Joaquin Phoenix–Gladiator Star Battles Animal Abuse

OK, you already knew Joaquin Phoenix was adorable. But did you know he’s just as beautiful inside as out? The Oscar-nominated star of Gladiator and Inventing the Abbots is a vegan: He doesn’t eat or wear any animal products. Joaquin starred in PETA’s first-ever vegan commercial (asking grocery store shoppers to spare the turkeys at Thanksgiving) and posed for an anti-fur poster that was unveiled at the famous SPA nightclub in New York. Here, he talks to PETA about the influence of animal rights on his career and life.

How does animal rights affect your life?

Joaquin That’s just it: Animal rights is a part of my everyday life. When you live by example, you create a certain level of awareness. Friends of mine, people I have never discussed animal rights or vegetarianism with, are adopting vegetarian habits because they see it.

Does your view of animals affect your career?

joaquinJoaquin Of course, and it has gotten much easier. I am able to do more than ever before. For example, when it came to making Gladiator, I was sure to say I would wear only fake leather outfits, and my clogs in Quills were synthetic as well. My lifestyle is part of who I am and therefore is always a consideration when working: I always discuss this with producers, and they respect my lifestyle decisions and are very accommodating. Now there are so many cruelty-free options available, people would be foolish not to take advantage of them. It is also easier to work with computers and animatronics than animals, and that makes a difference, too. Technology has allowed us to recreate animal images—like the tigers in Gladiator.

What made you a vegan?

Joaquin I was 3 years old—to this day it is a vivid memory. My family and I were on a boat, catching fish. As one fish was caught, he was writhing, then he was thrown against the side of the boat. You couldn’t disguise what it was: This was what we did to animals to eat them. The animal went from a living, vibrant creature fighting for life to a violent death. I recognized it, as did my brothers and sisters.

What is your favorite vegan dish?

Joaquin Tofu and lots of it. I like anything homemade, and if it’s organic, all the better. I also love tabouli salad. I don’t even really go for the fake meat stuff. I like veggies, straight up. I also wear synthetic stuff, especially shoes. I remember when all I could wear were my Converse canvas All-stars, and now it seems like most shoes are synthetic.

You are on the road so much, is it easier today to find places to eat and things to wear than before?

Joaquin Ten years ago, it felt strange to be the only one objecting to fur and asking for vegan stuff, but now doing that is a given. Everywhere I go, I find great veg food. I just got back from Toronto where there was a great health food store, and even this small town in Germany that I visited recently had a veg restaurant.

What kind of impact do you think was made by your poster promoting SPA nightclub’s “no fur” policy that went up in New York?

Joaquin I really hope it had an impact. It is hard to fathom that anyone is still wearing fur. It is so plain to see that killing animals for their fur is completely barbaric. The only purpose is vanity. Look at the alternatives we have now. Wearing fur won’t be tolerated.