15 Years Ago Today: Reese Witherspoon Wins Best Actress Oscar for ‘Walk the Line’
Reese Witherspoon was already a huge star by the time she accepted the role of June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, but her performance in the film catapulted her career to new levels. Witherspoon won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the film on March 5, 2006.
Screenwriters Gill Dennis and James Mangold drew from two different Johnny Cash autobiographies when they co-wrote the script for Walk the Line; 1975's Man in Black: His Own Story in His Own Words and 1997's Cash: The Autobiography. Their script explores some of the darker aspects of Cash's early life and how that impacted him over time more completely than either book, including the childhood death of his brother, Jack, and his bitter estrangement from his father, Ray.
Mangold directed the film, which focuses on Cash's struggles with fame and drugs, how that led to the dissolution of his first marriage and how he eventually turned his life around after falling in love with June Carter Cash, who would become his second wife.
He cast Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash, and their scenes together are the heart of the film, with him imbuing the legendary "Man in Black" with an endearing vulnerability that fans had never seen before, while she brings a harder, grittier edge to the character of June than her homespun persona hinted at in public.
Both Phoenix and Witherspoon provided the vocals for the electrifying concert sequences that were another highlight of Walk the Line, too, further cementing their performances.
Released on Nov. 18, 2005, Walk the Line was a huge box office hit, earning $22.3 million in its opening weekend and going on to gross $186.4 million, making it the highest-grossing music biopic of all time at that time.
The film was also a critical hit, earning positive and sometimes rave reviews. Phoenix won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and he also earned a nomination for Best Actor at the Academy Awards.
Witherspoon won Best Actress in the Academy Awards and gave an emotional speech, thanking her colleagues and calling the character of June " a real woman. Who has dignity and honor and fear and courage, and she's a real woman. And I really appreciate that."
Walk the Line was also nominated in the categories of Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.