Remarkably, one of his biggest breaks came when Phoenix left Hollywood. He had moved to Florida, when he landed a role in the Ron Howard-directed comedy 'Parenthood' In the film, Phoenix gave an impressive performance as the rebellious son of Dianne Wiest. After this success, Phoenix, who was then only 15 years old, decided to put his career on hold to travel on his own through Latin America. While he avoided Hollywood, his brother River stood in the spotlight, becoming one of the leading young actors at the time.
In , tragedy forced Phoenix back into the public eye. He was with his famous brother, River, partying at the Viper Room nightclub.
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Outside the club, River collapsed and began having convulsions. Joaquin phoned for help, and paramedics arrived to resuscitate River.
Joaquin Phoenix's life as a recluse revealed
Their efforts failed, however, and River was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead in the early hours of 31 October. Later, Joaquin's anguished 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' A wave of films soon followed. In the romantic drama 'Inventing the Abbotts' , he was paired up on screen with Liv Tyler. That coupling evolved into an off-screen relationship.
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Despite having a strong cast, which included Sean Penn and Claire Danes, the film was a box office dud. The following year, Phoenix earned rave reviews for his performance as an American imprisoned in Malaysia on drug charges and facing the death penalty in 'Return to Paradise' 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' , failed to attract much notice from critics or movie-goers. In , 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. KPWM Cessna engine failure.
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