7 Facts About The Movie “Country Strong”


In 2010, Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw teamed up to play married couple Kelly and James Canter for the hit movie Country Strong. Leighton Meester and Garrett Hedlund joined them as up and coming country artists Chiles Stanton and Beau Hutton, respectively. Their characters were opening for mega-famous country singer Kelly Cantor, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character, on her comeback tour after she leaves rehab early.

Cantor’s career is likened to the popularity Faith Hill and Shania Twain once had at their prime, but her downfall isn’t compared to any country star. She had lots of bad things happen to her, all mostly due to her alcoholism. Her husband/manager, played by McGraw, takes her out of rehab early to perform on a country-wide tour even though she wasn’t ready yet.

Paltrow debuted her singing talent, and so did Meester and Hedlund. Paltrow was praised for her performance, as was the music in the film. The song “Coming Home,” performed by Paltrow, was nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe, and a few other notable awards. Paltrow even performed the song at the 83rd Academy Awards, but it lost out to Toy Story 3‘s “We Belong Together.”

Even if you’ve seen the film many times, there are still some behind-the-scenes facts that will blow you away! Let’s take a look at 7 things you may not know about the movie!

1. To Learn About Country Music, Gwyneth Paltrow Studied Hank Williams And Johnny Cash


Growing up in New York, Gwyneth Paltrow was never really exposed to country music. Her father, the late director and producer Bruce Paltrow, instilled in her a foundation that is similar to the country way of life.

The titular song really resonated with Paltrow, which includes the lyrics,  “I’m country strong like the ground I grew up on.

“That, to me, is the foundation that my father laid for me. He passed away, but I think of my father every day, in every decision that I make,” she told The Boot in 2010.

To get herself educated enough to play a country music star, Paltrow began doing her research, beginning with Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.

“I started doing research. I started with Hank Sr. and Johnny Cash and just started educating myself,” she told The Boot. “The amazing thing to me was I really fell in love with country music. I never expected that it would become a part of who I am. It was a completely unexpected side-effect of doing the movie.”

In our opinion, she picked some really great artists to learn about the wonderful country music genre!

2. Vince Gill Sang Backup Vocals On The Song “Country Strong”

Houston Press
Houston Press

Along with the release of Country Strong the movie, RCA Nashville released the Country Strong soundtrack and as of February 2013, it sold 479,000 copies.

Chris Young, Patty Loveless, Sara Evans, Lee Ann Womack, Ronnie Dunn, Hank Williams Jr., Faith Hill, Trace Adkins, all sing on the soundtrack, as well as the movie’s stars.

The song “Country Strong” was actually recorded by singer Britni Hoover in 2007 before being used in the film. After Paltrow recorded her version, music producer Byron Gallimore knew the track needed something else.

“You know who would be great on this is Vince. Let me call Vince…I’ll just call him and see if he wants to come in. His voice would be so perfect on this chorus,” he told Paltrow, according to The Boot.

Luckily he said yes, and he makes the song sound incredible! You can hear his signature tenor voice singing harmonies in the chorus. Watch the official music video to the song below.

3. Two Of The Lead Characters Didn’t Know How To Play Guitar

Sony Pictures, Inc.
Sony Pictures, Inc.

Neither Paltrow nor Hedlund knew how to play guitar before signing on to star in Country Strong. To portray guitar-playing country singers, both actors took months of guitar and voice lessons to prepare for their respective roles.

According to Shana Feste, the movie’s director, “[Hedlund] took four months off and started learning how to play the guitar, took voice lessons, went to Nashville early, started working with Nathan Chapman, a record producer in Nashville who produces Miranda Lambert. I mean, he became a country singer.

Paltrow took about the same amount of time off to learn how to play the guitar. In an interview with The Boot, she tells them, “We started the movie in January, and I started lessons in London with my guitar teacher in September, and I played every chance I got. My hands would not cooperate with my brain, and it was painful and it was difficult, but I got to a place where I was at least playing the right chords. Of course, the first day of shooting, I had to sing live and play in the movie. It was so terrifying. [laughs] But I got there in the end. I can play enough.

Her then-husband, Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, was extremely supportive of her newfound talent, even going as far as tell her she is better than U2’s frontman Bono!

She said, “My husband always says I’m ‘better than Bono, not as good as the Edge’.”

Watch Hedlund and Paltrow playing guitar and singing together below.

4. Tim McGraw Doesn’t Sing In The Movie


Despite being a movie about country music stars, and being one himself, McGraw is the only leading character who doesn’t sing or perform in the film.

Luckily, McGraw is featured on the soundtrack! He sings a duet with Paltrow called “Me And Tennessee,” although it wasn’t performed in the actual movie.

5. Garrett Hedlund Auditioned At A Karaoke Bar

Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

Apparently, there’s no better time to audition for one of the biggest roles of your career than in a karaoke bar, so that’s exactly what Garrett Hedlund did.

He sang a Pearl Jam song, which, according to director Shana Feste, “wasn’t the best showcase ever of his voice, but Garrett went to school for us.

However strange that audition process was for Hedlund, it landed him the gig, and we fell in love with him as Beau Hutton. Watch him perform “Give In To Me” with Leighton Meester in a scene from Country Strong below.

6. Garrett Hedlund And Tim McGraw Once Played Father And Son


If you thought Hedlund looked familiar, it’s because he does! He and McGraw acted in the 2004 film Friday Night Lights together. Hedlund played high school football player Don Billingsley, while McGraw played his aggressive and overbearing father, Charles.

In Country Strong, Hedlund’s Beau has an affair at the beginning with Kelly Cantor and McGraw ends up punching him!

Watch them in a scene together from Friday Night Lights below.

7. The Movie Was Inspired By Britney Spears

Billboard/Sony Pictures Inc.
Billboard/Sony Pictures Inc.

Writer/director Shana Feste revealed to the Los Angeles Times that there was some inspiration behind Gwyneth Paltrow’s character Kelly Cantor. The world watched pop star Britney Spears go through an incredibly public meltdown in 2007 that included shaving her head, locking herself in the bathroom with her infant sons, and very erratic behavior.

Feste told the LA Times’ Minitry of Gossip that watching Spears’ very public meltdown inspired the film.

“That’s where this movie came from. I mean, I was seeing what was happening in the media to Britney Spears,” she said. “I finished the script when Michael Jackson passed away. I think it’s tragic how we treat people who give us so much, and we love to see them knocked down to build them back up again, to knock them down again. It’s a weird fascination.”

Watch the full trailer for Country Strong below.

Which Country Strong fact surprised you the most? Sound off in the comments section!