Holiday Movie Preview: 'Country Strong'
When Gwyneth Paltrow signed on to portray a Nashville star named Kelly Canter in Country Strong (rated PG-13, out Dec. 22), she was determined to do it as ”properly” as possible. ”[Faking it] is just not my style,” says the 38-year-old actress. ”I was going into such another world, and I wanted it to be as authentic as possible.” The problem? ”I had never played guitar, ever, ever,” she says. Paltrow’s unfamiliarity with the instrument was immediately apparent to Mark Jaimes, a British session guitarist who last fall was tasked with bringing the Oscar winner up to filmable speed in just four months. ”She didn’t even know how to hold a guitar,” says Jaimes, 43, who has played with Simply Red and Kylie Minogue, among others. ”I thought it was going to be a bit difficult, actually.” But Jaimes succeeded in getting Paltrow to play a tune during their first lesson. ”I think it was a Patsy Cline song,” says Paltrow. ”So on day one I was already accompanying myself on guitar, which made it really fun. I never thought in a million years I would be able to do that, as horrible as it sounded.”
Paltrow’s 20-odd lessons with Jaimes took place mostly in the kitchen of her London home, which she shares with a certain British pop star. So why didn’t she get hubby Chris Martin to teach her? ”Like he has time to be my guitar teacher,” she laughs. ”I think he’s doing okay with his day job. I’m not sure he’s going to take up guitar teaching. But he was encouraging.”
The actress says she needed all the encouragement she could get. ”I played all the time, and my hands were bleeding and cramping,” she says. ”It sucked. I cried, like, five times at various points over the four months. It’s really f—ing hard. It’s much harder than it looks. But at the same time, it was kind of exhilarating to be learning chords and putting them together.” Paltrow’s work paid off when she filmed the movie’s climactic concert sequence. ”It was actually fun,” she says. ”If I had to do it as myself, I would s— myself. But I was playing this country star, and I just let loose and went for it.” She performed live on Nov. 10 at the Country Music Awards, but Paltrow insists her new skill won’t mark a new phase in her career. ”I’m not going to make a guitar-band album or anything like that,” she says. ”But it’s useful for kids’ birthday parties.”