Russell Crowe Admits Turning Down Johnny Cash Biopic Is a Huge ‘Regret’

by Taylor Cunningham

Russell Crowe has been a Hollywood star for four decades now. And he’s joined the list of elite Oscar winners thanks to many wise decisions along the way. But he does have one overwhelming disappointment—turning down his chance to play Johnny Cash.

“The only [opportunity] I have a tinge of regret about, really, and possibly do regret, is turning down the Johnny Cash biopic,” he said.

In 2019, the Gladiator star talked with Nova FM’s Fitzy and Wippa and shared that the lead role in Walk the Line, the 2005 Johhny Cash biopic, was first offered to him. But he felt morally compelled to turn it down.

“It was one of those things of internal morality. It was like, ‘This is a dream job for me!’ I’d been playing [and] singing Johnny Cash songs since I was a little boy,” he said. “But I felt that I would be then getting stuff that I hadn’t earned.”

Crowe worried that the role would exploit his idol. And he had no interest in “climbing on Johnny Cash’s back to get Grammy nominations.”

“It just felt wrong to me,” he added.

Crowe wasn’t just a fan of the Country music star either. The two met and became friends a few years before Johnny Cash passed away in 2003. And Cash had similar respect for Crowe. At one point, he wrote the actor a letter telling him that he had seen Gladiator three times in the theater, and he was star-struck by Crowe’s performance.

Crowe admitted that the letter “touched his heart,” and he still cherishes it today.

Joaquin Phoenix Landed the Legendary Role of Johnny Cash

Eventually, the role of Johny Cash went to Joaquin Phoenix. And his fellow A-listers Reese Witherspoon and Ginnifer Goodwin played alongside him. Together, they helped the film earn four Oscar nominations. And Witherspoon took home a trophy for Best Actress.

Audiences proved to love the film as much as the Academy, too. Though Walk the Line was filmed on a budget of $28 million, it grossed over $180 million at the box office.

Russell Crowe was one of those audience members who were awe-struck by the movie. After watching the film, he realized that he was wrong to turn it down. The biopic did perfect justice to the iconic country singer, and Crowe wished he had been a part of the project.

“From the very first notes, when the camera is pushing through the prison, the knife jabs in the heart began,” he continued. “Not only did I want to do the movie, but it was the exact kind of movie I wanted to do.”