Werner Herzog Has Poetically Recounted The Time He Pulled Joaquin Phoenix From A Car Accident

Baby Yoda fanatic Werner Herzog had an eventful 2006. He directed Rescue Dawn, his highest-grossing movie in America; was shot at during an interview with BBC; and saved Joaquin Phoenix from a car accident. The legendary filmmaker (and two-time Simpsons guest star) recounted the last two incidents in an interview with the New York Times.

When asked by interviewer-extraordinaire David Marchese whether he ever found out who fired at him with an air rifle, Herzog replied, “I was shot at various times. You mean here in Los Angeles?” Yes, in Los Angeles. “No, I wasn’t interested.” Fair enough. As for Phoenix, Herzog said that he recognized him (it’s fun to imagine Herzog catching a matinee screening of Clay Pigeons), “although he was upside down in this car, squished between airbags that had deployed and wildly trying to light a cigarette.”

Only Herzog could make a car accident sound poetic:

“I knew he must not light his cigarette, because there was gasoline dripping and he would have perished in a fireball. So I tried to be clearly commandeering to him and tell him not to. But I was worried that if you gave him a command, he would strike his lighter even harder. So I managed to snatch the cigarette lighter from his hand. Then it became completely clear that it was Joaquin. But I didn’t want to speak to him after. I saw he wanted to come over and thank me. I just drove off.

Recalling the incident the week after it happened, Phoenix said that he heard a German voice tell him “just relax” and that “there’s something so calming and beautiful about Werner Herzog’s voice. I felt completely fine and safe.” I’m not sure what’s more on-brand: Phoenix smoking a cigarette after crashing his car, or Herzog refusing to stick around after potentially saving a man’s life. He would’ve stayed, had it been Baby Yoda.

(Via New York Times)