Gwyneth Paltrow is going country for “Country Strong”, the story of a washed-up country singer on the comeback trail. She’s been making the rounds trying to sell her singing abilities at the CMA’s and on a recent episode of “Glee”, but the real test of her talent will come when “Country Strong” hits theaters on January 7, 2011. So as she and Leighton Meester (who also plays a country singer and sings in the movie) anxiously await how the public reacts to their performances, here’s a look back at other celebrities who have surprised us by playing country singers:
Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
“Country Strong” could almost be seen as the female version of “Crazy Heart”, and it’s safe to bet that Gwyneth Paltrow hopes to mimic Jeff Bridges’ success. When it comes to the celebrities who have played country singers that are most convincing, all you have to do is listen to the emotion in the songs his faded musician character sings to realize just how talented Jeff Bridges really is, and he’s got an Oscar on his shelf to prove it (so perhaps Gwyneth Paltrow should be trying to convince him to do a duet with her before awards seasons rolls around).
Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line”
Before he shocked us with his rap career, Joaquin Phoenix was wowing us with his performance in this movie about one of the world’s most beloved country singers. When thinking of celebrities to fill the Man in Black’s boots, Joaquin Phoenix probably wouldn’t have been at the top of many lists. However, he managed to win over fans by singing Johnny Cash’s songs himself, and his performance also earned him an Oscar nomination. Unfortunately, he had to cross the line of sanity soon after his success, and Joaquin Phoenix has yet to get his career back on track.
Miranda Presley, Sandra Bullock, and River Phoenix, and Dermot Mulroney in “The Thing Called Love”
But long before Joaquin Phoenix was playing a country singer, his famous brother portrayed one along with Miranda Presley, Dermot Mulroney, and Sandra Bullock in a movie about a love triangle composed of country singers hoping to make it big in Nashville. Unfortunately, the man who was once one of the hottest celebrities in Hollywood couldn’t save this film from being a flop. Still, it is interesting to see River Phoenix sing his own song “Lone Star State of Mind” in what would be his last film before he died, and you won’t want to miss seeing Sandra Bullock in one of her earlier roles as mediocre singer/songwriter and beauty queen named Linda Lue (she even wrote one of her own songs for the movie!).
Ronee Blakely, Karen Black, Barbara Harris, Timothy Brown, and Henry Gibson in “Nashville”
This movie does a much better job of serving up a slice of Nashville life, but good luck keeping up with Robert Altman’s massive cast of celebrities playing country singers and other characters making up the Nashville scene. Ronee Blakely stars as Nashville’s queen, a superstar on the edge of a nervous breakdown; Karen Black is the rival stuck playing second fiddle to the fragile favorite; Barbara Harris is a redneck’s runaway wife hoping to make it big; Timothy Brown is a successful black country musician; and Henry Gibson is a greasy Grand Ole Opry star with political ambitions. So when it comes to movies about country singers, it’s still going to be hard to ever top this cast of celebrities.
Sissy Spacek in ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’
While Ronnie Blakely’s character in “Nashville” was loosely based on Loretta Lynn, Sissy Spacek actually starred as the coal miner’s daughter in the movie based on her autobiography. She won an Oscar for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn’s rise from poverty to superstardom, while the movie itself was nominated for Best Picture. So if Gwyneth Paltrow wants to prove she’s just as “Country Strong”, she’s got a lot to live up to.
Piper Perabo in “Coyote Ugly”
Piper Perabo is one of the only celebrities here who didn’t sing her own songs in her movie, with LeAnn Rimes stepping in to perform her character’s musical numbers. However, she does get to perform while playing a bartender at the famous Coyote Ugly bar in New York (namely by wearing skimpy outfits and dancing on the countertop). Of course being a barmaid at the rowdiest joint in town isn’t her real dream; she really wants to be a songwriter. And only in Hollywood can you make such a quick transition from spraying down guys at a bar to being a country star.
So as Gwyneth Paltrow joins the surprisingly few celebrities who have played country singers in movies, from characters dreaming of making it big to those that have portrayed what happens when the “Country Strong” start to get weak, you’ll want to be sure to stay tuned to see if Gwyneth Paltrow proves to be a shining diamond like Sissy Spacek in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” or if she turns in a performance that’s “Coyote Ugly”.