Hillcoat is well-known for his stark and gritty, beautifully shot imagery. He has directed such films as The Proposition and The Road, both brutal films set against sensational backdrops.
The director is a longtime Johnny Cash fan, and jumped on the opportunity to direct the video for Cash's "lost" 1980s album Out Among the Stars.
"The jet black hair, the dramatic face, even the name sounds iconic," Hillcoat says, listing off attributes he finds appealing about Cash. "I've been a lifelong fan... also inspired by his voice, which has a truth to it at all times -- that's always helped me in terms of working with actors, no matter how big."
Hillcoat created a concept for the video based on both a literal interpretation of "She Used to Love Me a Lot" as a love song, and a broader interpretation of modern day America. The director juxtaposes images of Wall Street and other financial institutions with images of the homeless and ex-cons in order to convey that the dispossessed have been rejected and forgotten by a country that once cared for them.
Struggle is a key theme of the video, and an experience Hillcoat says Cash understood well. "He was loved by America, and then found himself suddenly cast aside," the director says. The video opens in the Tennessee cave where Cash once intended to end his life, but ends with an emergence out of the cave and into the light.
Cash's son John Carter Cash discovered the "lost" album in 2012. The record had been shelved by Columbia after Cash's 1981 album The Baron did not perform as expected.
Out Among the Stars will be released on March 25. It is available for pre-order on iTunes and Amazon.