''Walk the Line'' promos leave stars on the sidelines -- 20th Century Fox is preaching simplicity with campaign for Johnny Cash biopic

? THE IMAGE Simple. Powerful. Iconic. And zero star treatment. It’s nearly unheard-of for a studio to pass up the opportunity to exploit stars as bankable as Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, who play Johnny and June Carter Cash in Twentieth Century Fox’s biopic Walk the Line, out Nov. 18. But then, the legend of Cash is nothing to sneeze at either. ”The people at Fox realized that Johnny Cash’s legacy was about simplicity,” says the artist, Shepard Fairey. ”If I was doing it for myself and didn’t have to please Fox, I would have done the same thing,” he adds. ”I never thought that they’d go for something so simple.”

? CASH VS. PHOENIX For the record, that’s Phoenix, not Cash, on the poster. Still, says Fox co-president of domestic theatrical marketing Tony Sella, ”I don’t see that as a Joaquin poster. That’s a Johnny Cash poster.” Phoenix and Witherspoon get their due in three additional black-and-white posters featuring in-character photos.

? WHY IT WORKS ”A photographic image of Phoenix wouldn’t suspend disbelief the way a graphic image would,” says Fairey. Adds Sella: ”[Shepard] came up with an iconic image that got everyone’s attention.” So much so that Fox built its entire Walk the Line site around it.

Walk the Line
  • Movie
  • 136 minutes