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

Joaquin Phoenix Gets Candid About Growing Up In a Cult
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.

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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