A helicopter pilot, Kristofferson got Johnny Cash's attention by landing in Cash's yard to deliver some tapes. Cash scored a No. 1 hit with one of Kristofferson's tunes, and the songwriter soon became highly sought after, working with artists such as Janis Joplin and Willie Nelson.
After writing the music for and appearing in Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie (1971), Kristofferson attracted the notice of directors such as Martin Scorsese, Sam Peckinpah and John Sayles. Other Kristofferson credits include Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, A Star Is Born and Lone Star.