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Kristofferson keeps an eye on Cash biopic

Singer talks of possible Highwaymen reunion and about his old friend Cash
/ Source: The Associated Press

When the new Johnny Cash biopic “Walk The Line” opens in theaters Friday, Kris Kristofferson will probably be watching more closely than most.

As a close friend and collaborator of Cash’s, Kristofferson will have a rare perspective on the film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as his wife, June Carter Cash.

Besides writing songs recorded by Cash, Kristofferson teamed with Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings for three albums between 1985 and 1995 as the supergroup the Highwaymen.

The third of those, “The Road Goes on Forever,” has been reissued with six previously unreleased tracks. A behind-the-scenes documentary filmed in the studio by producer Don Was will be available Tuesday.

Kristofferson, 69, who stars with Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning in the new movie “Dreamer,” spoke with the AP recently from his home in Hawaii.

AP: Are you glad to see “Walk the Line” coming out?

Kristofferson: It looks promising. I’m glad Joaquin Phoenix did it because he’s a good actor. He has that dark quality that, at that time in John’s life, was pretty prominent.

AP: You have an unusual perspective being an actor as well as Johnny Cash’s friend. Will you be watching the movie with a critical eye?

Kristofferson: Mostly, I’ll be looking at it as a guy who worshipped John. I remember the film on Jerry Lee Lewis that I hated because he’s such a unique artist and that side of him ... I thought the whole thing didn’t have respect for him as an artist. And he’s one of the great American voices of all time. John is as well, so it’s got to be hard.

AP: The new reissue, “The Road Goes on Forever,” was the least commercially successful of the Highwaymen’s three albums. How do you feel about it artistically?

Kristofferson: I really like it. It seems like we had a real feeling for a lot of the songs. My favorite on the whole thing was probably Waylon’s “I Do Believe.” I thought it holds up pretty well.

AP: Do you think there will ever be another Highwaymen album, without Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings?

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AP: What was it like working with that original lineup?

Kristofferson: I think I was different from the other guys in that I came in it as a fan of all of them. I had a respect for them when I was still in the Army. When I went to Nashville they were like major heroes of mine because they were people who took the music seriously. To be not only recorded by them but to be friends with them and to work side by side was just a little unreal. It was like seeing your face on Mount Rushmore.

AP: Are there more unreleased tracks out there?

Kristofferson: I didn’t know there were any. I don’t even remember doing “Closer to the Bone” (his acoustic demo on the reissue). I wouldn’t be surprised if Don Was has some more.

AP: You’ve been performing a lot of solo shows lately, just you and your guitar. What’s that been like?

Kristofferson: I never had the nerve to do it before. I did it this last couple of years because I was making a film in Scotland and got an offer to play some gigs in Dublin. Rather than mobilize everybody, I figured I’d just do it myself. It puts a focus on the songs that’s different from playing with a band. So far it’s working.

AP: Do you consider your work with the Highwaymen some of the most rewarding of your career?

Kristofferson: When I look back now — I know I hear Willie say it was the best time of his life. For me, I wish I was more aware how short of a time it would be. It was several years, but it