Russell Crowe still regrets passing on playing Johnny Cash in ‘Walk the Line’

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Walk the Line isn’t one of my all-time favorite films, but I enjoy it. I enjoy Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Johnny Cash, and I enjoy Reese Witherspoon’s performance as June Carter (Cash). Joaquin and Reese had a lot of chemistry, and that helped sell the movie and their individual performances as those two iconic country stars. Even though neither of them was a “perfect fit” for those roles, it really worked, and both were nominated for awards across the board, with Reese even taking home the Best Actress Oscar. My point is that even though the film is far from perfect, I like it just as it is and I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing a better job in those roles. But according to Russell Crowe, he was offered the role of Johnny Cash before Joaquin, and he turned it down for reasons, and then he was sick about it once he saw the film:

Russell Crowe turned down the opportunity to star in a major Hollywood biopic. Speaking to Nova FM’s Fitzy and Wippa on Sunday, the actor revealed he was offered his ‘dream role’ to play musician Johnny Cash in 2005 movie Walk The Line. Russell explained that he decided against going ahead with the role because he felt that taking it would have led to him receiving praise he didn’t think he ‘had earned’.

During his chat with the radio hosts, Russell was asked if there was a role he’d been offered throughout his stellar movie career that he now regrets turning down.

‘The only one I have a tinge of regret about, really, and possibly do regret is turning down the Johnny Cash biopic,’ he confessed. ‘It was one of those things of internal morality. It was like, “This is a dream job for me!” I’d been playing, singing Johnny Cash songs since I was a little boy, but I felt that I would be then getting stuff that I hadn’t earned.’

Russell explained that he felt like he’d be ‘climbing on Johnny Cash’s back to get Grammy nominations’ and said: ‘It just felt wrong to me.’

Although, he did admit that as soon as he saw the film, he was left questioning his decision. ‘From the very first notes, when the camera is pushing through the prison, the knife jabs in the heart began,’ he said. Sharing his thoughts at the time, Russell added: ‘Not only did I want to do the movie, but it was the exact kind of movie I wanted to do.’

[From The Daily Mail]

I think it’s fine for an actor to have regrets about turning down a role which later became another actor’s iconic performance. I even think it’s fine to talk about those regrets publicly as long as there’s some kind of context. But this came across as a bit rude towards Joaquin, right? I mean, Russell is praising the film and saying it turned out better than he could have imagined, but it also feels like Crowe is saying that looking back on it, he should have done it because maybe he could have done it better? Maybe I’m reaching with that, I know, but that’s why most actors don’t talk about which films they passed on, because it’s rude. Joaquin did a great job as Cash, and I believe Joaquin did a better job than Russell ever would have.

Just a reminder of what Russell looked like around that time. He really was one of the hottest actors out there, so it makes sense that he was offered the role. But still. Joaquin did it better.

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32 Responses to “Russell Crowe still regrets passing on playing Johnny Cash in ‘Walk the Line’”

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  1. Megan says:

    I have no regrets he turned down the role.

  2. Rapunzel says:

    As someone who had to endure Crowe’s singing in Les Miserables, I am definitely not regretting the role went to JP.

  3. CharliePenn says:

    Joaquin is one of those actors who is so good, you can’t imagine anyone else having played the role. I’m sure he’s unruffled by grumpy old Russell’s regretting ass

    • SM says:

      Exactly. Joaquin made that role. He is intense, yet vulnerable, needless to say, he has a voice that can carry a tune, Russell is minimising that, saying that the film still would be as good if he was in it instead of Joaquin. I’m thinking Russell probably is also pissy because Joaquin wasn’t the lead in Gladiator but basically outshined his ass anyway

      • LadyT says:

        I think both men are great actors. Crowe in Gladiator is one of my all time favorites. Joaquin was superb as Johnny Cash. I don’t get the impression Crowe was discrediting Phoenix at all- in fact he admired the final movie and regrets not taking the part. That’s a compliment, not a diss.

  4. Digital Unicorn says:

    Am glad he turned down the role, Phoenix and Witherspoon really made that movie. Their chemistry was palpable and seemed to match the chemistry Johnny and June had in real life.

  5. Becks1 says:

    The movie was really good. I’m not sure how RC would have been in it, but I don’t think he’s being rude to joaquin by saying he regrets passing on it.

    • Melody calder says:

      This to me is the rude part:
      but I felt that I would be then getting stuff that I hadn’t earned.’

      Russell explained that he felt like he’d be ‘climbing on Johnny Cash’s back to get Grammy nominations’ and said: ‘It just felt wrong to me.’

      As in, any accolades came from the character, not the person playing the character- as in, JP wasn’t good because JP is good, he was good because cash was good.

      Maybe im interpreting that wrong

      • Meg says:

        No I agree with u, that’s how I read it too. I disagree with Russell assuming he would’ve been recognized for the role, Tom Hiddleston played an iconic country music singer and didn’t get recognized for it so it’s not a given.

      • Robinda says:

        That’s how I interpreted it, too. The whole thing seemed very much like a backhanded slap at JP.

      • Becks1 says:

        I just thought it was a weird thing to say, bc I didn’t think it was like JP won all these Grammys for the role, did he? I dunno, it didn’t strike me as rude, just weird, but its Russell crowe, and he can be weird at times.

      • Rapunzel says:

        I kind of read it as “I’d be so good as Cash cause I sang his songs all the time at home that I’d win all these Grammys I don’t deserve, so I graciously pulled out because I’m so humble.”

    • Carol says:

      I didn’t think RC was being rude either. To me, sounds like he is just stating he wished he did the movie. I don’t hear a diss against Joaquin Phoenix. Btw – I love that movie and JP and Reece were perfect together. It’s the first time I heard Reece sing snd she has a fantastic voice.

  6. Jemimaleopard says:

    Joaquin did a fantastic job and if Crowe’s singing in Les Miserables is anything to go by it’s probably for the best he turned it down!! Side note: wow Russell has really let himself go right?? Imagine what the press would say if that was a woman, and she certainly wouldn’t work with the same frequency he does!

  7. Kym says:

    I’m guessing that he was not entertained.

  8. AnnaKist says:

    Seems like Mr Crowe s the only one who regrets passing up the role. Move on, mate.

  9. I actually like Russell’s singing in les Mis-he just has a much weaker voice than one would expect,and that whole movie left so many disappointed because none of them compared to the actual broadway performers (except Aaron Tveit as Engelros,who was already an established broadway performer)Anyway…Crowe was not the choice for Walk the Line,it was great exactly as it was.Reading this article just reminded me that Joaquin and Russel were in gladiator together-wander if they got along well back then,could he be throwing some shade at Joaquin??Oh well..they were both much much hotter in2005,but hey so was I 😄

  10. Lynne says:

    I dont think he intentionally put Joaquin down, just its more that he is all about
    Me..me,,me,,.
    Joaquin was JC. Nobody could have done it better.

    • minx says:

      Yeah, I’m not defending the oaf—maybe a little—but I think he’s regretting turning down a great part. No slam against Joaquin. But still, RC should have just kept his mouth shut.

    • Spicecake38 says:

      Yeah wasn’t he just recently spouting off about turning down another role,like maybe a week or two ago?

  11. Christin says:

    I cannot imagine anyone surpassing Joaquin’s version of Johnny. At the time, I thought his portrayal was better than Reese’s version of June (though she ultimately won the Oscar).

    A lot of time and effort went into Walk the Line. Both Joaquin and Reese spent six months just studying vocals before filming began. It took over 10 years to get from Johnny’s idea of a movie to the big screen. The only criticism I ever recall came from Johnny’s daughters (from his first marriage). They didn’t like how their mother was portrayed.

    Johnny was admittedly a complex guy. He was actually rather shy and had simple tastes when on his own time. June kept her homeplace in rural Virginia, and they would visit often. In a way I wish there would be a film made about those last years, but it would be terribly sad. His last (unannounced) public performance was at her family’s small performing venue near her homeplace. It would have been her birthday week. She had passed the month before, and he joined her less than three months later.

  12. nikki says:

    We dodged a bullet.

  13. LRob says:

    Sorry Russ. Your singing almost destroyed Les Miz. You could NOT have done Walk the Line

  14. Jen says:

    My internal bitch translator spat this out- “I could have done it, I wanted to do it. But I’m far too ethical and noble to use another star’s story to use as my pedestal. But now I’m pissy because it turned out so well and that could have been meeeeee”

  15. kerwood says:

    Crowe is assuming that the film would have been just as good (or better!) with him in it and I don’t think that’s a fair assumption to make. Russell Crowe is a very good actor but he has weaknesses. He seems to think of himself as a singer and anyone who has witnessed him perform with his band will say that he’s NOT a singer, he’s an actor who THINKS he’s a singer.

    Casting Russell Crowe as Johnny Cash would have been almost as big a mistake as casting Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams which was tragic.

  16. Anna says:

    IMHO RC was never hot, but that’s not the point. Joaquin KILLED that role. Nobody else could have played it on that level. Plus, he really actually looks like Johnny Cash.

  17. Parigo says:

    JP doesn’t look or sound like Cash but he absolutely killed it. It was such a courageous, no holds barred performance that I don’t think anyone could top.