Country Throwback: Joaquin Phoenix Speaks on Meeting Johnny Cash, ‘Walk the Line’ in 2005 Interview

by Katie Maloney
Joaquin Phoenix during 20th Century Fox's "Walk the Line" Premiere at the Opening Night Gala of the AFI Fest 2005 at Cinemara Dome in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by E. Charbonneau/WireImage for 20th Century Fox Studios)

During an interview with Conan O’Brien, Joaquin Phoenix talks about his experience meeting Johnny Cash.

Walk The Line is a musical drama starring Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. The 2005 film chronicles the country music legend through both his successes and his battle with drugs and alcohol.

Phoenix’s interview with Late Night With Conan O’Brien begins with an impressed O’Brien stating, “You just become him.” O’Brien continues, “You forget that you’re an actor playing Johnny Cash. Which is the biggest hurdle in a bio pic.”

Joaquin Phoenix Is Fascinated By Johnny and June’s Love Story

During an interview with Indie London, Phoenix said that one of the most fascinating parts of Cash’s story is his relationship with June Carter.

 “His entire life is fascinating but I think, to me, what I love that James Mangold (Director of Walk The Line) brought out in the story is the love story. That was something I didn’t expect,” said Joaquin Phoenix. “It’s amazing. He met June – and this isn’t in the film – very early backstage at Grand Old Opera and they both were married [to other people] and he said he was going to marry her. Their love story is like a fairytale.”

Johnny And June Are “Beautifully Spiritual”

During his interview with O’Brien, Joaquin Phoenix talks about the couple again. If it isn’t clear, Phoenix spared no steps or emotions when he took on the role.

“I was invited over for dinner at his friend’s house,” said Phoenix. “I went over and it was an amazing experience, I can’t tell you what it was like. Words can’t describe what it was like. John and June were just beautiful people. And they sang this song together and looked into each other’s eyes. It was beautifully spiritual.”

Vocal Coaching Was The “Most Humiliating Process”

However, Cash’s love life isn’t the only thing that Joaquin Pheonix had to get acquainted with. As well as learning about Cash, Phoenix also had to work with a vocal coach to lower his voice for the film.

The process, Phoenix said, was “the most humiliating process I ever endured. Because you do these exercises, all these vowels. And you do like [noises] up and down. It’s so uncomfortable. And to transition as I hear this guy [making noise] – how do you go from that to [singing] ‘I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.'”