LOS ANGELES >> Dolly Parton says she never really aspired to be “The Girl in the Movies,” the title of her Golden Globe-nominated song from the new dramedy “Dumplin’.”
Co-written with hit machine Linda Perry, the song expresses the rebellious, plus-sized title character’s secret longing to fit in, to have happy Hollywood endings — just like “the girl in the movies.”
While Parton said she could relate to many elements of the song’s lyrics, “I never had a dream of being on the screen. I figured I’d grow into that, and I did. But my music was most important.”
Parton was a long-established country superstar and had crossed over to the pop charts with the 1977 smash “Here You Come Again” when Hollywood called.
“I had been approached about acting in some things, but I wasn’t quite ready,” she recalled. “Then Jane (Fonda) came to me and said that they want to do this movie with me and Lily (Tomlin), and I thought, ‘Well, this is the perfect time, if I’m ever going to do it, because if it was a hit, we could all take credit. But if it was a flop, I could blame it on them,’” Parton explained, with a laugh.
The film, the searing workplace comedy “9 to 5,” became the No. 2 box-office film released in 1980 behind only “The Empire Strikes Back,” according to Box Office Mojo. “9 to 5” also inspired Parton’s only solo pop-chart topper, a TV series and a Broadway musical. The title song earned Parton an Oscar nomination and Parton’s new compositions for the stage musical were honored with a Tony nomination.
Parton, 72, went on to score a handful of other box-office successes as an actress, including the screen adaptations of the stage hits “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (1982) and “Steel Magnolias” (1989). And she provided her voice to the 2011 animated blockbuster “Gnomeo and Juliet.”
But it’s as a songwriter where Parton has perhaps scored biggest on film, with Whitney Houston’s explosive cover of Parton’s plaintive ballad “I Will Always Love You” from 1992’s “The Bodyguard” becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time.
“People always tell me, ‘I thought that was Whitney’s song. I didn’t know you wrote it. I thought she wrote it,’” Parton said, with a smile, adding, “And I tell them, ‘She can have the credit. I’ll just take the cash.’”
The song “9 to 5” has been a gift that keeps on giving for Parton, too. Parton’s original recording accompanied a back-to-work montage in this spring’s “Deadpool 2.”
“My nieces and nephews didn’t even think of me as being a star until they heard my song in that movie,” Parton commented. “I was touched by that. The kids got a kick out if it.”
Like the song, the nearly 40-year-old “9 to 5” movie continues to resonate with contemporary audiences — and little wonder since it tackles pay-parity issues, as well as sexual harassment.
Cue the sequel.
“Pat Resnick (who co-wrote the original film) and (actress-director) Rashida Jones are working on a new script,” Parton said. “Fox already bought it. Jane, Lily and I said, ‘Yes, we would do it,’ and there will be three new girls in it, too. Forty years later, it’s still addressing a lot of those issues we had back then.”
Parton said plans are to shoot the film next year. “Dumplin’” opens in select cinemas and debuts on Netflix this weekend. The 76th annual Golden Globe Awards will be presented Jan. 6 in Beverly Hills.
The Recording Academy will honor Parton for her musical and philanthropic work as 2019 MusiCares Person of the Year on Feb. 8, two days before the 61st Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.