This year’s awards season has been a tight race between Joaquin Phoenix and Brad Pitt — but not in the acting categories.
The “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” and “Joker” actors have taken wildly different and entertaining approaches while accepting every major honor for supporting and lead actor, respectively. From the Golden Globes to the BAFTAs, their acceptance speeches have been almost as buzzed-about as their film performances.
Pitt has established himself as the class clown of the awards circuit, joking about his dating life and aiming witty digs at costar Leonardo DiCaprio. Meanwhile, Phoenix has taken a more serious tack, calling out industry injustices and championing various environmental causes.
Leading up to Sunday’s Academy Awards, here’s a look back at their memorable remarks.
Pitt pokes fun at ‘Titanic’
As expected, Pitt delivered a heartfelt tribute to his “Once Upon a Time” partner in crime, DiCaprio, while accepting his Golden Globe. But no one anticipated the clever follow-up quip about his castmate’s past that has since gone viral.
“Before ‘The Revenant,’ I used to watch, year after year, his costars accept awards and thank him profusely. ... He’s an all-star, he’s a gent, and I wouldn’t be here without you,” Pitt said before wryly adding, “I would have shared the raft.”
“The raft” references a critical scene from “Titanic,” in which DiCaprio’s character, Jack, famously sacrifices himself for Kate Winslet’s Rose by letting her float on a piece of wooden debris while he freezes to death in the Atlantic Ocean. Since the Oscar-winning film’s 1997 release, several viewers have pointed out that the driftwood was likely large enough to support them both.
The perceived plot-hole has been a running gag in “Titanic’s” legacy, and apparently Pitt was in on it. As was DiCaprio, who chuckled along in the audience.
Phoenix demands action on climate change
“Contrary to popular belief, I don’t want to rock the boat,” Phoenix — who has developed a loose-cannon reputation — began his Golden Globes speech.
“But the boat has been has been ... rocked.”
With the disclaimer out of the way, the lead actor winner proceeded to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. for “acknowledging the [link] between animal agriculture and climate change” by offering a plant-based menu at the ceremony. And, several muted expletives later, the climate activist continued his environmental crusade by citing the devastating wildfires in Australia.
“It’s really nice that so many people have come up and sent their well wishes to Australia, but we have to do more than that,” he said. “Together, hopefully, we can be unified and actually make some changes. It’s great to vote, but sometimes we have to take that responsibility on ourselves and make changes and sacrifices in our own lives. I hope that we can do that. We don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs … and I’ll try to do better. I hope you do too. Thank you so much for putting up with me.”
Phoenix expressed similar sentiments at the Critics’ Choice Awards, once again applauding the sustainable food fare, while also touching on timely topics including “childhood trauma, gun violence, isolation and mental health.” Due to the destructive nature of its antihero, the debut of “Joker” instilled fears of potential copycat events, given the country’s history of mass shootings.
“Instead of inciting violence, you invited the audience in to see what it feels like when you’re one of the forgotten,” he said, praising “Joker” director Todd Phillips. “And I deeply appreciate that.”
Pitt updates his Tinder profile
At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Pitt proved he had a healthy sense of humor about his single status after his bombshell split from Angelina Jolie.
“I gotta add this to my Tinder profile,” he quipped while examining his new trophy.
The thoroughly amused crowd barely had time to recover before the Hollywood dreamboat launched into his next bit, this time taking aim at his director.
“I want to thank my costars Leo, Margot Robbie, Margot Robbie’s feet, Margaret Qualley’s feet, Dakota Fanning’s feet,” he said, calling Tarantino out for his infamous foot obsession. “Quentin has separated more women from their shoes than the TSA.”
That one particularly tickled Robbie, and even Meryl Streep got caught giggling on the reaction cam.
Phoenix targets ‘systemic racism’
After thanking the BAFTAs for supporting his career, the actor addressed the backlash the BAFTAs sparked in early January after unveiling its 2020 nominees. No actors of color received BAFTA nominations this year.
“I have to say that I also feel conflicted, because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege,” he said. “I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from.”
The bold move garnered praise on social media from the likes of Kerry Washington and Viola Davis, who thanked him for his “honesty, solidarity AND courage.”
“This is not a self-righteous condemnation, because I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem,” Phoenix added in his speech. “But I think that it’s more than just having sets that are multicultural. I think that we have to really do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism. ... It is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it. So that’s on us.”
Pitt gets cheeky with the royal family
“He starts by saying, ‘Hey, Britain! Heard you just became single. Welcome to the club,’ ” Robbie recited to laughs from the audience. " ‘Wishing you the best with the divorce settlement.’ “
“Oh, and he says that he is going to name this ‘Harry’ because he’s really excited about bringing it back to the States with him,” Robbie continued, referring to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s recent decision to take a “step back” as senior members of the royal family, renounce their titles and spend more time in North America. “His words, not mine!”
While Pitt was not present to deliver the royal zinger, Harry’s older brother, Prince William, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, were there to receive it. Reader, they laughed.