Gwyneth Paltrow’s Country Strong character Kelly Canter plays out an all-too-common tale in the music industry: fallen star, substance abuser and rehab graduate hell-bent on a return to their former glory. In fact, it was only last year that we were celebrating Crazy Heart, the male version of this drama, with Jeff Bridges in the lead role for which he won an Academy Award.
And while Country Strong also looked to Nashville for authenticity, shooting the bulk of the movie in Music City, recruiting established producers like Byron Galimore (Tim McGraw, Sugarland) and Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift) and working with local musicians and crew, inspiration for the main character came from the pop world. Specifically: Britney Spears and Michael Jackson.
“We build these artists and celebrate them, then at the first sign of weakness, we rally around their downfall,” writer-director Shana Feste tells Billboard. “Then we want to build them back up for a comeback. How difficult to live life like that in public.”
Feste wrote the bulk of the screenplay in 2008 as Spears was undergoing a series of personal -- and public -- dramas. She was finishing the script when news of Michael Jackson’s death broke. “I wanted to present these characters as messy, complicated and conflicted,” she says. “Everybody is flawed.”