Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a 2007 American comedy film directed by Jake Kasdan, and written by Kasdan and co-producer Judd Apatow. It stars John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows and Kristen Wiig. The plot echoes the storyline of 2005's Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line and 2004's Ray Charles biopic Ray. Walk Hard is a parody of the biopic genre as a whole.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Promotional poster, satirizing the famous Jim Morrison pose
Directed byJake Kasdan
Produced byJudd Apatow
Jake Kasdan
Clayton Townsend
Written byJudd Apatow
Jake Kasdan
Music byMichael Andrews
CinematographyUta Briesewitz
Edited byTara Timpone
Steve Welch
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • December 21, 2007 (2007-12-21)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$35 million[2]
Box office$20.6 million[2]

As Walk Hard heavily references the film Walk the Line, the Dewey Cox persona is mostly based on Johnny Cash; but the character also includes elements of the lives and careers of Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Donovan, John Lennon, James Brown, Jim Morrison, Conway Twitty, Neil Diamond, Hank Williams, and Brian Wilson. The film portrays fictional versions of artists Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles; also, some artists play themselves, including Eddie Vedder and Ghostface Killah. In addition, the film parodies or pays tribute to the musical styles of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Van Dyke Parks with Brian Wilson, and seventies punk rock.

The film was released in North America on December 21, 2007. It received positive reviews from critics, but was a box office bomb - grossing only $20 million against a $35 million budget. The film has since developed a cult following.


In Springberry, Alabama, 1946, young Dewey Cox accidentally cuts his brother Nate in half with a machete. The trauma causes Dewey to lose his sense of smell. Dewey meets a blues guitarist, who discovers Dewey is a natural musician.

In 1953, after a successful talent show performance, mostly due to the town of Springberry and his father wants him to leave and not come back when they call Dewey's song the devil's music, 14-year-old Dewey leaves Springberry with his 12-year-old girlfriend Edith; they soon marry and have a baby. Working at an all-African American nightclub, Dewey replaces singer Bobby Shad onstage and impresses Hasidic Jewish record executive L'Chaim.

While recording a rockabilly rendition of "That's Amore," Dewey is berated by an executive. A desperate Dewey performs "Walk Hard," a song inspired by a speech he gave Edith, which restores the executive's belief in Judaism and rockets Dewey to superstardom.

The song becomes a hit within 35 minutes, and Dewey becomes caught up in the rock-and-roll lifestyle. Dewey is introduced to marijuana by his drummer Sam, and becomes unfaithful to Edith. Dewey's father informs him that his mother has died while dancing to Dewey's song, and blames Dewey's music for her death. Distraught, Dewey finds Sam using cocaine and partakes, resulting in a cocaine-fueled punk rock performance. Choirgirl Darlene Madison enters Dewey's life, and he produces several hit records amid their courtship laden with sexual tension. He weds Darlene while still married to Edith, which leads to both women leaving him, after which Dewey purchases drugs from an undercover cop. After he serves time in prison and in rehab, Darlene returns.

They move to Berkeley, California in 1966 at the beginning of the counterculture movement. Dewey's new singing style is compared to that of Bob Dylan, which Dewey angrily denies. In the next scene, a music video shows that Dewey's new song mimics Dylan's style, including opaque lyrics ("The mouse with the overbite explained/how the rabbits were ensnared/ and the skinny scanty sylph/ trashed the apothecary diplomat/ inside the three-eyed monkey/ within inches of his toaster-oven life."). On a band visit to India, Dewey takes LSD with The Beatles, leading to a "Yellow Submarine"-esque hallucination. Dewey becomes obsessed with every aspect of the recording process and is consumed with creating his masterpiece "Black Sheep" (a homage to Brian Wilson's "Smile"). The band resents his insane musical style and abusive behavior, and breaks up; Darlene, also unable to deal with Dewey, leaves him for Glen Campbell. During another stint in rehab, Dewey is visited by the ghost of Nate, who ridicules his self-pity and tells him to start writing songs again.

In the 1970s, Dewey now hosts a CBS variety television show, but is unable to compose a masterpiece for his brother (In the director's cut, Dewey remarries again, this time to Cheryl Tiegs). Nate reappears and urges Dewey to reconcile with their father; despite an emotional confrontation, his father challenges Dewey to a machete duel, but cuts himself in half. In his dying moments, he forgives Dewey and tells him to be a better father. Dewey breaks down and destroys almost everything in his home.

Dewey is approached by one of his illegitimate children, and decides to spend time with his many offspring. In 1992, a divorced Darlene returns to Dewey. Finally realizing what is most important to him, Dewey regains his sense of smell and remarries Darlene.

In the present day, L'Chaim's son Dreidel informs Dewey of his popularity with young listeners through rapper Lil' Nutzzak's sampling of "Walk Hard." Dewey learns he is to receive a lifetime achievement award; at the ceremony, he is reluctant to perform his hit song, fearing his old temptations. However, with his family’s support, he reunites with his band and is finally able to create one great masterpiece, summing up his entire life with his final song, "Beautiful Ride." A title card reveals that Dewey died three minutes after this final performance, which then also reads "Dewford Randolph Cox, 1936-2007"

Following the credits is a short black-and-white clip of "The actual Dewey Cox, April 16, 2002" (still played by Reilly).



Production and development

I just had this idea to do a fake biopic—or a real biopic about a fake person—and follow a musician's career trajectory.

—Jake Kasdan, 2007[3]

Jake Kasdan brought the idea to his friend and fellow director Judd Apatow. They then began writing the film together.[3] The tongue-in-cheek references in this fake biopic were drawn from various sources. Apatow and Kasdan noted that they watched various types of biopics for inspiration, including those of Jimi Hendrix and Marilyn Monroe.[4] Despite the humorous approach, the film was crafted in the serious tone of films earmarked for an Oscar, adding to the irony.[5]

John C. Reilly, who actually sings and plays guitar, was chosen to play the title role. "We took the clichés of movie biopics and just had fun with them," Reilly said.[3] The "deliberate miscasting" of celebrity cameos, such as Elvis Presley and The Beatles, was intended to enhance the comedy.[6] The film's poster is a reference to the "young lion" photos of Jim Morrison.[7]


On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 74% based on 134, classifying it as "certified fresh".[8] On Metacritic the film has a score of 63 out of 100 based on reviews from 22 critics.[9]

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars.[10] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine wrote: "The tricky thing about parody movies is that the jokes get old fast and they're hit-and-miss. Walk Hard, a spoof of every musical biopic from "Ray" to "Walk the Line," is guilty on both counts. How lucky that when the jokes do hit, they kick major ass."[11]

The film was not commercially successful, taking $18 million at the US box office which was less than the film's $35 million budget.[2]

John C. Reilly received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance in a Musical or Comedy and a nomination for Best Original Song.[12]

Home media

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 8, 2008.[13] In the opening weekend, 263,001 DVD units were sold, generating revenue of $5,110,109. As of May 2010, DVD sales have gathered revenue of $15,664,735.[14]

Promotional appearances

Along with a backing band "the hardwalkers", Reilly made seven musical appearances as Dewey Cox in the weeks prior to the film's release date.[15]

  • December 5, 2007 - Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland, OH)
  • December 6, 2007 - The Cubby Bear (Chicago, IL)
  • December 7, 2007 - Stubb's BBQ (Austin, TX)
  • December 8, 2007 - Mercy Lounge (Nashville, TN)
  • December 10, 2007 - Great American Music Hall (San Francisco, CA)
  • December 11, 2007 - The Blacksheep (Colorado Springs, CO)
  • December 13, 2007 - Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd. (Los Angeles, CA)
  • December 19, 2007 - Knitting Factory (New York, NY)
  • December 19, 2007 - Performed in the character of Dewey Cox on Good Morning America.[16]

Several fake commercials were aired including one with John Mayer, hinting Dewey might be his father.


Singer-songwriters Dan Bern and Mike Viola (of the Candy Butchers) wrote most of the film's songs, including "There's a Change a Happenin'", "Mulatto", "A Life Without You (Is No Life at All)", "Beautiful Ride" and "Hole in My Pants". Charlie Wadhams wrote the song "Let's Duet". Marshall Crenshaw wrote the title song, and Van Dyke Parks penned the Brian Wilson-esque 1960s-styled psychedelic jam "Black Sheep" (the recording session seems to be a specific parody of Wilson's Smile album sessions, on which Van Dyke Parks worked).[3] Antonio Ortiz wrote "Take My Hand". A number of critics noted the unusually high quality of many of the individual songs on the soundtrack, how well they reflected the styles and times they were attempting to parody, and how well they stood on their own as quality compositions. The soundtrack was nominated for both a Grammy and Golden Globe Award and was nominated and won the Sierra Award for Best Song in a Motion Picture from the Las Vegas Film Critics Society. John C. Reilly sang on all the tracks and played guitar on most of them.


  1. "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  2. "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)". Box Office Mojo. January 13, 2008. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  3. Hiatt, Brian (2007-08-09), "The Next 'Spinal Tap'?". Rolling Stone. (1032):20
  4. Apatow, Kasdan and Reilly Walk Hard. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  5. Breznican, Anthony (2007-09-11), "'Walk Hard' riffs on greatest rockers", USA Today
  6. Breznican, Anthony (11/23/2007), "'Walk Hard' takes a run at musical legends", USA Today
  7. Faraci, Devin (2007-11-29) "THE DEVIN'S ADVOCATE: THE JUDD APATOW BACKLASH" CHUD.com Retrieved 2007-12-13
  8. "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  9. "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story". Metacritic.
  10. Ebert, Roger (December 21, 2007). "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  11. Travers, Peter (December 13, 2007). "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story". Rolling Stone.
  12. "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story nominations". Golden Globes. Retrieved November 24, 2019.
  13. "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  14. "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story - DVD Sales". The Numbers. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  15. "John c. reilly leads "cox across america tour" in character". Paste Magazine. December 3, 2007.
  16. "Dewey Cox performance on Good Morning America". Good Morning America. December 19, 2007.
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