The actor continued his awards season win streak, claiming the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role award for his part in “Joker.” As he claimed his statuette, he paid tribute to Ledger, who played the character in “The Dark Knight,” as part of the inspiration that led to that riveting performance.
“I’m standing here on the shoulders of my favorite actor, Heath Ledger,” he said.
Ledger died in 2008 at age 28; the same year his film was released.
Phoenix won the major category over Christian Bale for his role in “Ford v Ferrari,” Leonardo DiCaprio in “Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood,” Adam Driver in “Marriage Story” and Taron Egerton in “Rocketman.”
In another classy move, before his tribute to the former Joker great, Phoenix highlighted how his fellow nominees had inspired him throughout his career.
Of DiCaprio, he said: “There would always be two other guys that I was up against and we’d always lose to this one kid…every casting director would always whisper, ‘It’s Leonardo.’ You’ve been an inspiration for over 25 years to me and so many people.”
Moving on to Bale, who played Batman in “The Dark Knight,” Phoenix praised him for his consistently brilliant, never-bad performances. “It’s infuriating. I wish you would. Just suck once,” he said.
He praised Driver for his growth over the past few years, describing his recent performances as “beautiful, nuanced, incredible, profound.”
Lastly, nodding to Egerton, Phoenix said, “I’m so happy for you” and “can’t wait to see what else you do.”