Joker Joaquin Phoenix 's sex cult childhood was no laughing matter
Hot new film, Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix portrays a failed comedian who turns to crime, but the troubled star grew in in a sick cult
Phoenix has become a superstar playing troubled and twisted characters and the Batman villain certainly fits that mould.But it is his disturbing childhood that may show why he is drawn to such dark roles.Hotly anticipated Joker, out next month, about a failed comedian turning to crime, has won an award at the Venice Film Festival.
The Gladiator and Walk The Line star was born into the Children of God, where brainwashed adults slept with kids, and women used sex to lure in new male members.To the outside world the sect, created by David Brandt Berg, was wholesome.A Christian family living in harmony, helping the needy and performing music.
But that was a front for the evil indoctrination that was experienced by the likes of Charmed actress Rose McGowan, 46, and original Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer, 71, as well as Joaquin’s hippy parents John and Arlyn Bottom in the 70s.The family became so entrenched that John was named after the Archbishop of Venezuela.
Joaquin’s eldest brother, tragic actor River, was just four when he had sex.Kids were taught to fear the outside world as it was “full of non-believers who wanted to kill them”.The teachings on sex were more disturbing.Sex was deemed the most glorious way to praise Jesus and members were instructed to “share” their husbands and wives.
Group sex was common and Berg also taught that children needed to “explore their sexuality”.He wrote all sex pleased Jesus, no matter if it was an adult with a child or even incest.Child abuse was rife. Berg’s own stepson, Davidito, was a victim.
In 1982, when he was seven, the cult published a book about child rearing which described, with photos, Davidito’s “sexy experiences”, including cult members performing sex acts on him.He eventually left the cult and changed his name to Ricky Rodriguez.
Unable to escape his memories, he fatally stabbed a woman who allegedly abused him then shot himself dead. He was 29.Juliana Buhring, 38, born into the sect with her two sisters, believes the cult could have scarred Joaquin’s life.She said: “Even if a child is removed from the Children of God at an early age and has blocked out or doesn’t recall exactly what happened, it’s highly likely the fear inbred from your birth will subconsciously affect you in later years.”
Juliana, who co-wrote the bestseller Not Without My Sister about growing up within the cult, said kids considered disobedient or rebellious were beaten by adults and often not protected by their parents.She left in her early 20s and said: “I had to face all my demons, whereas I’ve seen other survivors who were removed from the Children of God struggle to accept what happened to them, especially later.”
When Joaquin was four his family quit the cult, stowing away on a ship from Venezuela to America and changing their surname to Phoenix to symbolise their new start.Joaquin has said his parents joined the sect with good intentions, believing “they’d found a community that shared their ideals”.
They eventually moved to Hollywood, and launched the careers of all five of their kids: Joaquin, Rain, Summer, Liberty, and River, who found stardom in 1986’s Stand By Me.In 1993, Joaquin saw River, aged 23, die of a drug overdose outside the West Hollywood club, The Viper Room.
He still will not talk about the death, saying only: ‘I’ve come nearer acceptance – I’ll never understand it.”Joaquin, who was in 1986’s SpaceCamp, took a break from acting but when he returned found his niche, playing dark and troubled roles.
In 1995, he was Jimmy, cajoled into committing murder by Nicole Kidman’s character, in To Die For.Five years later, Joaquin was in Quills with Kate Winslet, a film about the Marquis De Sade, and was Oscar nominated for playing depraved emperor Commodus, in Gladiator.
Read More Latest Film Reviews In 2005 he was again nominated, for playing singer Johnny Cash in Walk The Line.After filming, he went into rehab to battle his booze addiction. He said: “I wasn’t an everyday drinker but didn’t have anything else to do, anything to hold me down.”
The star, who lives with actress Rooney Mara, is a vegan who shuns the glitz of Hollywood, once describing the race for Oscar as “total utter bull****”.A producer said: “The reason he’s good at playing traumatised is that he was traumatised. Read more: Mirror Celeb »
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