Joaquin Phoenix calls for “the best of humanity” in wide-ranging Oscars speech

The actor touched on environmental issues and cancel culture in the speech

Joaquin Phoenix called for “the best of humanity” as he collected the award for Best Actor at the Oscars 2020.

The star beat Adam Driver, Leonardo DiCaprio, Antonio Banderas, and Jonathan Pryce to the award with his performance in Joker.

Capping an awards season of outspoken acceptance speeches, Phoenix once again used his time to convey his thoughts on today’s big issues, touching upon environmental issues and cancel culture. “I think the greatest gift that it’s given me is the opportunity to use our voice for the voiceless,” he said of his career in film, before getting into his main points.

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“I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we’re facing collectively,” he continued. “At times, we’re made to feel like we champion different causes but, for me, I see commonality. I think whether we’re talking about gender and equality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender, or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity.”


After calling our perspective “an egocentric world view”, Phoenix criticised our “plundering” of the Earth’s natural resources. “We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth we steal her baby even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable,” he said. “And then we take her milk which is intended for a calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal. We fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something, to give something up.”

The actor shot down that idea, saying “human beings at our best are so inventive and creative and ingenious”. “I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.

“I’ve been a scoundrel in my life, I’ve been selfish, I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with and ungrateful but so many of you in this room have given me a second chance. I think that’s when we’re at our best – when we support each other. Not when we cancel each other out for our past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other toward redemption. That is the best of humanity.”


The star closed his speech fighting back tears as he quoted lyrics written by his late brother River Phoenix at the age of 17: “Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.” You can watch his speech in full above now.

As well as Phoenix, winners at the Oscars 2020 included Brad Pitt, Laura Dern, Renee Zellweger, and Parasite, which made history at the Los Angeles ceremony tonight (February 9).

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