Joaquin Phoenix gets candid about growing up in the Children of God cult

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Joaquin Phoenix Gets Candid About Growing Up In a Cult

Academy Award-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix is baring it all in the December issue of Playboy -- well, figuratively speaking. The actor remains fully clothed in the interview, but gives readers a revealing look into the controversial cult where he was raised.

Phoenix's parents John and Arlyn Bottom, along with their children, were members of the Children of God. They traveled through Central and South America as part of the group for much of the '70s.

"I think my parents thought they'd found a community that shared their ideals. Cults rarely advertise themselves as such. It's usually someone saying, 'We're like-minded people. This is a community,' but I think the moment my parents realized there was something more to it, they got out," the actor said to Playboy.

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Joaquin Phoenix gets candid about growing up in the Children of God cult

Joaquin Phoenix, brother of River Phoenix, was three when he and his family left the Children of God cult. New York Daily News reports that the Children of God was considered a Christian sex cult where children were encouraged to have sex with adults and other children.

 (Photo by J Carter Rinaldi/FilmMagic)

Academy Award-nominated actor River Phoenix left the Children of God cult when he was seven. New York Daily News reports that the Children of God was considered a Christian sex cult where children were encouraged to have sex with adults and other children. Phoenix told Details magazine that he was four when he first “made love.” The encounter was with “kids.”

Phoenix died in 1993 a drug overdose outside of Johnny Depp's nightclub, but his life was just as tragic.

(Photo by Nancy R. Schiff/Getty Images)

Actress Michelle Pfeiffer was part of cult called breatharians when she first started out in Hollywood. They believe that you only need mediation, light and air to survive. 

 (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Rose McGowan was also a part of the Children of God cult that the Phoenix family was involved with. She told People that she lived on a duke's property in Italy with "50 to 60 hippies."  

 McGown said "You weren't allowed to have imperfections. I had a little wart on my thumb, and I remember walking down this hallway-a door opened and some adult grabbed me and just cut it off with a razor blade and stuck me back out in the hallway with it still bleeding." 

Her father took out of the cult when she was nine out of fear that she would be sexually assaulted.

(Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)

Glenn Close admitted recently that when she was 7 her dad joined the religious group known as the Moral Re-Armament. She lived at the group headquarters in Switzerland until she was 22. 

Close told Hollywood Reporter "You basically weren't allowed to do anything, or you were made to feel guilty about any unnatural desire" 

(Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)


Over the years, numerous ex-members of the Children of God have come forward alleging mistreatment and abuse. Recently, Natacha Tormey, a survivor of the group, spoke to Britain's ITV claiming she was sexually abused several times during her childhood. She said that the Children of God was "a very sexualized environment."

Actress Rose McGowan is also very candid about spending the first part of her life with the Children of God. Other actors like Winona Ryder, the Arquettes and even Glenn Close spent time in cult-like groups, but none appeared as extreme as the COG.

"It starts out one way and takes some time before it evolves into something else," Phoenix explained. "When people bring up Children of God, there's always something vaguely accusatory about it. It's guilt by association. I think it was really innocent on my parents' part. They really believed, but I don't think most people see it that way. I've always thought that was strange and unfair."

This summer, Vice reported that in the early '90s, over 70 percent of the members of The Children of God (which at the time was called The Family), were females under the age of 18. Today, the group goes by the moniker Family International.

After Joaquin Phoenix's family left The Children of God, they changed their names, too. They switched their surname from Bottom to Phoenix because they felt they were reborn from the ashes.

The full interview with Playboy is on stands now.

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