I recently watched the Ron Howard movie Parenthood from 1989. I completely forgot that a young Joaquin Phoenix stars in the movie.

I noticed that Joaquin is credited as Leaf .

After some research, I could not find a credible reason as to the name change, only "rumor has it" or "according to sources"

Can someone provide me factual information on why Joaquin Phoenix was credited as Leaf Phoenix as a child actor?

  • I don't know for sure but his name certainly stands out as being "normal" next to his siblings' names... which "Leaf" seems to fit in well with: "He is the third of five children, including River (1970–1993), Rain (b. 1972), Liberty (b. 1976), and Summer (b. 1978)." Curious, which sites have you looked at... it seems the Wikipedia page explains it, actually...
    – Catija
    Aug 30, 2015 at 22:06
  • @Catija Yes, but Wiki's references on the matter aren't that great (most of them are dead now).
    – Walt
    Aug 30, 2015 at 22:29

2 Answers 2


Here's an old oprah interview with Joaquin. If I remember correctly he talks about his name there.

Joaquin on Oprah 2004

  • 4
    Good catch, though it might be better to transcribe\recap some of the relevant part. I don't think Travolta would've been so friendly with him after The Master... ;)
    – Walt
    Aug 31, 2015 at 10:27
  • 2
    While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers will not be of any use if the external linked page changes in future
    – Panther
    Aug 31, 2015 at 10:33
  • 1
    Thanks for the link. I agree with @Walt, it would be great to see just his actual quote. Please do not make me sit through an hour of Oprah AND Travolta...Thanks :) Aug 31, 2015 at 19:24
  • It's only a few minutes, actually, and the bit about his name is near the end.
    – Walt
    Aug 31, 2015 at 20:32

From Biography Today Magazine, 1994 (in an obituary for River Phoenix):

John and Arlyn [Phoenix] chose for their firstborn a symbolic name, after the river of life in the Hermann Hesse novel, Siddhartha, then a cult classic. Their daughters were named in the same fashion: Rainbow Joan of Arc, called Rain; Libertad Mariposa, translated into Liberty Butterfly and shortened to Libby; and Summer Joy. The family's only other boy, Joaquin Rafael, asked at the age of four to change his name so that he could be like the others. Given permission by his father (who was raking leaves at the time), he chose Leaf.

And it seems his mother Arlyn (AKA Heart) also commented on it:

River, Rainbow, Leaf, Liberty, Summer... these are all such beautiful things. We just wanted to remind people of the beauty around them. Leaf even chose his own name, we didn’t give it to him. They can change them anytime they wish. They could change them to Larry, I don’t care.

Obviously, he changed his name back later; according to Wikipedia, it was at the age of 15.

  • Thanks for your answer Walt; however, I cannot find any information on the Biography Today Magazine link that you provided. It would be great to find a quote from the actor himself, but I cannot find any quotes from him regarding this. Aug 31, 2015 at 1:41
  • 1
    @steelerfan Search for the word 'raking' here. That obituary seems pretty extensive and well-researched. And Joaquin is a... slightly eccentric man notorious for hating interviews, so good luck with that second part. ;)
    – Walt
    Aug 31, 2015 at 5:24
  • Thanks, I found it now! Yeah, very eccentric, but I enjoy his work...until I saw the train wreck that was the "mockumentary" he did a few years back called "Im Still Here"...hard to watch. Thanks for the info. Aug 31, 2015 at 13:35

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