The much publicized Joaquin Phoenix appearance and screening of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line at Folsom Prison took place Tuesday; after the movie was shown, Phoenix performed some Cash songs for a select group of inmates, as the rest of the 4,000 prisoners watched on closed circuit TV from their cells. Phoenix was then given a tour, which gave him a first hand look at Folsom culture:
On a tour of the grounds - where guards with rifles patrolled in roof-level cages - he sought out prisoners as he walked through the cellblocks and the cafeteria where Cash had performed. He paused to sign forearms or sweatshirts, or just wave at men who shouted "Joaquin!" from their exercise yard.
Much of the prison has been on "lockdown," segregated by race and with strictly limited movement, since racial rioting broke out last October. Since the days when Cash sang here, Folsom has become more of a racial stew, with tension among black, Latino and white gang members. One yard had only black prisoners, who clamored to see Reese Witherspoon.
While it might seem peculiar that the NYT pointed out that only the black prisoners held a starry-eyed fascination with Phoenix's sunny, blonde Walk the Line co-star, even more unusual was when the actor was cornered in an exercise yard by a small army of neo-Nazi white supremacists, who bombarded him with questions of the "Do you know him? What's he like? Is he that dreamy in person?" variety regarding Witherspoon Just Like Heaven love interest Mark Ruffalo.