Todd Peterson
August 22, 2005 12:00 PM

Joaquin Phoenix is shooting down reports that he suffered a breakdown while filming the upcoming Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line.

Tabloid stories claimed that Phoenix hit his head on a bedpost while filming a particularly emotional scene recalling the death of Cash’s brother – prompting speculation that Phoenix was drawing from his experience with the death of his own brother, River, who died in 1993.

“You know, the press has kind of imposed upon me the title of Mourning Brother, and because I haven’t been vocal about it, the assumption is that I’m holding onto this (stuff) that’s just not there,” he tells Newsweek.

In fact, Phoenix says he was just trying to get into the emotional state of his character, a young Cash going through drug withdrawal.

“I don’t need to pull from my experience for a character, and I’ve never understood why actors would, except for lack of ability, imagination or research,” he says. “I had all three things, so this is a little frustrating to me.”

The 30-year-old actor blasts attempts to establish a link between his acting and the real life tragedy of his brother’s death as “slightly exploitative.” “It kind of makes me sick,” he added.

Early reports of the film, which also stars Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash, indicate Phoenix’s performance is the real deal. Both he and Witherspoon do their own singing in the film. Phoenix learned 26 Cash songs for the movie, Newsweek reports.

Still, Cash and Phoenix did share addiction problems, as Phoenix checked himself into an alcohol rehab facility earlier this year. But the similarities end there, he said. “That’s not the way my brain works.”

Walk the Line opens Nov. 18.

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