×

Callie Khouri, Megan Hilty, Jessie Mueller Celebrate ‘Patsy & Loretta’ at Nashville Bow

Women supporting women was the main topic of conversation Wednesday night at the Tennessee premiere of Lifetime’s new film, “Patsy & Loretta,” held south of Nashville at the Franklin Theater. Starring Megan Hilty (“Smash”) as Patsy Cline and Jessie Mueller (Tony-nominated for “Waitress” and a winner for “Beautiful”) as Loretta Lynn — pictured above, with their wax counterparts — the film shines a spotlight on the friendship that formed between them before Cline’s untimely death in a plane crash in 1963.

Director Callie Khouri, the Oscar-winning writer of “Thelma and Louise” and creator of the ABC/CMT series “Nashville,” has a history of creating powerful narratives around strong women. “I think the story of women’s friendships has never been told in enough depth,” the filmmaker told Variety at the premiere. “For women to be helping each other back when everybody thought that there was only one slot, to see somebody like Patsy Cline reach out to a young up-and-comer like Loretta and see the long career that Loretta had — those are stories I think we need to be telling for each other.”

Executive producer Neil Meron draws a line from the experiences Lynn and Cline faced in the ’60s to the modern day, noting that while other genres already had breakout female acts such as Ella Fitzgerald, country was in need of its own, with Cline and Lynn filling that void. “They were there to basically break their own glass ceiling in Nashville,” Meron said before the premiere. “To cite the era that we’re living in — which is all about women speaking up, defending themselves, getting what they want and being believed — the roots go back to what Patsy and Loretta did and have to face as they were rising to their various myriads of fame. Uncovering this story is really good timing.”

While the pair’s individually trailblazing careers have been covered in the ’80s films “Sweet Dreams” (starring Jessica Lange as Cline) and “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (which earned Sissy Spacek an Academy Award for her portrayal of Lynn), their deep friendship has gone largely unknown. In the two-hour Lifetime flick — which was shot in Nashville at the pair’s frequent haunts, including Cline’s dream home just outside of the city — Cline is already an established star when she begins mentoring Lynn at the start of her career in the early 1960s.

In a post-screening panel discussion, Hilty said she was a fan of both Cline and Lynn before filming but like many, was unaware of their friendship. Deciding not to watch “Sweet Dreams” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” she instead drew inspiration by reading letters written by Cline and gathering research through the people who knew her, learning that the star was a mentor to several other female country contemporaries, too, including Dottie West and June Carter Cash. Her portrayal of the icon sees her as a strong, confident businesswoman who looks over Lynn’s contracts and forces a concert booker to pay her in cash ahead of a performance.

Mueller, who signed on only weeks before production began, was familiar with Cline’s music but not Lynn’s. Her process involved going into a “deep listening dive” in Lynn’s catalogue, enamored by songwriting that included such staples as “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and spoke openly about birth control and the stigma of divorce through “The Pill” and “Rated X.”

But the anchor of the film is the friendship that quickly formed between two female artists trying to navigate through the good old boys’ club of country music. For screenwriter Angelina Burnett, the story of women supporting one another was sorely lacking on screen, with beloved films such as “All About Eve” and “Working Girl” building the trope of the aspiring young star who must overthrow her female superior in order to succeed.

“It’s this myth in our culture that there’s only room for one woman at the top and I saw in this friendship an incredible opportunity to tell a story about women in the same profession, the height of their skill, taking care of each other. That’s what I cared most about,” Burnett said to applause from the packed theater.

Another important plotline Burnett integrated into the script under Khouri’s direction is that of being a working mother. Cline had two children when she was soaring up the charts with “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy,” while Lynn was a mother of six during the height of her career. (Cline’s daughter Julie Fudge and Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russell are co-producers of the film.) Burnett was intent on conveying the pain both stars felt having to leave their children to perform for roughly 300 days a year, particularly in the scene when Cline boards the doomed plane in an attempt to quickly return home to her family. “That note that Callie gave me rippled through the whole script and I did a whole new path, every chance I could and every scene I could, to lift up that feeling — that pull of being a mom who has to leave,” Burnett said.

Burnett remarked that it’s “shocking” how difficult it still is for women to break through in the music industry, especially country music, where the conversation continues to swirl around the lack of airplay women receive on radio. But she believes that as women continue to support one another, so will the stories around them. “I do think that the slow accumulation of these kinds of stories starts to shift our mentality about ourselves,” she said. “Right now, women are pushing against so much in the wake of [Harvey] Weinstein. We’ve sort of had this explosion of rage and now it’s like, ‘Well, what do we do with it?’ And I think the answer is we take care of each other.”

Patsy & Loretta” premieres on Lifetime on Oct. 19 at 8 p.m. ET.

More TV

  • Al Burton

    Al Burton, 'Jeffersons' and 'Diff’rent Strokes' Producer, Dies at 91

    Television producer and executive Al Burton, known for his work on “The Jeffersons” and “Diff’rent Strokes,” died Tuesday at his home in San Mateo, California. He was 91. Burton leaves behind a six-decade legacy of hit television shows that also included “One Day at a Time,” “Silver Spoons,” “Square Pegs” and “Facts of Life.” However, long [...]

  • Dwyane Wade Sets Multi-Year Development Deal

    Dwyane Wade Sets Multi-Year Development Deal at WarnerMedia

    Dwayne Wade is bouncing his way into WarnerMedia’s court. The retired NBA All Star has signed a multi-faceted, multi-year deal with the company, including a development deal via his 59th & Prairie Entertainment production banner. Part of the deal sees Wade sign on as a commentator at Turner Sports. He is set to make appearances [...]

  • Katie Couric Sheryl Sandberg

    Katie Couric Steamrolls Sheryl Sandberg in Roving Vanity Fair Summit Interview

    Sending a jolt through a luxurious and excessively polite afternoon in Beverly Hills, veteran journalist Katie Couric delivered a relentless series of hardball questions to Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg on Tuesday. Speaking in conversation at the sixth annual Vanity Fair New Establishment summit at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Couric’s [...]

  • EVIL is a psychological mystery that

    CBS Renews 'Evil,' Orders Full Seasons of Four Other Freshman Shows

    CBS is doubling down on all its new shows. The network has renewed “Evil” for a second season, and handed out full-season orders to its other four freshman series, namely “All Rise,” “Carol’s Second Act,” “The Unicorn,” and “Bob Hearts Abishola.” “Evil” is set to conclude its 13-episode first season (creators Michelle and Robert King [...]

  • Jamie Lee Curtis

    Jamie Lee Curtis to Produce Military Drama With Put Pilot Order at Fox

    Jamie Lee Curtis is teaming up with April Fitzsimmons and Berlanti Productions for a drama project that has received a put pilot order at Fox. Titled “Chain of Command,” the one-hour project follows a young Air Force investigator with radical crime-solving methodology who returns to her hometown to join a military task force that doesn’t [...]

  • Michael MannLACMA: Art and Film Gala,

    TV News Roundup: Michael Mann to Direct and Executive Produce HBO Max's 'Tokyo Vice'

    In today’s TV news roundup, HBO Max names MIchael Mann as a director and executive producer of “Tokyo Vice” and Chip and Joanna Gaines announce the first original series coming to the couple’s Magnolia Network. DATES Netflix announced a six-episode docuseries centered on Nasty Cherry, the latest all-female group signed to Charli XCX’s label will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content