It is late afternoon, and Johnson is headed out to his home in sleepy horse country, a place an hour from L.A. that, he says, "could be Montana." (When he's not working he prefers to spend his time in the quiet isolation of suburban Florida, where he can be near his daughter.) Once there he will pack for a quick trip to Europe to promote the foreign release of The Game Plan.
"Merle Haggard. Hank Sr. Waylon Jennings. Elvis." He smiles. "Willie Nelson gave me my first guitar. When I was 29 I flew down to a video shoot of his in Texas. We met and hung out on the bus."
Johnson came to appreciate country music as a boy, traveling with his father to backwoods wrestling venues. "We'd drive all throughout the South, listening to Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, those guys. I love the storytelling of country music, the ease of it. There's a great quote from Hal Ketchum. He said, 'Good country music will never steer you wrong.' It's true."
Johnson smiles again. "Willie said the best songs ever written are those that in the first five words you know exactly what the song's about. Are you lonesome tonight? Crazy? Blue eyes crying in the rain."
Johnson doesn't write songs, but if he wrote a country tune about his life he says he'd call it "Living to Laugh and Love." Which sounds a little like Matthew McConaughey's motto: "Just keep livin.'"
"Really? He says that? Ha! I'm gonna change it. I can do better."
There is little Johnson likes more than doing better.
"My daughter Simone plays soccer," he says. "And I tell her there is a great lesson in losing. You get the chance to think about how you can improve."
When asked if he's afraid of anything now, Johnson is silent for three minutes.
Alzheimer's. Spiders. Armageddon. The end times...
"Ha, ha! Honestly, I don't have a lot of fear. I've failed a lot. I understand what that's like. I've lived in poverty. I've seen homelessness. I've slept on piss-stained mattresses. I've been through awful times. I've seen awful things. Now, life is good. Which motivates me even more."
To do what?
"To make sure the foundation never cracks."