Joaquin Phoenix gave a heartfelt shout out to Heath Ledger during his touching speech at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards on Sunday.
The 45-year-old won the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role prize on Sunday for his haunting portrayal of failed comedian Arthur Fleck, who becomes the infamous Gotham City villain in Joker.
When he took to the stage to deliver his speech, Phoenix made sure he acknowledged the late Australian actor, who played the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight back in 2008 and tragically died of an accidental overdose just months before its release. He posthumously won a Golden Globe, a SAG Award and an Academy Award for his riveting performance as the comic book villain.
Phoenix, who has already won two of the same awards and is frontrunner for Best Actor at the Oscars in February, paid tribute to the late actor by saying, “Really, I’m standing here on the shoulders of my favourite actor, Heath Ledger.”
As well as his touching reference to Ledger, Phoenix used his time onstage to honour each of his fellow nominees in his category.
He opened his speech with a story about Leonardo DiCaprio, who was nominated for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and joked that he lost out on roles as a young actor to the Titanic star.
“There would always be two other guys that I was up against and we’d always lose to this one kid… every casting director would always whisper, ‘It’s Leonardo,'” he said. “You’ve been an inspiration for over 25 years to me and so many people.”
He then turned to Christian Bale, and jokingly begged him to perform badly in at least one movie, saying, “It’s infuriating. I wish you would. Just suck once.”
The star then focused on Adam Driver, who was up for his role in Marriage Story, and told him “you should be here (winning the award)”.
“I’ve been watching you the last few years and you’ve been turning in these beautiful, nuanced, incredible, profound performances. I’m just so moved by you,” Phoenix gushed.
Finally, he heaped praise on Rocketman star Taron Egerton, and told the Welshman from the stage, “You’re so beautiful in this movie and I’m so happy for you, and I can’t wait to see what else you do.”
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