Soon after, the media caught wind of the accident, and Joaquin Phoenix’s publicist, Susan Patricola, released a statement saying “He is fine” and “There’s no need for concern,” (via People). Joaquin was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident but the brakes on his vehicle failed, causing him to lose control of his car. Per a police spokesperson, the person in the other vehicle was unharmed as well, and the two parties exchanged information without having the police further involved.
It turned out that the man who helped Joaquin Phoenix was German director Werner Herzog, who lived near the site of the crash. Herzog recounted the accident as he remembered and said that he saw Joaquin in his upside-down car trying to light a cigarette, per an Uproxx article. “I knew he must not light his cigarette, because there was gasoline dripping and he would have perished in a fireball,” Herzog said. Phoenix said that Herzog’s voice was “calming and beautiful” and that he felt “fine and safe” after what he went through.
Realizing that he could have ended his life after surviving a car crash by lighting a cigarette, Joaquin Phoenix checked into a rehab facility days later. Although he wasn’t drinking when the accident occurred, it’s what pushed him to make himself better. “There’s too many things I enjoy doing and I don’t want to wake up feeling hungover,” he said (via The News).