Walk the Line

Walk the Line Information

Walk the Line is a 2005 American biographical drama film directed by James Mangold and based on the early life and career of country music artist Johnny Cash. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Robert Patrick.

The film focuses on Cash's younger life, his romance with June Carter, and his ascent to the country music scene, with material taken from his autobiographies. The film's production budget is estimated to have been US$28,000,000.

Walk the Line previewed at the Telluride Film Festival on September 4, 2005, and went into wide release on November 18. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon, which she won), and Best Costume Design (Arianne Phillips). The film grossed a total of $186,438,883 worldwide.


In 1968, an audience of inmates at Folsom State Prison cheer for Johnny Cash's band as he waits backstage near a table saw, reminding him of his early life.

In 1944, Johnny, then known as J.R., grows up the son of a share cropper on a cotton farm in Dyess, Arkansas, and is adept with hymnals, while his brother Jack is training himself to become a pastor. While Jack is sawing wood for a neighbor, J.R. goes fishing while he finishes. However, Jack injures himself with the saw, and dies of his injuries. Cash's strained relationship with his father Ray, becomes much more difficult after Jack's death. In 1950, J.R. enlists in the United States Air Force as Johnny Cash, and is posted in West Germany. One day in 1952, he finds solace in playing a guitar he bought and writing songs"?one of which will become "Folsom Prison Blues". Cash is eventually discharged, and marries his girlfriend Vivian Liberto. The couple move to Memphis, Tennessee, where Cash works as a door-to-door salesman to support his growing family. He walks past a recording studio, which inspires him to organize a band to play gospel music. Cash's band auditions for Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records. Phillips interrupts the audition and asks Cash to play a song that he really "feels", prompting them to play "Folsom Prison Blues". The band is contracted by Sun Records.

The band begins touring as Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. He meets many different artists on tour, including June Carter, with whom Cash soon falls in love. Cash begins spending more time with June, who divorces her first husband, Carl Smith. After an attempt by Cash to woo June backfires, he begins to take drugs and alcohol. After his behavior peaks during a performance with June, they go their separate ways. Over Vivian's objections, Johnny persuades June to come out of semi-retirement at an awards show and tour with him. The tour is a success, but backstage, Vivian is critical of June's influence. After one Las Vegas performance, Cash and June sleep together in her hotel room. The next morning, she notices Cash taking several pills and begins to doubt her choices. At that evening's concert, Cash, upset by Carter's apparent rejection, behaves erratically and eventually passes out. June disposes of Cash's drugs and begins to write "Ring of Fire", describing her feelings for Cash and her pain at watching him descend into addiction.

On his way home, Cash travels to Mexico to purchase more drugs and is arrested. Cash's marriage to Vivian begins to crumble and after a final violent dispute, the pair eventually divorce and Cash moves to Nashville in 1966. In an attempt to reconcile with June, Cash buys a large house near a lake in Hendersonville. His parents, and the extended Carter family, arrive for Thanksgiving, at which time Ray dismisses his son's achievements and behavior. After eating, June's mother"?aware of her daughter's true feelings toward Cash"?encourages her to help him. After a long detoxification period, Cash wakes up with June by his side. June says she, and God, have given Cash a second chance. Although not formally a couple, the two begin to spend most of their time with each other.

Cash discovers that most of his fan mail comes from prisoners, impressed with the outlaw image that Cash has cultivated. Cash visits his recording company he signed with in 1958, Columbia Records, and proposes that he record an album live inside Folsom Prison. Despite Columbia's doubts, Cash says that he will perform regardless and the label can use the tapes if they wish.

At the Folsom Prison concert, Cash tells how he always admired prisoners, explaining that his arrest for drug possession helped him to relate to them. The concert is a great success, and Cash embarks on a tour with June and his band.

While on a tour bus, Cash goes to see June in the back of the bus. Waking up June, he proposes to her, but she turns him down. At the next concert, June tells him that he is only allowed to speak with her on stage. There, Cash persuades June to join him in a duet. In the middle of the song, Cash stops playing, explaining that he cannot sing "Jackson" any more unless June agrees to marry him. June eventually accepts and they share a passionate embrace on stage. The two marry and eventually raise their kids together and spend time with their families.



Box office

Walk the Line was released on November 18, 2005 in 2,961 theaters, grossing USD$22.3 million on its opening weekend. It went on to earn $119.5 million in North America and $66.9 million in the rest of the world for a total of $186.4 million, well above its $28 million budget making it a box office success.


Critics generally responded with positive reviews, garnering an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Phoenix's performance inspired film critic Roger Ebert to write, "Knowing Johnny Cash's albums more or less by heart, I closed my eyes to focus on the soundtrack and decided that, yes, that was the voice of Johnny Cash I was listening to. The closing credits make it clear it's Joaquin Phoenix doing the singing, and I was gob-smacked". In her review for the Los Angeles Times, Carina Chocano wrote, "Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon do first-rate work "? they sing, they twang, they play new-to-them instruments, they crackle with wit and charisma, and they give off so much sexual heat it's a wonder they don't burst into flames". A.O. Scott, in his review for The New York Times, had problems with Phoenix's performance: "Even though his singing voice doesn't match the original - how could it? - he is most convincing in concert, when his shoulders tighten and he cocks his head to one side. Otherwise, he seems stuck in the kind of off-the-rack psychological straitjacket in which Hollywood likes to confine troubled geniuses". In his review for Time, Richard Corliss wrote, "A lot of credit for Phoenix's performance has to go to Mangold, who has always been good at finding the bleak melodrama in taciturn souls ... If Mangold's new movie has a problem, it's that he and co-screenwriter Gill Dennis sometimes walk the lines of the inspirational biography too rigorously".

Andrew Sarris, in his review for The New York Observer praised Witherspoon for her "spine-tingling feistiness", and wrote, "This feat has belatedly placed it (in my mind, at least) among a mere handful of more-than-Oscar-worthy performances this year". Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B+" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "while Witherspoon, a fine singer herself, makes Carter immensely likable, a fountain of warmth and cheer, given how sweetly she meshes with Phoenix her romantic reticence isn't really filled in". Baltimore Sun reviewer Michael Sragow wrote, "What Phoenix and Witherspoon accomplish in this movie is transcendent. They act with every bone and inch of flesh and facial plane, and each tone and waver of their voice. They do their own singing with a startling mastery of country music's narrative musicianship". In his review for Sight and Sound, Mark Kermode wrote, "Standing ovations, too, for Witherspoon, who has perhaps the tougher task of lending depth and darkness to the role of June, whose frighteningly chipper stage act - a musical-comedy hybrid - constantly courts (but never marries) mockery".

However, critics such as Jayson Harsin found the film to be too constrained by Hollywood plot formulas of love and loss, totally ignoring the last twenty years of Cash's life and other more socio-politically controversial reasons he was considered "the man in black." In addition, the Cashs' daughter, Rosanne Cash, was quite critical of the film. She saw a rough edit and described the experience like "having a root canal without anaesthetic." Her brother was instrumental in having the filmmakers remove two scenes that were not flattering to her mother. Furthermore, she said, "The movie was painful. The three of them [in the film] were not recognizable to me as my parents in any way. But the scenes were recognizable, and the storyline, so the whole thing was fraught with sadness because they all had just died, and I had this resistance to seeing the screen version of my childhood".

In addition, historians found accuracy issues with the film, such as a misleading time line that made it appear Cash was touring constantly with rockers such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison when in fact he worked the country concert circuit. The circumstances of his drug detox have also been disputed. Tennessee Three bassist Marshall Grant insists in his book "I Was There When It Happened" that Cash did not totally conquer his drug problems until 1970, not 1967 as shown in the film. The portrayal of Sam Phillips was also criticized as being too low-keyed, ignoring the real Phillips' larger-than-life persona.

Film critic Andrew Sarris ranked Walk the Line number seven in top films of 2005 and cited Reese Witherspoon as the best female performance of the year. Witherspoon was also voted Favorite Leading Lady at the 2006 People's Choice Awards. In addition, David Ansen of Newsweek ranked Witherspoon as one of the five best actresses of 2005.

Home media

On February 28, 2006, a single-disc DVD and a two-disc collector edition DVD were released; these editions sold three million copies on their first day of release. On March 25, 2008 a two-disc 'extended cut' DVD was released for region one. The feature on disc one is 17 minutes longer than the theatrical release, and disc two features eight extended musical sequences with introductions and documentaries about the making of the film. The film has been released on Blu-ray Disc in France and Sweden in the form of its extended cut. The American Blu-ray features the shorter theatrical cut.


Main article: Walk the Line (soundtrack)


See List of accolades received by Walk the Line for more information

Academy Awards record
1. Best Actress in a Leading Role (Reese Witherspoon)
Golden Globe Awards record
1. Best Motion Picture " Musical or Comedy
2. Best Actor in a Leading Role " Musical or Comedy (Joaquin Phoenix)
3. Best Actress in a Leading Role " Musical or Comedy (Reese Witherspoon)
BAFTA Awards record
1. Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon)
2. Best Sound
Witherspoon's performance was repeatedly recognized, including an Academy Award for Best Actress and awards such as the following:

  • BAFTA Award as Best Actress
  • Broadcast Film Critic Award as Best Actress
  • Golden Globe Award as Best Actress " Musical or Comedy
  • National Society of Film Critics Award as Best Actress
  • Online Film Critics Society award as Best Actress
  • Satellite Award as Best Actress " Musical or Comedy
  • Screen Actors Guild Award as Best Actress

Source material

  • Man in Black
  • Cash: The Autobiography

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Walk_the_Line" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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