Dolly Parton not only spent decades on country radio, but in movies and on TV shows as well. The Tennessee native got her big break in films appearing in 9 to 5, a movie which also starred Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, and never looked back.
“I had been asked a lot of times to be in the movies and I didn’t think I was quite ready yet,” Parton tells Tim McGraw on his Apple Music Country’s Beyond The Influence Radio with Tim McGraw. “I also thought if the right thing came along, I might be willing to do it because I was still building my music career at the time. Then when 9 to 5 came along, it had Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. They were both so hot at the time and I thought, ‘Well, if there’s any time to start, this would be now because if it’s a big hit, then I can share in the glory of it. If it’s a failure, I can blame it all on them and I’ll walk away free.'”
Not only did Parton agree to appear in 9 to 5, but she showed her early business mind by insisting she write the theme song as well.
“Actually, I thought it was a good script, and I knew that at that time it would be a wonderful thing for women and for the workplace,” Parton reflects. “But my main deal with Jane [was], I said, ‘I’ll be happy to be in it providing I get to write the theme song.’ My business mind started working also. I thought, ‘I got to make this worth my while, not just to be in a movie with someone else.’ That was part of my deal that I would write and sing the theme song. So that’s what I did and it turned out to be a wonderful thing. It was my first movie. I’d never even seen a movie made really at that time, but I had good people.”
Parton might have had some reluctance to dip her toes into the acting world, but she had zero doubts about her ability to write the 9 to 5 theme song.
“I knew the music part would be perfect,” boasts the singer. “I actually knew that was so much part of me, that I can write and I can rhyme. I actually wrote the song on the set as we went along, as I’d watch things. I’d work with my fingernails, my acrylic nails making it sound like a typewriter. and I wrote a lot of stuff on the set. So I made it fun, but I knew I had that part under control. I wasn’t worried about the music end of it. I just knew I wanted to do the theme song, but the acting I was a little nervous.
“I was a little unsure myself, but like I’ve always said, ‘My desire to do things is greater than my fear of it,'” she adds. “So I just leaped right in there like I do everything else because I knew if I said I’d do it, I would do it. I would make it work. It did turn out to be pretty good. So that was when I got a taste of it and I thought, ‘Well, what took me so long?'”
Parton’s other movie roles include The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone and Joyful Noise, among others.