Dolly Parton Savagely Shut Down a Director Wanting Her to Take Acting Lessons for $96M Julia Roberts Movie


“I’m not an actress… It’s your job to make me look like I’m acting”: Dolly Parton Savagely Shut Down a Director Wanting Her to Take Acting Lessons for $96M Julia Roberts Movie

Dolly Parton has proven her versatility and power when it comes to performing, not only on the stage but also on the big screen. Her acting skill, though, was put to the test when she joined the ensemble cast of Steel Magnolias in 1989.
Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton
The star-studded line-up included Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah, and Julia Roberts. They found friendship while filming, but it grew much stronger and long-lasting after they wrapped up production. Part of it was their shared annoyance against director Herbert Ross.

Dolly Parton Stood Up Against Movie Director Who Belittled Her Acting Skills
Dolly Parton 2
Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton recalled in her autobiography, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, how she dealt with Herbert Ross’ harsh treatment of her on the set of Steel Magnolias. She also revealed how he acted towards other cast members, particularly to Julia Roberts, who was only at the beginning of her career. Parton wrote:

He didn’t particularly like me or Julia Roberts at the start and was very hard on us. Julia Roberts was not the big star she is now, and I think Herbert Ross resented having to use her. He told me I couldn’t act. This was not news to me, and I told him so.”

The bold and spirited musician-actress did not pull her punches and reminded Ross of his responsibility as a director. She was not afraid to put him in his place. The star continued:

‘I’m not an actress, I’m Dolly Parton. I’m a personality who has been hired to do this movie. You’re the director. It’s your job to make me look like I’m acting.’

Julia Roberts and Dolly Parton


Julia Roberts and Dolly Parton
Her co-actress Shirley MacLaine also shared with US Weekly how Ross rudely spoke to Parton and suggested she should take acting lessons. MacLaine stated:

Herb Ross was basically a choreographer. That means he could be sometimes very stern and sometimes very harsh. My deepest memories of the film were how we bonded together after he told one of us or all of us we couldn’t act. I remember the day Herb said to Dolly Parton, ‘Why don’t you take some acting lessons?’

Ross’ biting remarks on the cast’s acting skills deeply affected them, but it also became the reason why they spent more time with each other. MacLaine shared that Roberts would come over to her house to vent her frustrations. Meanwhile, another co-star, Sally Field, defended Parton and said that she is the “funniest, wittiest and filthiest” friend one could ever ask for.

Dolly Parton Defended Her Friends While Shooting Steel Magnolias
Steel Magnolias
The cast of Steel Magnolias (1989)
In the same interview with US Weekly, Sally Field confessed her true sentiments about Herbert Ross’ ill-mannered actions toward some of the cast. The Amazing Spider-Man star noted how the older ones in the bunch stood up against the late director:

Our keenest memory was how hard it was to work with our director. We hated him, and we would go after him. The stronger ones of the group who were just older and had been there longer would go after him. That meant Shirley and Dolly. For me, it is the story about the power of friendship.”

Indeed, Dolly Parton proved that she is not just a great performer but also a very good friend who would stand up for them and won’t let anyone make her or her friends feel less than they deserve.

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