|Walk the Line (2005)
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Patrick
based on Johnny Cash's autobiographies "Man in Black" and "Cash"
October 28, 1974
Birthplace: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Born: February 26, 1932
Birthplace: Kingsland, Arkansas, USA
Died: September 12, 2003
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
(complications from diabetes)
March 22, 1976
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
||June Carter Cash
Born: June 23, 1929
Birthplace: Maces Springs, Scott County, Virginia, USA
Died: May 15, 2003, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
(heart surgery complications)
May 22, 1978
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Born: April 23, 1934
Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas
Died: May 24, 2005, Ventura, California
(complications from lung cancer surgery)
"Success is having to worry about every damn thing in the world, except money."
Questioning the Story:
Did Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon sing all of the songs themselves?
Yes. The voices that you hear in the movie Walk the Line belong to the actors. In addition to stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon performing the songs of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, the supporting cast also offered up their vocal chords for the movie.
This includes Tyler Hilton (Elvis Presley) and Waylon Payne (Jerry Lee Lewis). These performances can be heard on the Walk the Line soundtrack. -About.com
Where did the movie's title come from?
The movie's title Walk the Line comes from the Johnny Cash song "I Walk the Line," which is about Johnny's pledge to remain faithful to his woman. The song has nothing to do with June Carter. He wrote it for his first wife, Vivian Liberto. -SFGate.com
Did Johnny Cash's older brother really die in a table saw accident?
Yes, but the real life location of the May 12, 1944 accident is different from the movie. This is indicated in Johnny Cash's own description of the tragedy, "Jack's job was working in the high school agriculture shop, cutting oak tree trunks into fence posts on a table saw that had no guard on it."
This statement contradicts the movie's location, which appears to be a shed.
Most of the other details surrounding the tragedy seem to be accurate. As shown in the movie, Johnny was on his way home from the fishing spot when his father, Ray Cash, picked him up in the preacher's Model A Ford.
Johnny said that his father told him to get into the car, not with an accusatory "Where have you been?" like in the movie. His father took him home and showed him Jack's bloody clothes, at which time his father pointed out "where the table saw had cut [Jack] from his ribs all the way down into his stomach and groin, through his belt and everything." Jack, who was only fourteen-years-old, held on for a week before passing away. -Cash: The Autobiography
Did Johnny Cash's father really blame him for his brother's death?
Yes. After Jack's death in the movie Walk the Line, Johnny's father, Ray Cash (Robert Patrick), openly states that the devil "took the wrong son." In Michael Streissguth's book Johnny Cash: The Biography, Johnny's daughter Kathy said, "Grandpa always kind of blamed Dad for Jack's death. And Dad had this, just real sad guilt thing about him his whole life."
Did Johnny ever speak out publicly against his father?
Johnny never publicly spoke out against his father. Instead, he said that his father was "a man of love", who never hit him. In an Academy of Achievement interview, Johnny said, "I don't ever remember a really cross, unkind word from my father.
He was a good, strong man who provided for his family. That was his sole purpose in life when I was growing up." The tinge of neglect evident in the last part of the quote may be an example of a repressed bitterness that Johnny felt towards his father. This bitterness crept to the surface again in his autobiography, written after his father died, where he described some incidents of near-physical violence.
Johnny always credited his mother for his success, having said in an interview, "...when he [Jack] died, my best friend was still my mother, and she always encouraged me to sing."
Why did Johnny Cash always dress in black?
The movie Walk the Line implies that Johnny Cash and his band, the Tennessee Two, had no other matching clothes to wear to their first record label audition. In real life, the band's decision to wear black came before a concert, not an audition. In a March 1981 Mike Douglas interview with Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Johnny (aka "The Man in Black") explained
why he always wore black by saying the following, "The first concert I ever did in public I think was in a church in North Memphis, and the band and I were trying to find shirts alike, and the only thing we had alike was black. So, it'd be better for church anyway. So, it kinda felt good that day and we stuck with it."
Did Johnny only date his first wife Vivian for a month?
Yes. Actually, in real life they only dated for three weeks. Johnny and Vivian Liberto met at a roller-skating rink in San Antonio while Johnny was stationed there in the Air Force ( See Cash Air Force photo).
Three weeks into their brief 1950 courtship, Johnny completed his training and was sent to Germany. When Johnny was stationed overseas, the pair exchanged more than 10,000 pages of love letters over a period of approximately four years.
Prior to her death in 2005, Vivian planned to use the collection of letters as the basis for an autobiography, tentatively titled "I Walked the Line". She worked on the book with her co-author, Ann Sharpsteen. A finished version is scheduled to be published in September 2007. -SFGate.com
What did the Cash children think of the movie Walk the Line?
Kathy Cash, one of Johnny's four daughters to his first wife, Vivian Liberto, was outraged by her mother's portrayal in the film.
Kathy said that the movie's take on her mother was simply "not true". "My mom was basically a nonentity in the entire film except for the mad little psycho who hated his career," she said. Kathy was so upset over actress Ginnifer Goodwin's depiction of her mother that she walked out of a screening given to the family.
"[Mom] loved his career and was proud of him until he started taking drugs and stopped coming home." Kathy also said that the movie didn't show the singer's children and the emotional pain they endured during their father's fight with drugs and their parents' separation. John Carter Cash, Johnny's only child from his marriage to June Carter, was an executive producer on the film. He said that he understood his half-sister's concerns, but he stressed that
"The point of the film is my parents' love affair." -BBC News
How did Johnny Cash land an audition with Sam Phillips at Sun Records?
As in the movie, Johnny waited outside the Sun Records studio for Sam Phillips to come to work. He talked about this moment during an Academy of Achievement interview, "...I went and knocked on that door and was turned away. I called back for an interview three or four times, was turned away. So one morning I found out what time the man went to work. I went down with my guitar and sat on his steps until he got there. And when he got there I introduced myself... Evidently, he woke up on the right side of the bed that morning. He said, 'Come on in, let's listen.' So he did. He said, 'Come back tomorrow and bring some musicians.'"
Unlike in the movie, it was at this point that Johnny rounded up the first two members of his band (Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant). He went to meet them at the garage where his brother Roy worked, and he brought them back to the studio the next day. -achievement.org
At their first audition, did record producer Sam Phillips really challenge Cash's band to sing "the kind of song that truly saves people"?
No. In a memorable scene from the movie, Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) and his band, The Tennessee Two, audition for producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis. After they begin their audition with familiar gospel music, Sam stops them mid-song and challenges Johnny:
"If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing one song. One song that people would remember before you're dirt. One song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin' me that's the song you'd sing?
.... Or... would you sing somethin' different. Somethin' real. Somethin' you felt. Cause I'm telling you right now, that's the kind of song people want to hear. That's the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain't got nothin' to do with believin' in God, Mr. Cash. It has to do with believin' in yourself."The actual audition with Sam Phillips was not quite as dramatic, even though Cash claimed at one point that he had sung only gospel at the audition. The studio's records contradict this, indicating that Johnny Cash's group also played 'Folsom Prison Blues' and other non-gospel
songs for Sam Phillips. Cash's gospel song "I Was There When It Happened", which Phillips rejects in the movie, was actually recorded by Sun Records in 1957. Sun Records was hot at the time, with Elvis Presley and two or three locally well-known country acts on the label (Elvis was eventually bought by RCA Victor, which led to the demise of Sun). -stfrancis.edu
How did June Carter become a Johnny Cash fan?
As June explained in a 1981 Mike Douglas interview, it was Elvis Presley who turned her on to Johnny Cash, "[Elvis] was a big fan of John's, and since I was working with him, he made me listen to a lot of Johnny Cash records. That's how I first began to know about Johnny Cash, and I just got to be a real Cash fan myself, you know, still am."
How did June and Johnny meet?
June Carter met Johnny Cash when she was hired to be a comedian on The Johnny Cash Show. -John Davidson Interview, 1981
Did Johnny really trash the stage of the Grand Ole Opry?
Yes, but it is never shown in the film. In a drug-induced rage, the real Johnny Cash broke the stage lights at the Grand Ole Opry after he was told that he couldn't perform there (MTV Movie News). Four years later, Cash found himself back at the Grand Ole Opry filming his weekly ABC television series The Johnny Cash Show, which debuted in 1969.
The movie Walk the Line shows Johnny and fellow musicians smashing beer bottles on the stage of a Malco Theater after partying all night. In a later scene, we see a drug-addled Johnny kicking a Las Vegas stage light before collapsing. There is no indication that either of these scenes were meant to represent the real life Opry incident.
Did Johnny Cash really collapse on stage?
No. The movie shows Johnny collapsing on a Las Vegas stage during a 1965 performance for The Johnny Cash Show. The collapse did not happen in real life.
Was Johnny Cash really arrested for smuggling drugs in his guitar case?
Yes. In October 1965, Johnny Cash was arrested in El Paso, Texas for attempting to smuggle amphetamines across the Mexican border in his guitar case. A fairly accurate depiction of the arrest is shown in the movie Walk the Line. -MTV Movie News
What caused the separation between Johnny Cash and his first wife Vivian?
According to Johnny, his addiction to pills led to the demise of his first marriage to Vivian Liberto. They had been married for over a decade, from 1954 until the divorce was finalized in 1968. They had four daughters. Unlike the movie, Johnny's arrest in El Paso wasn't the final straw that ended the marriage. In real life, Johnny and Vivian finally divorced after a bizarre cave incident at Nickajack Cave in Tennessee. He talked about the incident in an MTV interview:
"In 1967 ... I was on amphetamines really, really bad, and I was totally insane. I got in my Jeep and I drove down to Chattanooga, and there was a cave there ... a monstrous cave, it went for miles back up onto Lookout Mountain. I went into that cave with my pills, just exploring, you know.
I had all these wild ideas about finding gold, Civil War [memorabilia] or something in this cave. I'd keep going and I kept taking the pills, kept taking the amphetamines, and after a certain point, after I'd been in there about three hours ... I tried to close my eyes, but you can't close your eyes for long on amphetamines. I laid down and I said, 'God, I can't take it anymore; I can't make it any further, you'll have to take me now, I want to go, I want to die.' ". -MTV Movie News
In 1975, Johnny Cash told Penthouse magazine, "My first marriage was in trouble when I lived in California, and I have to take blame for that -- because no woman can live with a man who's strung out on amphetamines." View a photo of John and Vivian in California. His first wife, Vivian, believed that if Johnny had never gotten involved in drugs, they would have remained together (SFGate.com).
Did Johnny really find his new house after passing out in nearby woods?
No. This is moment of coincidental humor was created by screenwriters James Mangold and Gill Dennis. There is no evidence to suggest that Cash found his lakeside home in Hendersonville after passing out while on a drunken, drug-induced stroll.
Did Johnny Cash really drive a tractor into the lake behind his new house?
Yes. In real life, Johnny's problems with drugs led him to do foolish things, such as drive a tractor into the lake behind his new house in Hendersonville, Tennessee. The tractor incident wasn't Cash's only blunder. In 1965, after his truck caught fire due to a defective exhaust, he inadvertently started a 508-acre forest fire that burnt down half of Los Padres National Forest in California. When a judge asked Cash why he started the fire,
he responded, "I didn't do it, my truck did, and it's dead so you can't question it." Cash was sued by the federal government, and he eventually settled the case by paying $82,000.
-Cash: The Autobiography
Did June Carter really help Johnny Cash to break his drug habit?
Yes. As shown in the movie Walk the Line, June Carter moved out to Johnny's newly purchased home with her mother and father. "I was on amphetamines really, really bad," Johnny says. "I was totally insane. I felt like I had definitely lost my way (MTV Movie News)." Several other people, including Nat Winston, the commissioner of mental health for the state of Tennessee,
stopped by the house regularly to help Johnny. It took 32 days for him to break his addiction to amphetamines and barbiturates. It was an addiction that had lasted almost a decade. -Larry King Live, November 26, 2002
Did Johnny really have to fight to do the Folsom Prison concert?
No. Cash had been performing at prisons since the late 1950s. There was, however, a dispute among his record producers about doing a live concert album during the 1968 visit to Folsom. -Cash: The Autobiography
I heard that Johnny's father Ray Cash was at the Folsom Prison concert?
Yes. This is true. Although he is not shown in the movie, Johnny's father, Ray Cash, was both in attendance and introduced to the audience at the Folsom Prison concert. -Cash: The Autobiography
Did Johnny Cash really propose on stage like in the movie Walk the Line?
Yes, but it wasn't as dramatic as it was in the movie. In a 1981 Mike Douglas interview, June Carter Cash explained, "He asked me to marry him in front of 7,000 people, but I would have liked it if he had gotten down on his knees and proposed to me, you know, but that wasn't the way it was. It was a great big production..." Johnny continued the story, "We had just sung a song called 'Jackson', and I stopped the show and said, 'Will you marry me?' on the microphone. She said, 'Go, sing another, sing another, sing another!' I said, 'I'm not gonna sing
until you answer me. Will you marry me?' And she says, 'Sing a song. Sing a song.' She turned her back, you know, trying to get somebody in the band to play some music or something. [It] kept going until she finally said, 'Yes.' And I said, 'Okay, next song.' So, we set it up. We got married March 1, 1968."
Did June Carter Cash write Johnny's hit song "Ring of Fire"?
Yes. June penned the song with Merle Kilgore. The lyrics are a reflection on her relationship with Johnny, especially during his wilder early days. The song was first recorded by June's sister, Anita Carter, in 1962. -Rolling Stone
Was the Folsom Prison concert scene filmed at the real prison?
No. "When you're making a movie for under $30 million, you can't afford to travel," director James Mangold said. "We built Folsom for ourselves in downtown Memphis." The real Folsom Prison is located in Represa, California. View a photo of Cash at the 1968 Folsom Prison concert. The finished film was screened for Folsom inmates on January 3, 2006. Joaquin Phoenix was on hand for the event. -Variety
Did Johnny Cash choose Joaquin Phoenix to play him in Walk the Line?
No. This is a popular rumor that has circulated since the movie's release. In reality, Johnny Cash was a huge fan of the movie Gladiator and Phoenix's character. Six months prior to hearing about the movie Walk the Line, Joaquin Phoenix had dinner with Johnny Cash and his family (including June) in Nashville.
In an interview, Phoenix described how the encounter came to be, "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.' ...It was an amazing experience. Something I will never, ever, ever forget."
Knowledge of this earlier meeting may have influenced director James Mangold, but ultimately the casting decisions were not in the hands of Johnny or June, as Mangold indicates, "He was thrilled," the director said of Cash's reaction to the news that Phoenix would portray him in the biopic.
"John was a very trusting man. He was very easygoing, a very cool guy. When you've got someone like Joaquin who, frankly, is very similar, a very cool actor, John knew that we were moving in the right direction." -MTV Movie News
Did Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash see the movie Walk the Line?
No. Sadly, June and Johnny both passed away more than two years prior to the movie's November 2005 release. Before their deaths, they were both aware that a movie was in the works, and they knew that Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix would portray them on the big screen. In fact, they had worked with director James Mangold on the script.
The Walk the Line director told MTV News, "The one thing I feel like we did, working with John and June on the script," Mangold said of their collaboration before the subjects of "Line" passed away, "is we found a great frame, and a really great story about a real triumph — both musically, and in love." -MTV Movie News
Did Johnny and June's former lakeside home burn down in April 2007?
On Tuesday, April 10, 2007, the former home of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash was destroyed in a fire that left almost nothing except for the brick chimneys and the steel frame.
The house burned rapidly because construction workers had recently applied a flammable wood preservative to the exterior and interior of the house. Barry Gibb, vocalist for the Bee Gees, was restoring the Hendersonville, Tennessee home, located on Old Hickory Lake.
A corporation owned by Gibb had purchased the home in January 2006 for $2.3 million. Gibb and his wife Linda planned to write songs there. Neighbor Richard Sterban of the Oak Ridge Boys perhaps summed up the unfortunate devastation best, "Maybe it's the good Lord's way to make sure that it was only Johnny's house." -washingtonpost.com
Movie Performances vs. Real Life
Below you can enjoy a selection of performances from the movie Walk the Line. To the right of each song from the movie is a real life performance by the actual musicians, including Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, and Johnny's band, The Tennessee Two (later the Tennessee Three).
Johnny Cash Interviews & Related Videos
This Johnny Cash video section is constantly growing and changing as new videos become available. All of the vids are worth a look, but be sure to watch the Johnny Cash Hurt video, the interviews, and the video for his daughter Roseanne Cash's song "I was Watching You", which features pictures from his first marriage to Vivian Liberto.