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‘Country Strong’ Character Inspired by Britney Spears

Gwyneth Paltrow in 'Country Strong' and Britney Spears
Courtesy of Sony Pictures / Jason Merritt, Getty Images

When director Shana Feste was writing the screenplay for her movie ‘Country Strong,’ she was inspired by two very specific people: Britney Spears and Michael Jackson. ‘Country Strong’ tells the story of Kelly Canter, a once-famous country singer that falls into a cycle of addiction and depression. Canter, who is played by Academy Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, sets out on a comeback tour after completing a stint in rehab.

Feste wrote most of the script for ‘Country Strong’ during 2008, the year of Britney Spears’ infamous public breakdown. Spears was once the princess of pop, with girls wanting to be her and guys all over the world wanting to date her.

However, the pressure from both her personal and public lives soon made Spears crack. The star was photographed doing a number of bizarre things, including shaving her head, attacking the paparazzi with an umbrella and driving through Los Angeles with her young son on her lap. Nowadays, Spears has made a comeback, with a new album on the way, several popular singles and her successful ‘The Circus’ world tour — not to mention a full head of hair.

Feste also drew inspiration from the death of Michael Jackson in 2009. Jackson was preparing to go on his final ‘This Is It’ world tour when the singer suddenly died from a drug overdose in the summer of 2009. The world was shocked and saddened by the King of Pop’s death, especially as news surfaced that Jackson had been hiding his struggle with addiction for years.

“We build these artists and celebrate them, then at the first sign of weakness, we rally around their downfall. Then we want to build them back up for a comeback,” Feste tells Billboard about her inspiration for the characters in ‘Country Strong. “How difficult to live life like that in public.”

“I wanted to present these characters as messy, complicated and conflicted,” Feste continues. “Everybody is flawed.” ‘Country Strong’ opens in theaters today, Jan. 7.

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