Herzog to Phoenix’s rescue

Special to The 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.”

The 31-year-old actor escaped uninjured when his car overturned 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. Jan. 26 when Phoenix’s brakes gave out. The actor said he was forced to swerve into the mountainside to avoid hitting another car.


“I remember this knocking on the passenger window,” Phoenix said. “There was this German voice saying, ‘Just relax.’ ... I said to myself, ‘That’s Werner Herzog!’ There’s something so calming and beautiful about Werner Herzog’s voice.”

Herzog, 63, the temperamental auteur recently won best documentary for 2005’s “Grizzly Man” at the Directors Guild. He has a home near the accident scene.

A publicist for Lionsgate Films, “Grizzly Man’s” DVD distributor, confirmed that Herzog had attended to Phoenix after the accident.

“I got out of the car and I said, ‘Thank you,’ ” Phoenix said. “And he was gone.”

Phoenix won a Golden Globe for best actor in a musical or comedy for portraying country legend Johnny Cash. And on Tuesday he earned a best actor nod from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“It’s an amazing week,” he said.