M&C Quickie with ‘Walk the Line’s director James Mangold

The movie ‘Walk the Line’ portrays Johnny Cash in all his glory and all his excesses, over the course of three decades.

It is richly underscored by the ongoing relationship struggle between Johnny and June Carter and their initial ill-fated timing in matters of love.

It is their story that captivates your attention, and it’s the heart and soul of this movie. 

James Mangold skillfully chronicles the details of Johnny Cash’s hard life.  Cash’s humble, Arkansas sharecropper beginnings made bearable by young Cash’s love of music and old-time gospel hymns and radio shows such as the Grand Ole Opry, the National Barn Dance and the Wheeling Jamboree-some featuring the famous Carter Family and a very young June Carter singing. 

A tragic event in Cash’s childhood colors him with unresolved grief that haunts him throughout the movie.

Mangold takes us to Cash’s arrival on the music scene through successful recordings with Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, where he is immersed in the intense touring and recording world alongside American music trailblazers Jerry Lee Lewis (played brilliantly by Waylon Payne), Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings and Elvis Presley. 

The movie rocks with the flavor and sound of the forties, fifties and sixties with brilliant costuming and spot-on production design. 

Joaquin Phoenix does his own take on Cash’s voice, one of the most distinctive in music history. Reese Witherspoon is even better as June Carter. 

Both their looks were the result of combined efforts of costume designer Arianne Phillips, and makeup department head Jane Galli, Reese’s own make up artist, Brad Wilder, and hair department head Kathrine Gordon and Reese Witherspoon’s own hairstylist- Anne Morgan.  

Monsters and Critics was fortunate to have a conversation with James Mangold to talk “Walk the Line” and the new extended DVD release.



M&C: How involved were you in putting the extended footage / scenes in this re-mastered copy?
James Mangold: I supervised the restored footage with the editor and associate editor of the original film.
M&C: Would you label this extended version or director’s cut?  What is your opinion of “director’s cuts”? Marketing term or something you really have a hand in?
James Mangold: The theatrical release was my cut. Fox never forced any changes. This cut is simply a larger tapestry of scenes, twenty percent longer in length for fans of the film to go deeper into the world.
Regarding Director’s cuts on DVD – I am in full support of getting the director’s original vision out in the light of day.  Particularly when a studio forces changes (as Miramax did with ‘Kate and Leopold’).

In that case, I was grateful to be able to release my original cut and have audiences see it. In the case of ‘Walk the Line’, my goal was to provide fans with a larger canvas of the musical sequences (performed beginning to end) and to reinsert some amazing dramatic scenes, scenes in which Joaquin, Reese and the rest of the cast do amazing work and further flesh out John’s story.

Frankly, I think audiences are getting more and more interested in exploring worlds deeper and deeper.
M&C: How important was it for you to have the musical icons prominently in “Walk the Line” and notably casting Shooter Jennings as his father Waylon in the film?

James Mangold: It was very important that we recreate the moment when all these amazing talents were travelling together and taking the stage together.

But it was equally important to underplay the “iconic” nature of them (Elvis, Waylon, Roy, etc) because they weren’t huge stars yet (at the beginning of the film) and we wanted to capture the innocence when these kids first took the stage never knowing the stardom that was about to engulf them.

M&C: The film is one great scene after another. Which is your personal favorite?
James Mangold: I love when Joaquin and Reese sing “It Ain’t me Babe” at the Hollywood Bowl, madly in love with each other but unable to act on it.

I also love their first meeting at a diner early in the film. Lastly, the scene in which Joaquin auditions for Dallas Roberts playing Sam Phillips is an amazing and bold piece of acting (on both parts) that I never get tired of seeing.
M&C: Would you ever consider doing a Cash biopic film of his later years?
James Mangold: It’s a novel idea. Maybe when Joaquin turns fifty and I turn sixty. Just kidding.
M&C: Many directors keep their core key BTL crew, do you find yourself also doing this with each subsequent feature film you direct?
James Mangold: Most of the same people (DP, camera operator, Costume, casting, AD, Props. Script Supervisor) have worked with me on all of the last three films, some go even further back.

I really believe in the family you create on a set and particularly when you are trying to make something amazing happen against the odds and with too little money, it really helps to work with people you love and trust.

Walk the Line (Extended Cut) is now available at Amazon. As of yet, there is not a release date for this version of the DVD in the UK. Visit the DVD database for more information. Click Here to enter to win a copy of Walk the Line (Extended Cut)

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.