Cash's sense of humor had its limits, though, best illustrated in a scene where June rejects some corny, demeaning lines written for her as she was about to sing on Johnny's television variety show. Johnny backs her up.
There was certainly nothing funny about the years of drug abuse she had to put up with, both at the beginning of their romance and later in life. Johnny Cash, portrayed by Matt Ross in "Ring of Fire," is admitted to the Betty Ford Center after June told him in an intervention that if he didn't take care of his problem, he'd lose his wife.
When she visits Johnny at Betty Ford, June is surprised when a therapist turns to her and says she needs to talk with a professional, too. She had to take her own health into account, and Jewel noted that June suffered back pain and other physical problems perhaps brought on by the mental strain.
"It's very common for the spouses of addicts to die before the addicts because the stress of addiction is worse than the drug," Jewel said. June Carter Cash died of complications from heart surgery in 2003, four months before Johnny Cash died.
Beyond the usual pressures involved in trying to make a good movie, Jewel and the filmmakers had to deal with the legacy of "Walk the Line." It was a popular, well-regarded film that earned Reese Witherspoon an Academy Award for playing the same character that Jewel was about to tackle. Koch said he didn't worry about the comparison because "Ring of Fire" is a different movie told from a different perspective.
Jewel said she saw "Walk the Line" when it came out and was impressed with the movie and Witherspoon's performance. She didn't go back and watch it again after agreeing to the part; there was plenty of footage of June herself available to study in preparing for the role.
"I was aware that her winning the Oscar would put a lot of pressure on me," she said. "She hit a high standard, so I knew I had to hit at least as high a standard because I would be compared to that. But I like that kind of pressure. I think that's one of the reasons that I took the job, because I knew it would be a difficult role — not just because of Reese winning the Oscar, but because it was a difficult script. I had to have a full-on breakdown. It wasn't just a sweet love story."
EDITOR'S NOTE — David Bauder can be reached at dbauder(at)ap.org or on Twitter (at)dbauder. His work can be found at http:bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder.
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