Joaquin Phoenix on What He Believes Ultimately Saved Johnny Cashs Life: I dont know if its one thing. I dont think in 68 everything turned around for him and everything was better and his life changed forever. It was an ongoing process. All these different forces came together, and June was obviously a big part of that in helping him to achieve sobriety and to maintain it. I think through that he kind of, in some ways, fell back in love with music and with the stories that he wanted to tell.
I think he was able to reconnect to an audience. Because I think, you know, at some point it must have been very hard to maintain that connection. I think that it was so vital to Johns experience as an artist was maintaining a connection with his audience. The power of Johns music is the real sense of intimacy. You always feel like youre right there in the room with him. Even at the height of his fame, he would still play shows in the back of a f**king pick-up truck and s**t. You know what I mean? Its amazing and we dont see that anymore.
I think his shows werent about dazzling you with lights and costume changes. Its just a man on a stage, very unpretentious. But I think because of the touring schedule and because of his drug abuse, I think that inevitably he disconnected from what initially inspired him. So I think that, you know, through June and I think through his faith, he found that connection again.
Joaquin Phoenix on Pursuing Music Now That Hes Finished With Walk the Line: I like music. Ive always liked music. I didnt understand it at all and Ive a great understanding, a great appreciation now for it. But, you know, I didnt pick up the guitar. It was like a month ago was the first time I picked up a guitar since I finished the film. I always just like drop something when Im done with it.
No, I wont be recording anything. Ill do stuff for myself now that I have a great understanding. If I ever direct something one day, I have a greater understanding of music to work with a composer. Even though its very helpful to me, I wont continue writing songs or anything.
Joaquin Phoenix on Being Cast as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line: Phoenix doesnt have a background in music and hes not even the same size as Johnny Cash, so how did he wind up playing the musician in Walk the Line? Phoenix said, I assume its Mangold. I dont really know how that comes about. Thank you for pointing out the size difference (laughing). Yeah, Im not sure. There are probably many people that were considered. Of course, I read a script and I have a list of 10 people that should do this instead of me, that are much more qualified. But I dont know. You want to think its because Jim [Mangold] does research and knows how I work and knows that I would be really committed to this. But I dont know.
Everyone in film, you just theorize and you kind of hope for the best. Everyone has these ideas but sometimes you just get f**king lucky. They kind of go like, Ahhh, they have this quality. I think they look good with this person. Or, I imagine theyd have good chemistry. You kind of just dont know. I dont know what that first idea was, why he thought it might work.
Joaquin Phoenix on the Oscar Buzz and His Sense of Accomplishment After Playing Johnny Cash in Walk the Line: Well really, for me, like my sense of accomplishment comes when I finish something and I know that Im completely spent, and I know that Ive done everything that I can. I think that whats mattered most is what Ive heard from the family and the people that were close to John. To have Kris Kristofferson come up and say, Thank you so much for doing this. You did John proud. Thats all that I could ask for.
Joaquin Phoenixs Research on Johnny Cash: Phoenix turned to whatever resources he could get his hands on to portray Cash on the screen. But there were times his research led him to discovering interesting facts about Johnny Cashs life that couldnt be included in the film. Phoenix said, Oh man, there were so many things. I mean, the toughest thing about researching someone like John is that every time you turn the page in his book you go, Oh, this is amazing. Now how do we not tell this story? Its really hard but at some point you really have to focus on the story that the director is trying to tell, and look for the research material that includes that.
On Pushing Through Objections to Get What He Wants: In a crucial scene in Walk the Line, Johnny Cash has to convince record producer Sam Phillips that he needs to record an album immediately. Phoenix said he could relate to that scene. Of course. Certainly as an actor youve had that experience all the time. Early on, even now still, theres rejection. And you have to be really committed to what it is that you want to do. And certainly Ive had experiences that changed my life.