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Way Back When: Best Actor Nominee Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix
The Weinstein Co.

It’s Oscar season, so we’re taking you back in time to visit the earlier roles of some of this year’s nominees. In today’s Way Back When, we look back at the early work of Joaquin Phoenix, who is nominated for his performance in ‘The Master.’

‘Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia’

Joaquin Phoenix and his brother River began their careers starring in movies and television shows together. The pair starred in this ABC Afterschool Special about a 13-year-old boy who has trouble reading and catches a lot of grief from his teachers until he’s diagnosed with Dyslexia. It’s fitting, since looking at Joaquin Phoenix is like looking at the backwards, jumbled version of River. Back in those days, Joaquin went by the name “Leaf” — because it was less complicated than “Joaquin”?

‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Very Happy Ending’

A few made-for-TV movies later, “Leaf” Phoenix nabbed a part in this 1986 episode of ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ as Pagey Fisher, a young man who blackmails a hit man to kill his wealthy father. The episode also starred the great Robert Loggia, and you can watch it in its entirety below:


If you thought a young Joaquin Phoenix was cute enough, you clearly haven’t seen him alongside a young Fred Savage — too much cuteness for one show! Phoenix and Savage starred in this short-lived TV series that ran for seven episodes in 1986. The show follows orphan boys who are displaced by a fire at their orphanage and forced to move into a retirement home for the elderly. Lots of cliche, heartwarming moments ensue!


This movie has one of the best ’80s casts ever — Joaquin Phoenix, Tate Donovan, Lea Thompson, Kate Capshaw, Kelly Preston, Terry O’Quinn and Tom Skerritt star in this film about a group of kids at Space Camp who are accidentally launched into space during a routine engine check.


Phoenix and fellow cutie Peter Billingsley star in this movie that takes place during a time when everyone in America hated the Russians — a Russian soldier washes ashore on a beach in Florida, and a group of naive kids befriend him, unwittingly going against the ideals of their families and their government.

‘Secret Witness’

This CBS made-for-TV movie promo is a double-header, featuring both Joaquin Phoenix and his former ‘Morningstar/Eveningstar’ co-star Fred Savage. Phoenix stars in ‘Secret Witness,’ which was originally intended to be a pilot for a new series, but was scrapped and made into a TV movie about kids acting as amateur detectives in their neighborhood. The Savage promo is for “Run Till You Fall.”

‘The Adventures of Superboy’

In the season 1 episode “Little Hercules,” Phoenix plays a young man named Billy Hercules who dreams of becoming Superboy:

next: see steve buscemi before he was famous

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