So he’s funneled that unease into calls for social change instead. Some of his acceptance speeches are sharper than others. But peel away the self-deprecation and meandering stabs at clarity and Phoenix has imparted some meaningful wisdom upon the Hollywood set.
Among his lessons? Give up private jets to combat climate change. Hire people of color in film and honor them for their work. Oh, and quit drinking cow’s milk.
“It’s great to vote, but sometimes we have to take responsibility on ourselves and make changes and sacrifices in our own lives and hope that we can do that,” he told the Hollywood heavy hitters in the room.
Then he tied the bushfires to climate change — and the role the rich and famous play in it: “We don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs for the awards sometimes or back, please.”
At the BAFTAs:
Systemic racism in film is rampant, and we’ve all got a role to play
“I feel conflicted, because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege,” he said, nervously massaging his jaw. “I think we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from.”
“I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I work on are inclusive,” he said. “I think that it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it, so that’s on us.”
At the Academy Awards:
People are selfish and should quit drinking milk and love each other more
It began as a thesis statement that neatly wrapped up his journey on the awards circuit.
“I think whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice — against the belief that one nation, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity,” he said.
That “egocentric worldview,” he argued, is the reason we’ve taken to plundering the natural world. Then he sharply pivoted to the dairy industry.
“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby,” Phoenix, a lifelong vegan, told the crowd . “And then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and cereal.”
Phoenix continued, calling on the cinephiles in the audience and at home to sacrifice animal products for the good of the planet. The Dolby Theater fell silent save for some confused murmurs.
“When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric: ‘Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.'”