Werner Herzog Details The Time He Saved Joaquin Phoenix's Life

Because cigarettes and gasoline isn't a smart idea, kids.

Paramount Pictures

Joaquin Phoenix is one of the greatest actors on the planet these days, but things could have been vastly different for the Joker star if it wasn’t for the intervention of Werner Herzog.

Speaking in a new interview with The New York Times, filmmaker Herzog has revealed how he saved the Oscar winner from a potentially fatal situation following a car wreck. Werner happened across Phoenix’s crashed car on the side of the road, and swiftly moved to stop the actor from lighting a cigarette that could’ve caused the vehicle to explode.

As Herzog explained, “He was upside down in this car, squished between airbags that had deployed, and wildly trying to light a cigarette. I knew he must not light his cigarette, because there was gasoline dripping and he would have perished in a fireball.”


Werner continued, “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.”

The German director went on to detail how he managed to swipe the lighter from Phoenix’s grasp – all the while not realising that it was Joaquin Phoenix who he was attempting to save.


After this, Joaquin tried to come over and thank Herzog, although the Bad Lieutenant helmer instead opted to drive off from the scene.

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