Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah make ‘Joyful Noise’ on screen and off
BY DENNIS KING
NEW YORK – Call them the Dolly and Dana Mutual Admiration Society.
Put the folksy, feisty Dolly Parton next to the brassy, robust Dana Owens, a.k.a. Queen Latifah, and the love just flows and the funny verbal sparks fly.
The unlikely co-stars of the gospel-infused comedy-drama “Joyful Noise” form a most improbable but apparently harmonious duo.
Physically, they could hardly be more different. The diminutive Parton is all big hair and frilly fashion (she’s often been called “The Backwoods Barbie”). The physically imposing Latifah is dressed in sleek urban style (her prevailing nickname: “Hip-Hop’s First Lady”).
One’s more than a little bit country, the other’s decidedly rock ‘n’ roll (or, more precisely, hip hop).
As they strode into a room at Park Avenue’s Regency Hotel for interviews hosted by Warner Bros., the 5-foot-10, Newark-born Latifah towered over the 4-foot-11, Tennessee-bred Parton. But the two were already chattering like long-lost sisters, sharing private jokes and finishing each other’s sentences.
“Joyful Noise” features Parton and Latifah as G.G. Sparrow and Vi Rose Hill, members of a church choir in a small Georgia town who have warring opinions on how the close-knit community should approach its upcoming effort to win the National Joyful Noise Competition. Folded in is a tale of young love between Vi Rose’s good-girl daughter (Keke Palmer) and G.G.’s rebellious grandson (Jeremy Jordan).
But the heart and soul of the movie spring from its music, and Parton and Latifah chime in with full voices.
“Our first day to work together was at the recording studio,” Parton recalled. “And it was just magic. I knew I’d love her and I have and I do and we just really clicked. We just kinda went out to the microphone, and it was like we’d been singing together all our lives.”
“Singing and jamming and just having fun,” Latifah agreed.
Both singer-actresses are known for their directness and honesty, and they agreed that contributed to their instant bonding.
“I think that’s part of it. We’re just who we are,” Parton said. “She’s just a total individual; so am I. But we love that space that we can share. It just works. Some people you work with and you don’t have that rapport. But we do. We really like each other. We’re not just playing like it.”
“Even our crews liked each other,” Latifah added. “My team of people and her team of people liked each other. We all just got along. We clicked from the very beginning.”
“But that’s what this movie’s about,” Parton said. “Love …”
“And laughter,” said Latifah.
Both women said the characters they play are close to who they are in real life.
“I’m like the … um, I started to say the Playboy, I mean the Energizer bunny… I just keep going and going,” the energetic Parton said.
“Oops, wrong bunny,” Latifah laughed.
“How do you know?” Parton quipped.
Someone asked Parton if she was the least bit sensitive about a joke during an exchange of insults between G.G. and Vi Rose that referred to G.G.’s (and by extension Dolly’s) many nips and tucks and cosmetic surgeries.
“Oh no, I’m the one that told (writer-director Todd Graff) he should use all that,” Parton insisted. “I said, ‘that’s fine. Make it fair, Let’s do tit for tat,’ if you’ll pardon the expression.”
The famous “Dolly look” is always a part of who she is and who she plays on screen, she said.
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