It was probably inevitable. Joaquin Phoenix is going to jail. Sort of.
Reprising Johnny Cash‘s historic appearance at Folsom State Prison, the Golden Globe-nominated actor will appear at a special screening of "Walk the Line" at the Represa, Calif., penitentiary on Jan. 3.
The appearance is being promoted as being reminiscent of Cash’s concert there on Jan. 13, 1968. Despite strong resistance from his record label, Cash performed at the prison after getting thousands of letters from inmates around the U.S. about how his music put them on the path to redemption.
This time, Folsom’s prison fellowship and the Folsom Chaplain Larry West extended the invitation to the studio to screen the Cash biopic for their inmates. As Joe Avila, California executive director of the prison fellowship explains, “The lesson of Johnny Cash is that it’s never too late for a man to turn his life around, and that’s a story these men need to hear.”
Not to sound too cynical, but from an Oscar campaign perspective, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if the story of this historically well-timed Folsom screening — and Phoenix’s Cash-like appearance — is also heard in Hollywood and inspires more academy members to, um, walk the line.
Remember, those Oscar ballots aren’t due until Jan. 21, 2006.
Photo: Joaquin Phoenix portrays Johnny Cash performing at Folsom Prison in "Walk The Line."
(Universal Studios / Suzanne Tenner)