More often than you may believe, when celebrities are not pretending to commit daring, heroic acts on screen, some stars have been known to spring into action in the face of dire emergencies and save lives.
In 2016, Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx helped a man escape a burning car outside of his home. In 2001, Harrison Ford used his own helicopter to help locate and rescue a Boy Scout lost outside Yellowstone National Park in freezing cold temperatures. How about the time Ryan Gosling broke up a street fight in 2011 or when he saved a woman from being hit by oncoming traffic a year later?
Yes, celebrities do often prove themselves as heroes, but there are just as many instances of them falling victim to near fatal incidents. Sometimes, however, the ones who come to their aid turn out to be celebrities themselves.
The following are some of the most endearing and bizarre times when a famous person had a brush with death and another famous person came to their aid.
Joaquin Phoenix (Saved by Werner Herzog)
The actor known for playing Johnny Cash in 2005’s Walk the Line almost literally went down in a “burning ring of fire” in 2006. Fortunately, Joker’s Joaquin Phoenix is still with us thanks to the angelic guidance of German filmmaker Werner Herzog.
Herzog, an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker and documentarian, witnessed a car flip over in the Hollywood hills and ran toward it to find Phoenix in the driver’s seat. With the Phoenix in shock, fiddling with his lighter and gasoline dripping from the vehicle, Herzog tried to convince him to give him the lighter before he set himself on fire, ultimately having to snatch it from his hand.
As Phoenix told the United Press International, “There’s something so calming and beautiful about Werner Herzog’s voice. I felt completely fine and safe. I climbed out.”
Ironically, Herzog is notoriously accident prone, such as the time he was shot by an air weapon in the middle of an interview that same year, but saw the injury as “not significant.” Perhaps it is this unwavering confidence in the face of distress that served as Phoenix’s safety net.
Halle Berry (Saved by Pierce Brosnan)
Typically, the curse of a Bond Girl is a tarnished film career, as has ominously been the case for many women cast as 007’s romantic lead. The curse had other plans for Halle Berry, cast as Jinx in 2002’s Die Another Day, and, if not for James Bond himself, it could have succeeded.
Berry and Pierce Brosnan were filming a love scene when he noticed something was off about his co-star. As the former Bond actor told Esquire in 2002, “She had this piece of fruit in her hand and she gives me some, then puts it in her own mouth. I made a joke and started laughing and then she gagged. Suddenly there was no sound coming out.”
Brosnan immediately began performing the heimlich maneuver on Berry. Despite being his first time performing the life-saving act, he was able to successfully dislodge the fruit and 007 was able to be a hero off screen too.
It would not be the last time Brosnan came to a co-star’s rescue on set, however…
Uma Thurman (Saved by Pierce Brosnan)
While Pierce Brosnan can call himself a hero for saving Halle Berry on the set of Bond movie, the time he came to co-star Uma Thurman’s aid during the filming of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief was way more 007.
While on set for the young adult novel adaptation in which he played centaur Chiron, the Irish actor saw an unmanned van hurtling toward Thurman. He shouted at her to get out of the way before he ran after the vehicle, managed to jump inside through the driver’s side door, and slammed on the brakes.
Brosnan received much thanks and a few jokes comparing him to his secret agent counterpart from the Pulp Fiction actress, who played Medusa in Percy Jackson. The transportation crew, however, got in some trouble for leaving the van’s emergency brake off.
Scott Stapp (Saved by T.I.)
The former frontman of Christian rock band Creed, Scott Stapp, found his guardian angel in the form of rapper T.I.
Initially reported incorrectly by many as a suicide attempt, Stapp recalled on VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live, in promotion of his 2012 memoir Sinner’s Creed, when, in 2006, he was on a binge, feeding into his addiction, in a Miami hotel room when hallucinatory voices prompted him to jump over his balcony, causing him to fall 40 feet. Unable to move with a fractured skull and broken hip and nose, the rock star laid on the ground for more than two hours before T.I. found him and helped make sure he was brought to safety.
The rapper actually has a history of heroic deeds beyond saving Stapp’s life. In 2010, he helped talk a suicidal man out of jumping from a 22-story building in Atlanta.
Meryl Streep (Saved by Kevin Bacon)
With three Academy Awards for acting under her belt, more than any other woman, Meryl Streep is the kind of actor you would not want to be on the wrong side of an argument with. That is especially true when the conversation becomes a matter of life or death.
While filming the 1994 adventure film The River Wild, Streep (playing white water rafting expert Gail) was ready to call it a day after 18 hours of shooting, but director Curtis Hanson pressured her into one more shot. As they filmed the sequence, Streep was accidentally swept from her raft and would have drowned, if not for her co-star (and the ironic villain of the film) Kevin Bacon pulling her out of the water.
Once she was back up river, Streep approached Hanson to say, “In the future, when I say I can’t do something, I think we should believe me.”
Eve Branson, Richard Branson’s Mother (Saved by Kate Winslet)
Richard Branson is one of the most prolific entrepreneurs in the world. It was his mother, Eve, who got her time in the spotlight at 90 years old when Oscar-winner Kate Winslet helped her escape death.
The Branson family and other guests were enjoying a getaway at the tycoon’s Caribbean home in August 2011 when lightning struck the mansion at about four in the morning, igniting a fire. Sir Richard recalled to ITV News that, as he was rushing to help get his guests out of the house, “it was [Winslet] who carried my mother out of the house. She said it was like being on a film set where you’re waiting for the words ‘cut,’ but they just don’t come. So, it was quite surreal for her to be in a real-life situation.”
When The Guardian asked Eve about the incident in 2014, she actually gave most of the credit to her grandsons. In fact, she described Winslet’s role in her escape as less of a rescue and more of an instance of Eve being “a bit slow for her.”
Elizabeth Taylor (Saved by husband and film producer Mike Todd… Sort of)
This story is a bit of a stretch on the topic at hand and there is no evidence to of it outside of Elizabeth Taylor’s own testimony. Nonetheless, it is very fascinating near-death experience tale.
In the early 1960s, the Academy Award-winning Hollywood icon was stricken with pneumonia and had been pronounced dead in her hospital bed four times by the time she, as she claimed, began having an out of body experience and could see a white light taking her away. At the end of the light, Taylor saw her late husband, film producer Mike Todd, who had died two years earlier, who told her that it was not her time yet, convincing her to fight her way back to life.
Due to the bizarre nature of her story, Taylor chose to say quiet about the experience until she appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” decades later. Watch the actress, who died in 2011 at the age of 79, open up about the experience in the video here.
Hugh Hefner (Saved by Sondra Theodore)
Just last year, Hugh Hefner died at 91, leaving behind a long legacy as the founder of the Playboy empire. That legacy was almost cut short decades earlier, ironically, by Hef’s favorite pastime.
As described in Steven Watts’ book Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream, in 1977, Hefner was engaging in physical activity with then-girlfriend and Playboy Playmate Sondra Theodore when a “toy” the pair was using became lodged in his throat. He was choking and about to pass out, so Theodore pumped his chest until the toy was expelled.
Interestingly enough, when Hefner was asked about the incident by The Guardian, he told a different side of the story, claiming he was with “four Playmates” at the time. When it comes to Hef, either way, it sounds believable.
Leonardo DiCaprio (Saved by Edward Norton)
Leaving the longstanding debate over how Jack could have survived out of conversation, apparently Leonardo DiCaprio almost suffered a fate as bad as his Titanic counterpart if not for his buddy, actor Edward Norton.
In 2010, the future Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood star and Fight Club’s “Narrator,” Norton, joined filmmaker Fisher Stevens to film a scuba diving expedition in the Galapagos with marine biologist Sylvia Earle. It was late into the dive when Norton noticed that DiCaprio was nowhere to be seen, prompting him to see if the notorious “Unlucky Leo,” as he calls him, needed his help.
He found the actor deep in the water with a leaking oxygen tank. Norton used the buddy breathing method, in which one diver shares the breathing apparatus with another in need, to provide DiCaprio with oxygen before bringing him back to the surface. He recounted the incident to Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” in 2016, as you can see here.
Just imagine, had Norton not been there prevent DiCaprio from suffocating in murky depths of the ocean, he would have died before finally claiming his long-awaited Oscar in 2016 for The Revenant. For that alone, the Academy should give the thrice-nominated Norton an honor of some form.
They say that Hollywood is a break-neck town with every star competing against the other in pursuit of fame. Every once in a while, though, you may hear stories of celebrities looking out for each other, just like these.