Joaquin Phoenix, 46, isn’t the only actor in his family. The Oscar-winning Joker star has four siblings, all of whom have worked in Hollywood at one point or another. He’s the third-born child of John Lee Phoenix, a landscape gardening company founder, and Arlyn “Heart” Phoenix, a former NBC secretary. John and Arlyn traveled a lot with their kids as members of the religious cult called Children of God, before settling down in Los Angeles. There, the kids all got into acting. Learn more about Joaquin and his siblings below.
River Phoenix was Joaquin’s eldest sibling. River was born on August 23, 1970, and he started showing some acting chops at a very young age. He started off working in TV commercials at the age of 10, before his breakout role came around in the 1986 film Stand by Me. Two years later, River earned an Oscar nomination for his role as Donny Pope in the drama Running On Empty. He went on to star in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, My Own Private Idaho, and Sneakers. River also had talent in music. He and one of his sisters formed a band called Aleka’s Attic, which operated out of Florida from 1987 to 1992.
Despite a blossoming career, River was facing personal struggles and started using drugs. Sadly, the actor tragically died at the age of 23 on October 31, 1993 after overdosing on cocaine and heroin. He was outside the Viper Room in Los Angeles when he collapsed and died. Joaquin, one of his sisters, and River’s girlfriend, Samantha Mathis, were all there to witness the tragedy. River was due to star in Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire at the time of his death, so the role ended up going to Christian Slater. River’s final project that made the big screen was Dark Blood, which was not released until 2012.
Rain Phoenix, 48, is the second-born sibling of the family. She got into music at a young age, and when she was 15 she formed Aleka’s Attic with big brother River. She also had bits in a few TV shows, including Amazing Stories and Family Ties, as well as in the 1987 film Maid to Order. When Aleka’s Attic was on hiatus due to River’s booming film career, Rain scored a role in 1993’s Even Cowgirls Get The Blue opposite Uma Thurman. On Halloween of the year, Rain was out with both of her brothers in L.A. when River died of an overdose.
Rain was understandably devastated about the loss of River. “Of course there is a sadness with not seeing him in the physical world but everything I do, he is a part of,” she told The Guardian in 2011. In the decades since, Rain has stay connected to her late brother through her music. She even released her first solo album, titled River, in 2019. Rain eventually returned to acting with roles in Stranger Inside and Hitch. She is also involved in different social initiatives with her siblings.
The fourth-born and second-youngest of the Phoenix fam would be Liberty Phoenix, 45. Liberty followed in her older siblings’ footsteps and started acting in the 1980’s. She appeared in Kate’s Secret and then Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. But after that, Liberty put an end to her acting career. In the late 90s she formed the band The Causey Way with both of her sisters, but it disbanded in 2001. Liberty is no longer involved in Hollywood, and instead she works as the office manager for River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding, a charity organization started by her mother. Liberty is also busy raising a family: she is married to Ernesto Asch, and together they have five kids.
Last but not least of Joaquin’s siblings is sister Summer Phoenix, 42. Summer was also a child actor, with her initial roles being guest appearances in the TV shows Airwolf, Murder, She Wrote, Growing Pains, Swamp Thing and ER. Her most notable film roles include Girl, Esther Kahn, Suzie Gold, and All at Once. Summer also briefly appeared on Broadway in London for This is Our Youth in 2002.
Summer’s career in the entertainment industry led to her meeting actor Casey Affleck. The two got engaged on December 25, 2003, and they welcomed a son, Indiana August, on May 31, 2004. The couple tied the knot on June 3, 2006, and welcomed their second child, son Atticus, in 2008. Summer and Casey separated in November 2015, and Summer filed for divorce in August 2017, citing “irreconcilable differences.” Their divorce was finalized by the end of the year. Despite the split, Casey, 46, has always spoke highly of Summer. “Summer is and always has been an amazing mother,” he told Us Weekly in 2019. “She’s loving and fun and the boys worship her, so I think that even in our differences, she and I have found a nice balance.”