoenix, who suffered a fatal drug overdose at the age of 23. “When I was 15 or 16, my brother River came home from work and he had a VHS copy of a movie called Raging Bull,” he began. “And he sat me down and made me watch it. And the next day he woke me up and made me watch it again, and he said ‘You’re going to start acting again. This is what you’re going to do.’ He didn’t ask me, he just told me, and I am indebted to him because acting has given me such an incredible life.”

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Concluding his speech, the three-time Oscar nominee thanked his unnamed “love,” which by all accounts appears to be rumored fiancée Rooney Mara. Unconventional as always, Phoenix told the audience, “Somewhere here, I don’t know where, is a filthy dragon, and I want to rip its wings off and fasten a blanket and sleep with it forever. I love you. Thank you.” (Mara memorably starred as Lisbeth Salander, aka the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, in the 2011 film — perhaps it was a meta reference.) 

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Who said romance was dead? 

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