Joyful Noise - Dolly Parton
GG Sparrow (Dolly Parton) © 2011 Gospel Truth

Dolly Parton is the most honored female country singer of all time, composing some of the most celebrated songs of her generation. Throughout her career she has also managed to find time to appear in movies as well, including roles in the popular 9 to 5, Steel Magnolias, Straight Talk and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

In her new film, Joyful Noise, she portrays GG Sparrow, whose deceased husband Bernard (Kris Kristofferson), was the director of the Pacashau Sacred Divinity Choir. To GG’s disgust the choir’s featured soloist, Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) is chosen as the new choir director. She stubbornly wants to stick with their tried-and-true traditional style, while GG thinks that translates to tired-and-old.

But the small town of Pacashau, Georgia, has fallen on hard times, and the congregants of the church are depending upon the choir to uplift their spirits by winning the National Joyful Noise Competition.

Dolly Parton spoke about the movie and what music has meant in her life at the press day for the film in New York City.

Could you relate to GG in this?

Randy Garrity (Jeremy Jordan) and GG Sparrow (Dolly Parton) © 2011 Gospel Truth

Absolutely. I couldn’t imagine anybody else doing that role when I got the script, I thought, ‘Well, this is me. I have to do this, this is the movie that I’ve been waiting for.’

It’s really not Dolly Parton, but a personality so much like mine if I’d had that home life and stayed home and not become a star. She had the same wit and she had a big heart, big hopes and big hair, so that’s kind of what I’m made up of! She was so close to me I had no problem whatsoever being her.

It’s been a long time since you’ve been on the screen, were you hesitant to come back?

I just hadn’t [read] anything good. I don’t consider myself a great actress and I love my music, and I’m always so involved in my Dollywood (theme park) and so many other things that I’m doing.

This was perfect, and when I found out that Queen Latifah was interested in it, I thought, ‘There’s no way that this can’t be a big success with us, and hopefully do something that would be uplifting to the world at this time,’

Did you and Queen Latifah know each other before this movie?

GG Sparrow (Dolly Parton), Olivia Hill (Keke Palmer) and Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) © 2011 Gospel Truth

No. We met when we were doing the music at the studio in LA. We were going in to do pre-records and do some press. I just walked in and it was like I’d known her all my life. Everybody said, ‘You and Queen Latifah should do something together, you’ve got the same kind of vibe.’ Sure enough, it just worked well.

But your characters don’t get on in the movie.

Vi Rose and GG are always at odds. They just automatically rub each other the wrong way. We’d make snide remarks, saying awful things to each other around the set, just like Vi and GG would. But it was all in fun.

We knew that we liked each other so well that we could be too friendly, go eat after [work], but we purposely didn’t. We knew what we had to do and I think that made it even more fun.

Another very important aspect of this film is that it includes the current economic hard times. You grew up very poor, how did you feel about the inclusion of this to the movie?

GG Sparrow (Dolly Parton) and Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) © 2011 Gospel Truth

Everybody all over America, people are just having a hard time right now. But people have always had a hard time. I did grow up poor so, of course, I relate to anything on that subject.

I thought this was a perfect time for this particular kind of film, for faith, for hope and for some promise. I know it uplifted my spirits, it lifted me up because you can’t help but get down with all of the things that are going on.

You get so aggravated and you get frustrated with how things are handled, but when I think about God and try to think about the light and think about the good, the burdens are lifted off of me. So I felt very fortunate that at this day and time I got to be part of something like this.

This movie is very much about the power of music in people’s lives. What has music meant to you?

GG Sparrow (Dolly Parton) © 2011 Gospel Truth

It’s been everything to me. I grew up in a very musical family. My mother’s people were all musical and played instruments, so that was a big part of our background. My grandpa was a preacher, but also a great musician. He played guitar and piano, so we were allowed to play music in our church growing up.

Country music incorporates so much of that faith, we always incorporated God and Jesus in the music, so it’s very inspirational to me. I love to write it, I love to sing it and I get a joy from it.

This movie I think is titled perfectly, because it was really making a joyful noise and we had a joyful time.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane