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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 14:26 GMT
Phoenix keeps rising
Joaquin Phoenix (right) stars with James Caan in The Yards
Joaquin Phoenix (right) stars with James Caan in The Yards
Fresh from his role as Roman emperor Commodus in Gladiator, Joaquin Phoenix can be seen at this year's London Film Festival in two contrasting roles that confirm his status as one of Hollywood's most versatile young actors.

In moody crime thriller The Yards, Joaquin - pronounced Wah-Keen - plays Willie Gutierrez, a career criminal who uses unorthodox methods to secure lucrative contracts in the cut-throat world of New York subway maintenance.

Phoenix, 26, says he was attracted to James Gray's film by the complexity of the characters.

Phoenix puts the pressure on Russell Crowe in Gladiator

"I liked the ambiguity of the characters. There is not one good guy and one bad guy, as in a lot of films," explains Phoenix.

"All of them have a little bit of both. It makes it very interesting because you don't know where the characters are going to go," he adds.

Willie couldn't be more different from his role in Philip Kaufman's period drama Quills.


Phoenix plays Abbé Coulmier, the sympathetic priest who seeks to bring about the spiritual redemption of the Marquis de Sade in the lunatic asylum where he resided in the last years of his life.

"I thought it was the best screenplay I had ever read," says Phoenix, who was particularly taken by the Abbé's complicated interaction with the Marquis, played by Geoffrey Rush.

Phoenix takes on the Marquis de Sade in Quills
Phoenix takes on the Marquis de Sade in Quills

He adds: "They have a wonderful relationship, one of differing views, cordial debate and great banter.

"But where they start and where they end up are two totally different worlds."

Phoenix is no stranger to variety. He portrayed a teenager besotted with Nicole Kidman in To Die For.

In 8MM, he played a porn shop clerk who befriends Nicolas Cage.

He was a young American tourist facing the death penalty in Return to Paradise.

His Quills co-star, Kate Winslet, has described him as "one of the best actors of my generation".

The second of five children, Phoenix began his career as a child actor and made his feature film debut at the age of 10.

His older brother, River, enjoyed Hollywood stardom before his death of a drugs overdose in 1993.

His other siblings Rain, Liberty and Summer - with whom he shares a house in Los Angeles - have all had acting careers of varying success.

On this evidence, though, Joaquin is definitely the Phoenix to watch.

The Yards
Watch the movie trailer
See also:

08 May 00 | Entertainment
Gladiator conquers Hollywood
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