Joaquin Phoenix Recalls Losing Parts to Leonardo DiCaprio, Honors Heath Ledger at SAG Awards

The actor took home the coveted award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role

Joaquin Phoenix is the big winner at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The actor, 45, took home the coveted award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role for his performance in Joker on Sunday night.

“I was here many years ago and I couldn’t fully appreciate it at the time. I now realize how fortunate I am to be a part of this community of such reverence for actors and what we do. I feel really honored to be here.

The actor then thanked his fellow nominees with personal stories, especially the times he lost out roles to Leonardo DiCaprio when they were both young actors.

“When I started acting again and going to auditions, I’d always get to the final callback and there would always be two other guys we’d be up against. And we would always lose to this one kid,” he recalled. “No actor would ever say his name ’cause it was like too much, but every casting director would whisper like, ‘It’s Leonardo, it’s Leonardo.’ Leo, you’ve been an inspiration for over 25 years to me and so many people. I thank you very, very much.”

Phoenix then thanked the late Heath Ledger, who won a posthumous Oscar in 2009 for his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

“Really, I’m standing here on the shoulders of my favorite actor, Heath Ledger. So thank you and good night,” Phoenix said at the end of his speech.

RELATED VIDEO: Joaquin Phoenix Praises Leonardo DiCaprio in SAG Awards Speech

Joaquin Phoenix

Phoenix beat out Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story) and Taron Egerton (Rocketman).

This is Phoenix’s third major award of the year, having come off both a Critics’ Choice Award and Golden Globe win for best actor in a motion picture, drama, for his portrayal of a mentally ill comedian who turns to violence and crime.

Phoenix told reporters backstage at the Globes that getting into character “was a long process.”

“I think the way I worked on this was quite erratic,” Phoenix said. “I didn’t attack it linearly. I was most curious about the medication that he was taking and the effects and side effects of the medication. That led us to realize that we had to have this fluctuation of weight.”

“I dug into understanding medication and the side effects of what he was taking so that was the beginning,” he continued. “I read several books about political assassins that share a similar personality type.”

The 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards are airing live Sunday starting at 8 p.m. ET on TNT and TBS.

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