John C. Reilly to perform in character across U.S.

Judd Apatow-produced films usually don’t need much marketing help.

But in the case of Apatow’s “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” Columbia Pictures is launching a novel tie-in for the unconventional comedy. Star John C. Reilly will tour the country in character as Dewey Cox, the fictional rock ‘n’ roll icon whose music influenced a nation. Reilly will perform live as Cox with his band, the Hard Walkers, for the “Cox Across America Tour.”

The tour kicks off Wednesday at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and will wend through Chicago; Austin, Texas; Nashville; San Francisco; Los Angeles; and New York’s Knitting Factory.

Each show will be preceded by a special screening of “Walk Hard.” Tour serves Sony by promoting the film, which opens Dec. 21, as well as Columbia Records’ soundtrack. The album includes 30 original songs and hits stores today.

Col is looking to repeat the successful marketing stunt it carried out last year with another Reilly starrer, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” For that film, Will Ferrell made the rounds on the NASCAR circuit as the eponymous Ricky Bobby. That comedy grossed more than $148 million domestically for the studio.

“He’s unleashing his inner rock star,” said Valerie Van Galder, president of domestic marketing for Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, who credits Reilly and Apatow as the brains behind the ploy. “But this is a little different than ‘Talladega Nights,’ because it actually requires him to perform live. It works, though, because in addition to being a prodigiously talented actor, John is also a fabulous singer.”

The Jake Kasdan-helmed film also stars Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows and Kristen Wiig. Apatow is a co-scripter and producer.

Reilly was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar for the musical “Chicago,” which included a solo number for him.

While unusual, the concert promo is not unprecedented. In 2004, Kevin Spacey launched an 11-city tour to promote the Bobby Darin biopic “Beyond the Sea.” Spacey performed in character at venues including L.A.’s Wiltern Theater.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more