Joaquin Rafael Bottom was born on October 28th,1974 in San Juan, Puerto Rico to parents, Arlyn and John Bottom. Arlyn and John were missionaries for the cult, Children of God and the family often traveled around and lived in a shack in Venezuela. John did yard work for a woman, who had a pool, as well and one of Joaquin's earliest memories, he says, was being in the pool in his father's arms, watching iguanas dart around in the sun.
Joaquin was the third child in a family of five children including his big brother River and big sister Rain and younger sisters Summer and Liberty. He often spoke of their closeness in his interviews later on in his career saying "I had a really wonderful upbringing. We were a tight family. It was wonderful to grow up with so many siblings. We were all just a year or two apart, and we were always so supportive of each other. I learned everything from my older brother and sister and taught it to my younger sisters."
John and Arlyn decided to leave the Children of God cult and the family moved to the U.S. to start anew. As they were desperate and without a lot of money, the family stowed away on a commercial boat loaded with Tonka toys, on its way to the state of Florida. Joaquin turned 3 on the boat and once the crew had found out about the family, they made him a cake and gave him his first ever toy, a Tonka truck.
They changed their surname to Phoenix to symbolize a fresh beginning and Arlyn changed her first name to Heart. Realizing his sibling's earthier names one day, while out raking leaves with his dad, Joaquin decided to change his name, as it was too hard to pronounce and he wanted it to be like the others. So, he changed his name to Leaf and is credited under that name for several of his first projects in the industry. Later, he changed it back to Joaquin.
Although the family was poor, they did their best to manage. Heart worked as a secretary for NBC and John was a landscaper. The children often sang and played instruments on the street or in talent shows for money.
Joaquin, at the time of his mother's job on NBC, was a big fan of actor, John Travolta and she was able to get Joaquin an autograph. Later on in his career, Joaquin worked with Travolta in the film Ladder 49.
Through her job, Heart also was able to get an agent, Iris Burton, to represent all five children. Although they refused to allow them to do anything related to meat, milk, or junk food (they were strict vegetarians) they managed to find some projects that fit. Joaquin's first project was a guest stint on a show River starred on called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982). In 1984, he worked with him again on an after-school program titled Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia. His first on-screen debut was for the film Spacecamp (1986).
At the Viper Club, Halloween in 1993, Joaquin's brother, River overdosed on drugs, collapsed, and later died. Joaquin and his sister, Rain were there and he made the infamous call to 911 that was broadcasted everywhere after River's death. Overwhelmed with all the media attention his brother's unexpected death was getting, Joaquin took a break from the industry. In 1994, Joaquin made a return to the industry at the insistence of his friends and co-starred in the film To Die For starring actress, Nicole Kidman.
In April 2005, after filming Walk the Line , Joaquin submitted himself to rehab for alcohol abuse. His publicist said "He was uncomfortable with the way that he was living his life and found the courage to deal with the disease."
In January 2006, Joaquin was in a car accident, when his breaks went out and his vehicle overturned and crashed on a canyon road above Los Angeles' Sunset Strip. Shaken and confused from the accident, he heard a tapping on his window and heard a voice say "Just relax." Unable to see who the person was, he replied "I'm fine. I am relaxed." As it turns out, it was the famous Werner Herzog and he replied "No you're not", pulled Joaquin out from the wreckage, called an ambulance, and disappeared.
Since then, Joaquin has starred and co-starred in thirty nominated films and won eight awards for his skills in both acting and singing (the soundtrack for Walk the Line).
In January 2009, Joaquin announced that he was retiring from his career as an actor and instead, focusing on a music career. His best friend and brother-in-law, actor Casey Affleck, was filming his transition from the film industry into the music industry for a future documentary. Though being accused of committing a hoax or making some kind of joke out of his retirement, Joaquin insists it is not and one day, years from now, he'll be remembered for it.