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5 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Walk the Line’

Walk the Line

If you watch the 2005 hit movie ‘Walk the Line’ closely (and perhaps repeatedly), you’ll begin to pick up on nuanced bits of trivia and tributes carefully placed by director James Mangold and the creative talent behind the film. Years later you’ll also realize that a few characters who played bit roles in the movie have turned into much bigger stars.¬†

The story of the filming and pre-production of ‘Walk the Line’ is a textured, intense tale that involved years and years of planning before a studio would sign on to produce the movie. Leads Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon were praised for brilliant performances of Johnny and June Carter Cash, but their work wouldn’t have been as effective if it wasn’t for attention to detail by the crew.

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images


Joaquin Almost Didn’t Sing



Much hype was made of how Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon performed all the songs themselves, but the actor admitted after the film was released that he wasn’t certain that was the way to go until one week before shooting. Both went through rigorous vocal training with a band and T-Bone Burnett. The famed music producer believed in Phoenix, but the actor told Movieweb in 2005 that it wasn’t until a live show in Memphis that he really believed he could do it. With so much music featured in the film, he recognized that any other decision would have presented tremendous challenges.


Kevin Winter / Robin Jones, Getty Images
Kevin Winter / Robin Jones, Getty Images


Joaquin Phoenix Wasn’t Quite ‘Up’ for Playing Johnny Cash



He wasn’t, in a literal sense. Cash stood six foot, two inches tall, while Phoenix is only five feet, eight inches. The country legend gave his stamp of approval on the casting choice, however. ‘Gladiator’ was one of his favorite movies, and he thought the actor would do a fine job. Cash didn’t live to see the finished film, but he and Phoenix met on one¬†occasion. The country music legend brought the actor to his house for dinner with June before plans for the movie included him.


Frazer Harrison / Mark Mainz, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison / Mark Mainz, Getty Images


The Taylor Swift Connection



Two actors with roles in ‘Walk the Line’ went on to star in videos with Taylor Swift — and one even dated her! Actor Tyler Hilton played Elvis Presley in the film, and later was in Swift’s ‘Teardrops on My Guitar’ video. Lucas Till played young Jack Cash, Johnny’s brother who dies after a saw accident. Till would star in the ‘You Belong With Me’ video and later admit to dating Swift, saying she was a better kisser than Miley Cyrus.




The Prison Scenes Weren’t Shot in a Prison



Johnny Cash’s prison performances helped define his character and career as much as his long relationship with June Carter and the Carter family, but the film didn’t use an actual prison for the shoot. The star of the film reveals that early scenes that show Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash preparing to play for prisoners were staged on a set, with hundreds of rough-looking extras brought in to make it realistic.


Paul Hawthorne, Getty Images
Paul Hawthorne, Getty Images


Reese and Joaquin Didn’t Get Along



According to IMDB, the two leads spent six months bickering while each trained to manage their singing parts. When filming began, they became friends, and by the end each had more than a mutual respect for the other’s work ethic. In some ways, real life imitated art.


Next: the Top 10 Johnny Cash Songs

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