November 9th, 2010
04:45 PM ET
The Monday premiere of Gwyneth Paltrow’s upcoming “Country Strong” brought out the glitz of Hollywood and dropped it in Nashville, Tennessee.
As country music stars Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Martina McBride and Sara Evans strolled the red carpet at the Regal Green Hills Cinema, fans screamed from the adjacent parking lot and office workers gawked from their balconies.
But the one they were all waiting to see was Paltrow. When the Oscar-winner arrived, looking glamorous in a black peek-a-boo dress that spotlighted her navel, it was clear Hollywood had arrived.
Even McBride was a bit starstruck. "I love her blog. I subscribe," she admitted, referring to Paltrow's weekly lifestyle newsletter, Goop. "Word gets around quickly in this town. It's a small town. We've all heard such good things about her and her respect for country music."
In "Country Strong," Paltrow turns in a stunning performance as Kelly Cantor, an emotionally fragile country music superstar who struggles with booze and pills. Paltrow sings in the film, but that’s not a shock to those who saw her chops displayed a decade ago in the karaoke film "Duets" with Huey Lewis. In fact, the title track to "Country Strong" is currently a hit on country radio.
"It feels sort of surreal, and wonderful, and surprising, and terrific" Paltrow told CNN. "The whole experience of making this film has taken me on this whole adventure. So I am just relishing every step of it.”
During the shooting in Nashville, Paltrow lived for several months in a renovated loft in the re-gentrifying Gulch district, and really absorbed the local culture - even blogging about her quest to find the city's best fried chicken. She and her husband, Coldplay's Chris Martin, also became pals with Hill and McGraw. McGraw co-stars in "Country Strong" in a non-singing role as her husband and manager.
"Faith and Tim are just amazing people," Paltrow gushed. "They're warm, and real - down to earth and very talented. They've become very close friends."
McGraw jokingly begged to differ. "They stayed outside our gate so much we had to let 'em in every now and then,” he said. “In our neighborhood, you don't want a rock star or a movie star hanging outside your gate for too long because it draws attention…but I wouldn't say close friends."
Paltrow will be making her live country music singing debut Wednesday night at "The 44th Annual CMA Awards," performing "Country Strong" with Williams and Vince Gill - which begs the question: Could she pursue an actual career in Nashville?
"Yeah, she's a singer," McGraw said, "but I don't want her to have a career in it. Well, come on – there [are] enough of us already!"
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