Ask Joaquin Phoenix what he thinks of his new movie, Walk the Line, and he gets uncomfortable. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say,” mumbles the 31-year-old actor. “I don’t watch movies I’m in.” If that’s true, Phoenix has missed some great flicks—including Hotel Rwanda, Gladiator and To Die Fornot to mention a few intense performances. His latest, as Johnny Cash, is his best to date. The nasally Californian does a remarkable job with Cash’s deep voice, southern accent and unique stage presence-all the while bringing to life the fiery love
story of Cash and June Carter (Reese Witherspoon).
Phoenix admires how Cash’s straightforward musical style stood out in an era of glossy pop and overly orchestrated country-and sees similarities in his own business. “About 10 years ago, I was working with Sean Penn on the movie U Turn," says Phoenix. “It was when CGI [computer-generated imagery] was coming up and he said, ‘No matter what they develop, no matter what technology comes along, you can never replicate the human heart.’ That’s like the power of John’s music.”
Yes, Phoenix can be a touch earnest and the kind of actor who talks about “the process,” but sometimes the most serious are the most electric onscreen. Not that he’d ever know it. SHANDA DEZIEL
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