Remember When Gwyneth Paltrow Was a Country Singer?
Gwyneth Paltrow might not seem like the most obvious choice if you were casting a film about country music, but she actually acquitted herself well when she played a fading country star in Country Strong in 2010.
The movie starred Paltrow as Kelly Canter, a country star who has fallen on hard times due to her drinking problem and landed in rehab. There, she meets and begins an affair with Beau Hutton, a rising singer played by Garrett Hedlund. When her husband/manager James Canter, played by Tim McGraw, decides to pull her out of rehab early and put her on the road to restore her image, it touches off a complicated series of conflicting romantic entanglements between the three of them and another rising singer named Chiles Stanton, played by Leighton Meester.
Paltrow gets to show off her dramatic chops in several scenes as her character struggles with alcoholism and her own self-destructive tendencies, but she also performs several songs in character, and she worked hard to become believable in those scenes. All of the actors worked with Nashville super-producer Byron Gallimore on the music for the film, which was released on a soundtrack album.
One of the climactic scenes features Paltrow in a triumphant live performance of the movie's title song, which got released to country radio as a single and even earned her a spot performing on the CMA Awards with Vince Gill on backing vocals.
"I felt very liberated when I was singing it, because I was petrified! It was the first track that I cut, and I worked on it with my singing teacher in London for months before I flew here and was recording it with Byron Gallimore," she told the Boot. "I felt, 'I don't know if I can pull this off, this music, it's serious. It's great. It's hard to sing.' But when I first started doing it, I felt very liberated by it, like, "No, I can do this. I have to find it within myself." And that's 'Country Strong.' It's like, 'You can rise above it and you can do it. It's a challenge. It's not your comfort zone.' I was really happy with the way it turned out."
Paltrow was as surprised as anyone at how readily she took to the role and the music in the film.
"The amazing thing to me was, I really fell in love with country music. I never expected that it would become a part of who I am," she reflected. "It was a completely unexpected side-effect of doing the movie. Now, I'll be having a party and my friends will be like, 'What are we listening to?' And I'll say, 'Miranda Lambert. Love it! It's the best thing in the world.' I'm completely converted. The whole experience has been as surprising for me as it is for you."
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