There’s more to Dolly Parton than the brash persona and impressive wig collection.
Before she became a megastar, Parton, star of such films as “9 to 5” and “Steel Magnolias,” wrote simply of her impoverished childhood in songs like the earnest “Coat of Many Colors.”
Last year, NBC made a deal with Parton to turn several of her songs into movies and the first, based on that tune, premieres this week. Parton answered questions about the film by e-mail.
Your fans probably know the song “Coat of Many Colors” by heart. What is it about the song that made you think it should have new life as a film?
Folks have been telling me since the ’70s that “Coat of Many Colors” would make a good movie, and the timing finally felt right to me. I had the right partners in Warner Bros. and NBC and my friend [executive producer] Sam Haskell. We knew that with the right writers and cast, we could tell a story that could be very meaningful, especially at this time of year.
Did you share many family memories with screenwriter Pam Long?
Oh, Lord yes. Probably more stories than she ever wanted to hear. Everybody knows I have the gift of gab. Of course, Pam wanted to be able to tell the whole story. The good parts and the not-so-good parts. It’s a very tender story and she wanted to treat it with respect.
People who have worked on the movie say you cried when first saw Alyvia Alyn Lind, who plays the young Dolly. Can you describe that experience? What was it about her that convinced you she was the right person for the part?
I did cry when I first saw her. I was so hopeful during the casting process that we would find somebody that I would feel was a kindred spirit. And then she bounced in the door and I knew instantly it was her. Besides the fact that she looks like my family, it was her spirit and energy that I connected with the most. She’s a very special young lady.
I understand your sister Stella is in the movie. Who does she play?
She played the part of the lady who owned the mercantile store in town and brought us the rags that we used to make the coat of many colors. It was wonderful having her in the movie.
When can we expect to see the other songs you are adapting into movies for NBC?
We hope to do at least one a year. The next one on the list is also a song I wrote in the ’70s about that old red-headed hussy called “Jolene.”