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Tim McGraw is “Country Strong”

The Stars of "Country Strong" On The Red Carpet

Check out this great article and interview with Tim McGraw about his career and new film “Country Strong which opens nationwide today.

For the latest project in his growing filmography, Tim McGraw stayed close to home in more ways than one. Not only did he film “Country Strong” in his adopted hometown of Nashville, Tenn., the country music superstar plays the aloof husband-manager of a troubled country singing sensation (Gwyneth Paltrow) in the music-driven drama.

McGraw, 43, admits he was reluctant to cross the line between his successful movie and music careers. He said no twice before accepting the part.

“The last thing you want is your audience to come in and sit down and every time I’m on the screen, they go ‘Oh, that’s that country singer guy. Oh, there he is again.’ And if that starts happening and they don’t buy into my character, then I’m not good to any movie. So hopefully I’ve gotten past that a little bit,” McGraw said in a recent interview at the plush Four Seasons Hotel.

“But I thought initially that was too much to ask of an audience to put me in that world and for them to believe that I was this different character. … And I didn’t know if I was capable of doing it.”

McGraw changed his mind after seeing “Country Strong” writer-director Shana Feste‘s first film, the acclaimed 2009 grief tale “The Greatest.”

In “Country Strong,” opening Friday, McGraw plays James Canter, who pulls his wife Kelly, a fallen star who has publicly struggled with substance abuse, out of rehab and puts her on a comeback tour. But Kelly refuses to go without her lover, Beau (Garrett Hedlund), an aspiring singer-songwriter who works as a janitor at her rehabilitation facility, and harbors jealousy toward her opening act, James’ beauty-queen-turned-singer protege Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester).

Of the film’s four principals, McGraw, who has sold 30 million albums, is the only one who doesn’t sing in the movie. His new single “Felt Good on My Lips” last week became his 32nd No. 1 hit.

“There’s no way that James Canter would’ve had anything to do with singing. He never sang, never played an instrument, never would, never had,” McGraw said. “I think he thought of singers as sort of childish in a lot of ways. That’s sort of the way that I approached this role is I thought that James was really the only adult in the film. Certainly he thought that.”

Feste acknowledged in a separate interview that McGraw not singing in her country music drama is “totally odd and that’s what I kind of love about it.”

“I wanted Tim to sing and he would sing on set all the time, but it started to kind of blur the lines of like ‘Is that Tim McGraw or is this James Canter?’ I just didn’t want to blur those lines. … And I was really interested in Tim the actor.” Feste said, adding she had to move the ballad “Me and Tennessee,” a McGraw-Paltrow duet, to the film’s end credits to ensure it wasn’t a distraction.

Interest in McGraw as an actor has grown since he earned solid reviews opposite Oscar winner Sandra Bullock in last year’s box-office hit “The Blind Side.”

The singer made his movie debut in the 2004 inspirational indie drama “Black Cloud” and has appeared in the family-friendly “Flicka,” the Middle East actioner “The Kingdom” and the comedy “Four Christmases.” He will film the spy thriller “Safe House” with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds in spring.

Although he started receiving offers for bit parts back when he scored his first country hits in the 1990s, McGraw said he didn’t get serious about acting until he read the script for the football drama “Friday Night Lights,” in which he played the overbearing father to Hedlund’s star fullback.

For “Country Strong,” Hedlund moved to Nashville two months before filming started and lived in a guest cabin on the farm McGraw shares with his wife, fellow country superstar Faith Hill, and their three daughters.

“His guidance within this was great because he just said, ‘You just gotta live and breathe country music,’” Hedlund said. “So that’s what I tried to do.”

While Hedlund’s “Country Strong” character doesn’t think love and fame can live together, McGraw obviously believes differently.

“Well, that depends on which one’s in charge. If fame’s in charge, then you can’t have both. If love’s in charge, then you can,” he said.

Story from the Oklahoman

So what’s next in McGraw’s career? He heads out on the road for his new tour “Emotional Traffic with singer/songwritter Luke Bryan opening the show in April. Tickets for his concerts go on sale next week.

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