Joaquin Phoenix honors brother River in moving Oscars speech

With teary eyes, the best actor winner paid tribute to his late brother.
Image: 92nd Annual Academy Awards - Show
Joaquin Phoenix delivers an emotional speech after winning the Best Actor Oscar.Kevin Winter / Getty Images

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/ Source: TODAY
By Ree Hines

Joaquin Phoenix won Oscar gold for the first time in his career Sunday night.

But when the star took the stage at the 92 annual Academy Awards to accept the best actor honor for his riveting performance in “Joker,” he honored another actor, too — his late brother, River Phoenix.

"I've been a scoundrel in my life,” Joaquin told the crowd gathered at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre. “I've been selfish; I've been cruel at times; I've been hard to work with. I'm grateful so many of you in this room have given me a second chance.”

He then, without mentioning River by name, he quoted the sibling who never got a second chance of his own after suffering a drug overdose in 1993.

Joaquin and River Phoenix pose for a portrait at home in 1985 in Los Angeles, California.Dianna Whitley / Getty Images

“When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric, he said, ‘Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow,’” Joaquin said as the audience cheered.

River, who was both a big screen star and a the lead singer of alt-rock band Aleka’s Attic, died at just 23 years old.

Joaquin Phoenix accepts the Actor In A Leading Role award for 'Joker' onstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Last year, the 45-year-old "Joker" star credited his big brother with guiding him into acting.

"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' and he sat me down and made me watch it," Joaquin revealed in a video from Variety. "And the next day he woke me up and he made me watch it again. And he said, 'You’re going to start acting again. This is what you're going to do.'"

And he did.

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