Travelin’ Thru: From Hollywood to Dollywood

By Heath Daniels

Originally published on Advocate.com August 31 2012 2:32 PM ET

Gary and Larry Lane had a dream. The North Carolina-born twins, both of whom are gay, wanted to present a movie script called Full Circle that they had written especially for their childhood idol Dolly Parton. The boarded their RV, lovingly named Jolene after Parton's early hit, to travel from Los Angeles to Tennessee to seek out the entertainer. Along the way they made detours and friends at a Texas truck stop and Parton-themed drag nights, where they encountered other Parton fans, both gay and straight. What began as a single task to hand-deliver their script quickly turned into a journey filled with family secrets, confessions, and acceptance. Hollywood to Dollywood, the documentary about their journey, which has already been a hit on the festival circuit in 2011, opens theatrically for one week at New York's Quad Cinema begnning today, followed by one week at L.A.'s Laemmle NoHo 7 beginning September 7. Gary Lane tells The Advocate how he and his brother first beame Parton fans, their mother's difficulty in accepting their sexual orientation, and meeting their idol at Dollywood.

The Advocate: What is your first memory of Dolly Parton?
Gary Lane: Hearing "Islands in the Stream" a million times in 1983. We were 8 years old.

You spent nearly five years writing Full Circle specifically with Dolly in mind. What inspired the script?
Our love for Dolly and wanting to write a character that would get her an Oscar for music and acting.

Most writers go through managers, agents, or producers. What made you decide to drive from Hollywood to Dollywood to hand-deliver the script to Dolly?
We sent it to Dolly’s management team in Nashville, and they sent it back unopened as unsolicited material. So we decided to make the long drive to Dolly. Jolene was thirsty, but it was sure worth the $3,000 we spent in gas.

Do you know if she has read the script?
We’re not sure. But we know we put it in her diamond-draped hands. We hope with the amazing life of Hollywood to Dollywood she will consider it. Up until last week we had only heard from her manager and lawyers as we locked in the contract to use 17 of her songs in Hollywood to Dollywood. Last week in Nashville at a press conference a reporter asked her about the film and she replied, “They are just sweet Southern boys. I was glad to lend them my music for the film, and proud to be a part of it.” That’s huge for us

Academy Award-winning writer Dustin Lance Black appears in the film and comments on your script, saying, “I’ve read a lot worse.” Did that sting a bit?
Not at all. He told us we had great characters, but the Dolly character was too heavy with content, and we needed to give more to the other ladies. [Laughs] He helped us edit it. We owe Lance so much. He helped us get it into shape from 170 pages to a slim, trim Hollywood 107. Who gets a script review from an amazing friend who just happens to be an Oscar winner? It’s a blessing.

You share intimate, sometimes painful, childhood memories about growing up gay in North Carolina. Did you intend to be so open about private family matters when you began the trip?
No. At first it was all about getting the script to Dolly. But after we met the friendly couple at a gas station that said a prayer over us, I felt I had misled them a bit. I didn’t tell them that Mike Bowen was my partner. We held back on the details of our lives. They were the first people we met on the road and after that we decided to be truthful about our lives. The film then took off in a whole new direction.

You speak very candidly about your mother’s inability to come to terms with your sexuality. Has she seen the film?
No. Our mom knows about it, but she does not want to see it at this time. It’s hard because our hometown in North Carolina will post everything we do on the front page. "Lane twins cast in Adam Sandler movie Jack and Jill" or "Lane twins win $50,000 on ABC's Wipeout.” But mom is not ready to see the headline "Lane twins gay," so she pulls away from it. Our dad has seen the film and has been very accepting. He even reached out to my partner, Mike. We were just home a few weeks ago. We have come to a common ground with our mom: “You pray for us and we will pray for you.” We say in the film, “We will never have a Thanksgiving at home with our boyfriends around the table.”  That’s true, [but] that is our reality, so we make the most of what we have.

Dolly Parton’s fans are incredibly diverse, but this film concentrates largely on Dolly’s gay fan base. Is Hollywood to Dollywood a film for Dolly fans or a film for gay Dolly fans?
It’s a film for everyone. It’s for anyone who has ever chased a dream, anyone who has ever wanted to feel accepted. Of the 60 film festivals we have screened at, 35 of them were straight-themed film festivals. We know Dolly opened that door and helped us reach a bigger audience. We are thankful for that.

At some point I’m sure there will be a movie made about Dolly’s life. Who should play her?
Kristin Chenoweth! Dolly has campaigned for Kristin to play her in the Broadway story Dolly is writing about her life. I tweeted Kristin and asked her if I could send her Hollywood to Dollywood, and she said, “Of course!” She tweeted me days later, “OMG! I LOVED IT!” She is a huge Dolly fan too.

Now that you have met your idol was the reality better than the dream?
Yes. When we met her two years ago at Dollywood we would have never imagined that our little documentary idea would take us to Scotland, Australia, Canada, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, receive praise from Dolly herself, win numerous awards, and receive countless emails of thanks. The Dollywood theme for the 25th anniversary was "Celebrate the Dreamer in You," and we sure did.