Joaquin Phoenix Pulled from Car Wreck by Director Werner Herzog
By Chris Lee, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Joaquin Phoenix has plenty of reason to celebrate this week, and not just because he scored a best actor Oscar nomination for "Walk the Line."
Last Thursday, the 31-year-old actor overturned his car on a winding road in Laurel Canyon. And in an only-in-Hollywood twist, German director Werner Herzog was one of the first responders who helped Phoenix out of the wreck.
According to police, the accident occurred about 3 p.m. when Phoenix's brakes gave out. The actor said he was forced to swerve into the mountainside to avoid hitting another car, and the driver's side air bag deployed.
Phoenix said he was thrown into the passenger seat when his vehicle rolled onto its roof. In the aftermath, the actor said he felt "a bit confused."
"I remember this knocking on the passenger window," said Phoenix. "There was this German voice saying, 'Just relax.' There's the air bag, I can't see and I'm saying, 'I'm fine. I am relaxed.'
"Finally, I rolled down the window and this head pops inside. And he said, 'No, you're not.' And suddenly I said to myself, 'That's Werner Herzog!' There's something so calming and beautiful about Werner Herzog's voice. I felt completely fine and safe.
I climbed out."
Herzog, 63, the temperamental auteur responsible for such strange but fascinating films as "Fitzcarraldo" and "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" â€” who won best documentary for 2005's "Grizzly Man" at the Directors Guild Awards on Jan. 28 â€” has a home near the accident scene.
A publicist for Lionsgate, "Grizzly Man's" DVD distributor, confirmed that Herzog had attended to Phoenix after the accident. The director was unavailable for comment.
"I got out of the car and I said, 'Thank you,' " Phoenix said. "And he was gone."
Police said no charges were filed.
Phoenix recently won a Golden Globe for best actor in a musical or comedy for portraying country legend Johnny Cash. And on Tuesday he was selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a best actor nominee for "Walk the Line."
"Frrraawwrrraarrgh!" said the actor, 31, shortly after the announcement. "That's the sound of me being speechless. I'm looking for something witty and profound to say, but I'm awestruck. I have marbles in my mouth."
"So it's an amazing week."