Who is John Lee Bottom? All About Joaquin Phoenix’s Late Father

By Cannon | Updated on June 17, 2022
Facts reviewed by Editor at Celebrity Digest
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    John Lee Bottom (aka John Phoenix) was the father of one of the veteran actors Joaquin Phoenix. His son Joaquin who has worked in dozens of hard-hit movies has also won numerous prestigious accolades including Academy Award for his charismatic performance in the movie Joker. Sadly, his other son River Phoenix who was a singer and actor died at the age of 23. 

    He had shared three other kids with his activist wife Arlyn Phoenix. The former couple married for 27 years and divorced before John’s demise, in 2015. Then, let’s find out what was the cause of his death?

    In the article below, we will also explore some other intriguing facts about John like his parents, birth details, and more!

    John Lee Bottom Birth Details And Early life

    He was born on 5th April 1947, in Stanislaus County, California, USA. He was the son of Robert Merrill Bottom and Beulah Ingram. Talking about his childhood, John was from a little bit poor family background and his childhood wasn’t easy.

    His family could hardly afford basic needs so John decided to give up on his further studies while in High School and soon started working as a gardener. 

    What is His Ethnicity?

    Bottom who was raised Catholic had a mixed ethnical background. He was of English, German and French ancestry. And his nationality was American.

    John’s Professional Career As a Gardner

    John dropped out of high school and started working as a gardener. He used to work tirelessly for more than 14-15 hours a day. Later on, Gardner started his own landscape gardening business. His wife and his son also helped him out while running the business. 

    A year after his business, John, unfortunately, met in a car accident. His spine was severely injured and was to force quit his work.

    John then opened a vegan restaurant in Costa Rica in 1993. He wanted his son River to help him with his restaurant business but River was at the peak of his Hollywood career and couldn’t give much time to his father which eventually created a distance in father-son relations.   

    Bottom and His Wife Arlyn Were The Members of Children of God

    After John and Arlyn’s marriage, they became a member of the organization called Children of God, a radical Christian cult. At the time, they had to travel to various parts of the United States. 

    In doing so, the former gardener became the Archbishop of Venezuela and the Caribbean in 1975. Soon after, John and his then-spouse Heart also became evangelists.

    However, the two promptly knew that the organization was actually involved in promoting children’s and adult sex in the US. Even, their late son River once said he lost his virginity at four but later admitted it was just a joke. 

    As soon as they know about the misdemeanor of the organization, John left the group and returned to the US in 1978. He then settled in Florida with his wife and children, where he started working as a carpenter.

    He later also changed his surname from Bottom to Phoenix (named after a bird which means new beginning).

    How Did John Lee Bottom and His Ex-Wife Arlyn Meet?

    John first came across his then-future-wife Arlyn in Los Angeles. At the time, Arlyn, an avid hitchhiker was just separated from her first spouse with whom she also shared a daughter. Following their split, she made her move to Los Angeles and was soon picked up by a guy named John while hitching in LA. 

    John Lee Bottom family
    John with his spouse and kids.

    As both of them were avid travelers, they visited numerous adventurous destinations together around the city. The same love they shared as travelers gradually turned into their romance too.  

    The Two Married in 1969

    After being together for several months, John and Arlyn got married on Sept 13, 1969. Like we said earlier, they were also members of The Children of God. 

    Following their marriage, the couple went to South America to visit several other parts of the US as a part of cult members of the organization.

    John Was The Father of Six Children With His Wife 

    On August 23, 1971, they welcomed their first child, a son River Phoenix. In 1979, their second child, a daughter Rain Phoenix was born. John Lee Bottom and his wife became parents for the third time when their son Joaquin Phoenix was born on 28th October 1974

    Altogether they were parents of five children including Liberty Phoenix and Summer Phoenix.  

    John’s Eldest Son River Phoenix Death

    River Phoenix was a famous actor and well-known singer in the 1990s. He featured in various films and TV shows, which include Stand by Me, Running in Empty, and many others. 

    In fact, John’s first-born child was the first choice by James Cameron before Leonardo for the historical movie Titanic. Unfortunately, River died before the movie outside of the club ‘The Viper Room’ at the age of 23. Sources say the late actor passed away because of an overdose of drugs. 

    Father of An Oscar-winner Actor, Joaquin Phoenix

    John Phoenix’s son Joaquin Phoenix has won an Academy Award back in 2020 for his lead role in the movie ‘Joker’. Prior to that, he was also nominated for Academy Award for his portrayal in the movie ‘Gladiator’ but couldn’t win. 

    Furthermore, his other big-budget movies in Hollywood include Her and Joker II as well.

    Divorced With His Wife Arlyn Phoenix

    John and Arlyn were together for 27 years before they decided to divorce in 1997. Although the reason for their divorce is yet to be clear, sources reported the two parted ways on mutual understanding.

    John Lee Bottom died in 2015
    John with his family members.

    After divorce, Arlyn was married to a famous producer, Jeffrey Weisberg, while her spouse John lived his life in shadow.

    John Had a Daughter From His Previous Relationship

    Before his marriage to Arlyn, John was previously in a relationship with an unknown woman. While there is nothing more about their love affair, Bottom shared a daughter named Jodean, born in 1964 with his ex-partner.

    John Lee Bottom’s Net Worth

    As per sources, John Bottom had a net worth of $500k at the time of his death. In the meantime, his late son River’s net worth was around 5 million at the time of his demise.

    Similarly, his most popular son, Joaquin is a well-renowned actor and producer and has a fortune of more than 50 million.

    Cause of John Lee Bottom’s Death

    Sadly, John Lee Bottom died while in California in 2015. He was 67 or 68 at the time of his demise. He was battling cancer and was diagnosed several times before his passing. And the main reason for his death was Cancer. 

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