July 23, 2013 by Craig Sutherland
Walk the Line is a 2005 American biographical musical romantic drama film directed by James Mangold. The screenplay, written by Mangold and Gill Dennis, is based on two autobiographies authored by singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, 1975’s Man in Black: His Own Story in His Own Words and 1997’s Cash: The Autobiography. The film follows Cash’s early life, his romance with June Carter, and his ascent in the country music scene. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as Cash, Reese Witherspoon as Carter, Ginnifer Goodwin as Cash’s first wife Vivian Liberto, and Robert Patrick as Cash’s father. Here’s 8 facts about this incredible film:
- Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon performed all of the songs themselves, without being dubbed. They also learned to play their instruments (guitar and auto-harp, respectively) from scratch.
- Johnny Cash approved Joaquin Phoenix to play him in the film because he liked his performance in the movie Gladiator. June Carter Cash also approved Reese Witherspoon for her role in the film.
- It took 4 years for the producers to secure the rights to the story from James Keach, who is a friend of Johnny Cash and his family. After Keach agreed, it took another 4 years to get the film made.
- According to director James Mangold, when Joaquin Phoenix was learning how to sing and play guitar like Johnny Cash, his voice was too high and the band learned how to play Cash’s songs in a higher key. Just before filming started, Joaquin’s voice dropped closer to John’s level, and the band had to re-learn the songs in their original key.
- The scene in which Johnny Cash pulls the sink off the wall was not scripted; Joaquin Phoenix actually pulled it off the wall.
- Due to the similarities between his life and Johnny Cash’s, Joaquin Phoenix was hospitalized after filming.
- The director said that Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon developed a very codependent relationship during filming. According to him, after the filming wrapped, Phoenix admitted to him that he and Witherspoon had relied on each other so much that they made a secret pact. The deal was that if one of them left or dropped out, the other would leave as well.
- Joaquin Phoenix met Johnny Cash in person once before he was cast in Walk The Line…
Joaquin Phoenix Describes Meeting Johnny Cash: “I met John [but] it wasn’t related to the film. It was six months prior to even hearing about this film and meeting [writer/director James] Mangold, which was ironic and fortunate.
He was in the studio with Rick Ruben and June. James Gray, a writer/director that I worked with on a movie called ‘The Yards,’ had gone into the studio to shoot some footage of them and I guess my name came up. John was a fan of ‘Gladiator’ and asked if I wanted to go to dinner. James Gray called and said, ‘Do you want to have dinner with Johnny Cash?’ I said, ‘Yeah, okay.’ And it’s strange because I’m uncomfortable with that. You don’t know somebody and then they just invite you to dinner and you don’t know what it’s going to be like. …Usually when you get invited to something like that, you show up and then it’s like a table of 20 people and there’s a lot of forks. You don’t know which one to use (laughing). But it wasn’t like that at all.” (Source)
Facts Taken from IMDB
- Classic Film Review: Gladiator (2000) (vapourtrailthoughts.wordpress.com)
- First Look at Joaquin Phoenix as Larry “Doc” Sportello in INHERENT VICE; Maya Rudolph Joins Cast (collider.com)
- Casey Affleck: ‘I Want To Make Another Experimental Movie With Joaquin Phoenix’ (contactmusic.com)
- Which of these biopic actors looked most like the person they were playing? (thesun.co.uk)