Five Favorite Films

Five Favorite Films With Billy Ray Cyrus

The co-star of Hannah Montana: The Movie shares his favorite films, his influences, and how David Lynch helped Miley get into showbiz.

by | April 7, 2009 | Comments

Billy Ray Cyrus

Art imitates life (and vice versa) in Hannah Montana: The Movie, in which teen idol Miley Cyrus stars as the titular character, a 16-year-old A-list celebrity desperately trying to balance stardom with her normal life. That normal life is her “real” life as Miley Stewart, a high schooler whose pop identity is only known to family and friends and who is about to get a wake-up call in the form of an extended stay in the homegrown Tennessee countryside where she grew up, courtesy of dad Robby Ray Stewart (played by Miley’s real-life father, country music star-turned-actor Billy Ray Cyrus). RT talked to the elder Cyrus about his favorite films, his transition from “Achy Breaky Heart” recording artist to Hollywood thespian, and how he credits David Lynch (and a letter from Johnny Cash) with helping daughter Miley become the teen entertainment phenomenon that she is today.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967, 91% Tomatometer)

Bonnie and Clyde
Oh my gosh! The incredible acting; the performances that are delivered in such an incredible true story. It’s a great film.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966, 98% Tomatometer)

The Good The Bad and The Ugly
Clint Eastwood is an inspiration to me as an actor. He, Robert Redford, and Michael Landon, might be three of my biggest influences as an actor. In each of those cases, it’s the fact that they play everything with a “less is more” style. There’s just something about that style that I try to tap into every now and then; it’s definitely my approach to a lot of things.

The Horse Whisperer (1998, 71% Tomatometer)

Horse Whisperer
I’m just a sucker for a good love story. And that would be another of my influences by Robert Redford. He’s been a definitive inspiration as an actor and as a role model, if you will.

Blue Velvet (1986, 90% Tomatometer)

Blue Velvet
Let’s go with Elephant Man — no, I’m going to go with Blue Velvet, for my David Lynch pick. I’m going to go with Blue Velvet because I love Roy Orbison so much. He was a great influence on me musically, and still is. That’s when I kind of put two and two together — with Blue Velvet — and thought, film is a great way for your music to be heard, without radio. It’s a great way for your music to be heard.

And that came out before you actually met David Lynch and starred in his film, Mulholland Dr.

Oh yes, it came out considerably before. I’m pretty sure I was a young hellion at the time, about wild enough to shoot at. Just rockin’ and rollin’, playing these little bars and clubs up in West Virginia and Kentucky and Ohio. Wild as can be, just crazy. It appealed to me.

Twilight (2008, 49% Tomatometer)

I’m gonna go with the most recent film I saw that was really good. I thought Twilight was pretty killer. Put it up there, I’m gonna go with it! Even though it was about vampires, I thought it was told in a really cool way. I thought the acting was strong. And, I thought the music that accompanied the film was really cool.


Next: Billy Ray Cyrus on auditioning for David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., how he credits Lynch with starting Miley Cyrus’ acting career, and his close friendships with country legends Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Waylon Jennings

Thanks to his hit single, “Achy Breaky Heart,” Billy Ray Cyrus was a household name long before starring on TV shows like Doc and Disney’s Hannah Montana, which spins off into theaters in this week’s Hannah Montana: The Movie (he plays Robby Ray Stewart, father to secret superstar Miley Stewart — played by his real-life daughter, Miley Cyrus). Below, Cyrus shares how he made the transition from country music to Hollywood, how David Lynch figures prominently in both his and Miley’s career, and which fellow country icons helped him along the way.


At what point did you realize you wanted to act?

Billy Ray Cyrus: You know, it was in the mid-90s…my dad came down to ride horses with me, and we were sitting out in front of the campfire, just talking about things in my life. He said, “I always pictured you having one of those careers like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.” And I said, “Dad, I’d love that, but you know, how do you do that? What’s the key?” And he said, “You’ve got to get into acting! You have all of your eggs in one basket with this music thing and you need to branch out.” And so the next week, I was in Los Angeles touring, and I saw in a little newspaper that David Lynch was casting for Mulholland Dr. I called my agent — I’d never been to an audition before — and I asked, do you think I could go in and audition for this movie? I’d seen that they were looking for a character named Gene the Pool Man, and I don’t know why but something told me, surely I could go be Gene the Pool Man. I went into the audition, and lo and behold, they hired me!

During filming, David Lynch pulled me to the side and said, “I don’t have any reason to blow smoke up your butt, but I just want to tell you the truth — I think you could be a serious actor.” And I said, “Really? I’ve never done this before.” He said, “A director is looking for someone who is real, and you’re very real. I love the way you’re playing these scenes. If you just continue to be real, you can do anything you want to do as an actor.” With that note of embracement from David Lynch, I then went on to read a script called Doc, and Doc was about hope and faith and love, a very positive show on Pax TV. I went and auditioned for Dr. Clint Cassidy and they hired me, and four years, 88 episodes later, I was a full-time actor.


You look back on it and without David Lynch, Miley wouldn’t be Hannah Montana. Without Toronto, Canada, and the fact that I did that first series…that’s when Miley fell in love with acting. She started taking a role on Doc — she became this little girl named Kylie in a recurring role — and I took her to see Mamma Mia! on the stage in Toronto. Toronto really embraced the arts and acting; at the time, it wasn’t so much like that in Nashville, they didn’t have acting classes. She was able to surround herself with some great coaches and some great thespians from the moment she said she was going to become a great actress. That was the turning point, when she said that’s what I’m going to do. She applied herself to become an actress. So without Lynch, that wouldn’t have happened.

Does he know that you credit him with Miley’s Hollywood career?

BRC: No, I don’t know that he knows that. I don’t know, but I sure would love to tell him. Why don’t you tell him for me? You put it out there, he’ll read it.

Do you stay in touch with him at all?

BRC: No, I haven’t seen him for quite some time. I haven’t seen him since we made the movie.


One last question from our resident country fan — who helped you through the down times in your music career?

BRC: Johnny Cash. Waylon Jennings. George Jones. Those were guys that I really looked up to. Carl Perkins. Johnny Cash wrote me a letter, encouraging me to continue to be real, continue to love the music, and continue to be an original. An original, he called me; he said I reminded me of a friend of his named Elvis Presley. And that in my case and in Elvis’, the good far outweighed the bad, and as long as I would always remember to give thanks to Almighty God from whom all things that are good come from, that I would be just fine. Then he signed it, “Let ’em have it, I’m in your corner — Johnny Cash.” That’s pretty killer, isn’t it? That letter lived on the wall, right outside of Miley’s bedroom in Nashville, Tennessee. She grew up reading that letter.

Johnny Cash was a great influence in my life, as was Waylon Jennings. Carl Perkins was one of my best friends, if not my best friend at a certain point in my life. I sang at both of their funerals; I was out of town for Johnny’s, but I sung at Waylon and Carl’s funerals.


Hannah Montana: The Movie opens nationwide this Friday. Get the latest reviews and trailers here and check out more Five Favorite Films in our archive, including:

Five Favorite Films with Greg Mottola

Five Favorite Films with Guillermo del Toro

Five Favorite Films with Judd Apatow

Five Favorite Films with Robert Pattinson


Tag Cloud

what to watch Rock Bravo VICE RT History CBS X-Men Crackle YA GoT Black Mirror nature finale 2017 cancelled television Tumblr Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt movies Syfy Pride Month Infographic binge Valentine's Day Grammys Rocky romance Adult Swim Film based on movie spanish language 45 Pet Sematary dc political drama TV renewals cancelled TV shows Spike Disney Channel streaming elevated horror Emmys GIFs LGBT ABC Family Cannes Superheroe robots aliens Christmas Comedy Central Elton John travel Dark Horse Comics Song of Ice and Fire hist breaking bad Freeform Captain marvel Apple TV+ Fox News dramedy comiccon transformers Lionsgate WarnerMedia Reality Competition Certified Fresh comic Cartoon Network halloween Oscars spider-man Nat Geo Watching Series children's TV Countdown Calendar cartoon Biopics IFC Tomatazos PBS canceled TV shows ABC social media theme song Interview Cosplay Star Trek Chernobyl Ovation El Rey Anna Paquin anthology stand-up comedy History CBS All Access Quiz See It Skip It A24 DC Universe sequel miniseries RT21 disaster FX DirecTV Food Network docudrama canceled TCA 2017 Winners Esquire jamie lee curtis Winter TV Television Academy Family DC streaming service The CW Premiere Dates SXSW Year in Review Ellie Kemper NBC ghosts zombie Universal Sci-Fi Toys science fiction witnail Sundance Now FOX talk show Awards Tour crime Pixar Summer Paramount Comic Book GLAAD Thanksgiving Pirates cancelled Mary poppins Epix Marvel unscripted TruTV DC Comics thriller strong female leads BET animated Crunchyroll crime drama Columbia Pictures San Diego Comic-Con werewolf Lucasfilm 21st Century Fox Trailer harry potter blaxploitation 2018 series Arrowverse Sundance justice league YouTube Red Amazon Prime Polls and Games TNT TLC television Video Games Extras APB discovery NYCC HBO Max ITV TCM BBC Character Guide MCU Opinion technology Mary Tyler Moore WGN VH1 Podcast CMT Red Carpet Masterpiece Mystery TV ESPN A&E romantic comedy Drama Tarantino spain adaptation Peacock 007 Classic Film free movies award winner LGBTQ video war foreign The Purge HBO boxoffice Heroines zero dark thirty police drama Nickelodeon TV Land Rocketman singing competition spy thriller Hulu hispanic Country Creative Arts Emmys Vudu Pop ratings Election E3 DGA President psycho Ghostbusters Showtime OWN Schedule Walt Disney Pictures Mary Poppins Returns slashers cults TIFF Warner Bros. toy story versus 2019 First Look Western Starz 2016 2015 Mudbound crime thriller SDCC Netflix Super Bowl Disney Plus Turner Classic Movies Rom-Com renewed TV shows dceu batman space Spectrum Originals quibi PaleyFest cancelled TV series YouTube Premium dragons anime Marvel Television Stephen King latino cops book vampires indie Amazon Prime Video sports cars Trophy Talk Mindy Kaling game of thrones New York Comic Con crossover YouTube facebook Music mockumentary Apple TV Plus TCA richard e. Grant Amazon Fantasy joker casting Comedy blockbuster FXX Turner IFC Films Marathons cats Disney streaming service SundanceTV The Arrangement Animation Women's History Month Emmy Nominations south america Teen Sneak Peek Marvel Studios adventure Action Logo supernatural American Society of Cinematographers Best and Worst teaser cooking Comics on TV Kids & Family kids AMC The Witch Fall TV The Walking Dead Sony Pictures Photos game show tv talk Nominations Paramount Network USA Network 71st Emmy Awards independent Trivia Spring TV cinemax true crime Disney Acorn TV revenge Horror Holidays CW Seed Awards Film Festival Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Writers Guild of America composers 24 frames Musical serial killer TBS Shudder festivals natural history zombies Britbox politics Set visit 20th Century Fox MSNBC CNN period drama doctor who BBC America E! Apple Shondaland Star Wars sitcom Reality Superheroes spinoff diversity Lifetime green book Brie Larson First Reviews USA Binge Guide psychological thriller golden globes Martial Arts Musicals biography National Geographic Box Office MTV mutant medical drama historical drama