Joaquin Phoenix is known widely for two things: his acting skills (he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2019’s Joker) and his commitment to animal rights. Now, he might be marrying the two together. Phoenix has just acquired film rights to Ingrid Newkirk’s book, Free the Animals.
Newkirk is the founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Published in 1992, Newkirk wrote Free the Animals about the Animal Liberation Front (an international, leaderless movement that promotes non-violent action against animal cruelty).
The plot of Free the Animals sees a character named Valerie challenge the system, and her work as a police officer, after learning about the abuse of animals in laboratories. To celebrate the 30-year anniversary of its publication, a new edition of the book is out this month. It features a foreword from Phoenix himself.
“Yes, ‘Free the Animals’ is about the balaclava-wearing heroes who break windows and laws to save animals, but it’s also about everyone. It’s a call to us all to take action,” writes Phoenix.
“Whether it’s wielding crowbars and bolt-cutters or picking up a pen or a protest sign, every one of us can and must fight injustice and push for animal liberation every chance we get.”
Joaquin Phoenix and animal rights
Phoenix consistently gives a platform to animal rights messaging. In his 2020 Oscar acceptance speech, he said that humans have become “disconnected from the natural world.”
He added that “many of us are guilty of an egocentric worldview.”
“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”
A few days later, the actor rescued a mother cow and her calf from a slaughterhouse.
Newkirk says that other high-profile celebrities have expressed interest in acquiring the movie rights to Free the Animals.
She chose Phoenix because of his long-term commitment to animal rights activism.
“Joaquin understands what animals go through and lives and breathes animal rights,” she told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s part of his very being.”