The Unsinkable Dolly Parton

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You won't go Hollywood?
I don't know what goin' Hollywood means; if it means goin' to shit, no. It's important to me that I accomplish things as a human being, as it should be to all people to accomplish all that they can without sacrificing other people. I didn't sacrifice the happiness of other people to get where I am. My husband likes the freedom as much as I do. He's got his own work to do, and he's glad when I'm gone a certain amount of time. We're not afraid that one of us is gonna run off with somebody else, because we couldn't find in nobody else what we found in each other.

Do you think you were ever in danger of losing your country base? That's something you should probably keep forever.
It's something I will keep forever. I don't jump to conclusions just because everybody else has – any time you make a move, it's gonna make somebody uncomfortable.

There were people in Nashville who hoped you would fail when you went to L.A.
But I would like to think that they cared enough to worry that I would get into trouble. That's what I prefer to believe. I never intended to lose my country audience. I knew that I had to get myself into a position to do what I thought I should be doin' for country music. I think I have now. For what few people I may have lost, I feel like I've gained thousands more.

Everybody can't like ya, and I know that. Everybody will not like ya, but I feel I have a lot of good fans, I have a lot of good friends. I think I'm as well liked as most any celebrity.

People take things as different signals, too. When you went back to Nashville to record, a lot of people said, "Well, look, she's learned her lesson."
They can interpret it in different ways, and they have the right to do that. But see, my interpretation was that this was the first time I had everything in order the way I wanted it to be. Anybody with any sense would know that I didn't have to go home to record. The sound I was lookin' for was a sound that lives in Nashville.

Was Nine to Five the first movie you were offered? Were you seeking scripts, or were they seeking you?
They were seeking me, which made me feel even prouder. This was not the first movie I was offered; it was the first one I accepted. If one I were to do on my own flopped, it would have been Dolly Parton's flop. That was why I was so picky – I hadn't found a script I thought was good enough. I was amazed at how little talent there is among the writers of Hollywood. But Nine to Five fascinated me, and I knew instantly that I should do it – I knew that it was a career move. And it fell together really well – just according to my lists.

I heard that Jane specifically wanted you for it.
She wanted me, and she wanted Lily. She said she was drivin' down the freeway, and a song of mine came on the radio, and she knew my personality, and she'd been a fan of my songwriting for a long time. She said she almost wrecked because it just hit her right in the face, to think what a great combination.

So it just seemed like the right thing to do. A lot of people were sayin', "Boy, I would l-o-o-o-v-e to see that. There ain't no way them three bitches are gonna get along! Can you imagine three women like that?!" And you know, we had the greatest time.

I heard that you memorized the entire script.
I did! [Laughs] It was so funny, 'cause I didn't know exactly what the movies were all about; I just knew that I would do it as good as anybody else. I just assumed they would start in the front and follow the story to keep up the excitement, so I memorized the whole script: my part, Lily's part, Jane's part, every part. But it really worked out great. I got a kick later when I saw how few lines they do a day and how they shoot out of sequence.

And of course, we got a lot of laughs out of it because – you know me and my tacos and all that I was terrible; I could go in the door skinny and come out fat, all in the same day [laughs]!

And it's funny how everybody gets into character. I've never had an acting lesson in my life. A lot of people probably say I should have, but I didn't feel that what I played was phony.

I was lucky in the respect that they had written it according to my personality; I carry a gun, and she carries a gun in the picture. She was really just me as a secretary, so I played it like that. I was playin' her everyday role, knowin' the kind of stuff the girls at the office go through – anytime you work in a big business there's so many demands.

Is this a message movie?
Not really. It's about women, but there's women and men in the office. I'm the executive secretary to the boss, and he's a real turd. He got where he was because Violet [Lily], who had been with the company for twelve years, had trained him, and she had never gotten a promotion because they felt that position should not be held by a woman, that men prefer to deal with men. So actually, a lot of people thought it was just going to be women's lib; I wouldn't have been involved if I'd thought it was gonna be a sermon of some sort. Not that I'm not for rights for everybody, I'm just sayin' I didn't want to get involved in a political thing. It's just a funny, funny show. I think it's very obvious what it's sayin'. It's mostly about this boss and these three women – not bosses in general or the plight of secretaries.

The boss is one of those lyin' kinds of people. He's always tryin' to make out with me and is tellin' everybody that he is, but behind the door – no, no! In fact he makes me sick. At the start the girls don't like me at all. I have to eat by myself in the lunchroom. Then at one point we all become friends, when I'm standing in the office, and Lily says something to him like: "Well, why don't you ask her if she's the one that this-and-this," sounding like I'm sleepin' with him or something. I grab her and say, "You hold on! Just a minute. What's this shit mean?"

He tries to push her out. Then she says, "Everybody knows you're sleepin' with him!" And then I just fly into him. That's my best scene, because I get so mad, and he just keeps on saying "naw, naw . . . ," then I march him around. And there's another time when I throw him on a chair and hogtie him and get my gun. It's really funny.

People weren't sure that you and Jane would mesh.
Yeah, but you see, we knew right up front that if I did the film, that didn't obligate me to make political statements, it didn't obligate me to do benefit shows for different people's causes. If I was goin' into it, it was because somebody thought I was good enough or had something to offer.

I happen to see a side of Jane that I guess most people don't. She is very intelligent but she is also very shy. She is just like a little girl. I tell you, I just fell in love with that side of her. We don't discuss what I believe and what she believes. But our friendship is strong enough now that if we ever did discuss it, I would tell her what I think.

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