Krew Boylan first encountered the high-haired, broad-smiled Dolly Parton on screen in the film “Steel Magnolias”.
“From then on, I always noticed Dolly,” she says.
The Australian actor, writer and producer has been channelling Parton – deliberately or subconsciously – for years. Boylan studied singing, acting and dancing, appeared for extended stints in television shows including “All Saints” and “The Secrets She Keeps”, on stage in “Stuck on Girls” at the Tap Gallery and “The Hoods” at the Old Fitzroy Theatre, and penned a number of short films including “Burn” (2013) and “Just One More Time” (2012), both directed by Shannon Murphy.
“I didn’t want to wait for the phone to ring,” says Boylan of writing her debut feature film, “Seriously Red”. “As we are all drawn to ‘success’, I wanted to figure out what that was to me. And, of course, I wanted to write myself a great part.” Drawing upon her lifelong creative influences – Parton, of course, and another unnamed muse – Boylan enrolled in a creative writing school and began sculpting the screenplay. She collaborated with industry peers including actor Rose Byrne, producer Jessica Carrera, and directors Murphy and Gracie Otto, before Carrera suggested they formalise the working relationship. Producing under the name Dollhouse Pictures, the five friends prioritise female-driven storytelling, and together with Robyn Kershaw Productions produced “Seriously Red”.
Directed by Otto, and co-starring Byrne, Bobby Cannavale and Daniel Webber, the musical dramady follows Raylene ‘Red’ Delaney as she trades her 9-5 job in real estate for the teased-hair, spotlight-soaked world of music icon impersonation. Here, T Australia talked with Boylan ahead of the film’s November 24 national release about her relationship with Parton, working with her Dollhouse Pictures collaborators and the film’s global premier at the 2022 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival.
“Seriously Red” premiered globally at the SXSW festival. What was that experience like for you and the rest of the film’s cast and crew?
It was a thrill. Like when you’re horse riding, you’re kind of scared but the exhilaration overrides it. We’d never screened the film for an audience before and suddenly we’re in Austin, Texas (just as COVID-19 had globally eased) with a full theatre of 750 strangers and 50 of us (cast, crew, family, friends, and investors) who had all joined us for the ride, so it was a riot. This being my first feature film as a writer I have to admit the first screening I felt really exposed, but then a huge wave of relief. The more they laughed and chuckled, the more I melted down into my seat in relief.
At our after-party the photographer took this great photo of Gracie, Rose, Jessica, and myself, as we huddled together to listen to Jessica reading out our first review which was so positive from “Deadline”. I also got to meet Dolly Parton, after writing and thinking about her almost every day for 10 years. We spent half an hour together backstage before her performance having a laugh and shedding a few tears. Well, my tears, but she wiped them away with her hands. So many great moments from that festival.
The film is anchored by a deep respect and love for Dolly Parton. Tell me a little about your personal relationship with Parton and her music?
My mum showed me the movie “Steel Magnolias” when I was young, and that story and all those women, those characters, and their relationships, really resonated with me. From then on, I always noticed Dolly. I wasn’t as obsessed like Red, but I was drawn to her. I loved her sense of humour, her talent, her business acumen, the way she looked and the way she, in turn, handled that up against judgmental comments and sexism. Dolly is very humble, gracious, generous and kind, and is one of the very few people we can all agree on in the world at the moment. But at the same time she is very private, there is a lot we don’t know about Dolly and I admire all of that combined so much.
Parton has publicly endorsed “Seriously Red”. How does it feel to have the seal of approval from the country music legend?
The movie is such a love letter to her, so it was pretty special for her to not only love it, but endorse it the way she did. I was very moved.
The film is not only an homage to Parton, it is also a celebration of female creativity and collaboration, and a product of your female-founded company Dollhouse Pictures…
We really started the production company out of this film. We were all collaborating and sending notes on the draft, and it was Jessica Carrera who said we should start the company. These women have been my touchstone for this film. I wouldn’t have wanted to make it without them. So, we came together – each having 20 professional years in the business all with different and growing strengths and wanting to tell different stories. We have such talent in Australia, and it’s important to us that whatever story we are sharing, it’s globally accessible.
What was the process like for you when it came to physically inhabiting the spirit and aesthetic of Dolly Parton?
I definitely had to get ‘Dolly Fit’, is what I called it. I really underestimated the weight of the wigs, the height of the heels and the tightness of the corsets. Tim Chappel did the costumes, and he is the most delightful wizard. It was like he was a balloon artist, he could twist a piece of fabric into anything. Cassie Hanlan did the wig and makeup design, and she is a true creator as well. I really really enjoyed every moment playing Dolly; she has such a great sexuality, confidence and cheek to her.
What’s next on the horizon for you? Any projects or news you’re able to share?
We have a few things on the boil. At the moment, between the kids and this campaign, I’m developing a TV show.