Famed auteur Werner Herzog sat down with Yahoo Movies’ Kevin Polowy for a live stream where he called Joaquin Phoenix of the greatest actors of his generation. He lamented that Phoenix doesn’t “produce enough,” and suggested Phoenix was “struggling with his demons” for a time.
The conversation turned to 2006, when Herzog found Phoenix in an overturned car in L.A. “I saw a car [going] way too fast in front of me, weaving down, and going up an embankment almost vertically and flipping over in the air.” Continuing the high-octane narrative, Herzog explained that he saw “one man, upside down, fiddling with his cigarette lighter, deathly pale in his face, and I said to him — I recognized him; it was Joaquin — I said to him, ‘Man, relax.’ And he said, ‘I am relaxed.’ And I said, ‘Can I have your cigarette lighter?’ And he wouldn’t give it to me, so I distracted him, snatched it away, because there was gasoline dripping all over the car.”
Phoenix has told his side before too, telling United Press International in 2006 that he “rolled down the window and this head pops inside. … 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.”
This crazy-yet-true tale is just another in a lifetime full of them. During the same year as the car accident, Herzog was shot by an air rifle in the middle of an interview. Seemingly unfazed, the director went on with the interview, dismissing the bleeding puncture wound he received as “not significant.”
While shooting his 1970 film Even Dwarfs Started Small, Herzog told the accident-prone cast if they all finished without injury, he’d jump into a cactus. Suffice to say, they did, and he honored his promise. Later he would remark, “It was a nasty one. It had long spines. Some are still sticking in my knee sinew. You can’t operate them out.”
Perhaps most famously, he once lost a bet, an event immortalized in Les Blank’s 1980 documentary, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.
Herzog’s new film, Salt and Fire, is now on iTunes and on-demands, and opens in theaters April 7. Watch our full Facebook Live interview with him:
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