It may have only been a year ago, but Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar speech after earning the trophy for playing the Joker will stand as one of the ceremony’s most memorable moments. And today, he admits it almost never happened. 

His speech, of course, focused on fighting injustice and standing up for animal rights, as he picked up the award for his role in Joker

“I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively. I think at times we feel, or we’re made to feel, that we champion different causes,” Phoenix said. “But for me, I see commonality. I think, whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender, or one species has the right to dominate, control, and use and exploit another with impunity.”

In a new interview with the Sunday Times, Phoenix explained that he was unsure of what it was he wanted to say, if he wanted to take a stance on anything or if he’d be saying anything at all if he won.

“I’ll be honest with you here,” he shared. “I did not want to get up anywhere and do anything. I was not excited about the opportunity. It’s just not who I am. I was full of fear. I was in that situation and there was a part of me that just wanted to say, ‘Thanks so much, great, goodnight.’ But I felt like I had to… If I’m up here, I can’t just thank my mum.”

As history now shows, Phoenix instead opted to give a plea for the natural world, even shouting out his brother River in the process.