Facts About ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ Only True Fans Would Know

Can you call yourself a true Loretta Lynn fan?

Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter
Academy Award nominee Sissy Spacek plays country singer Loretta Lynn in the 1980 film Coal Miner's Daughter. Photo:

Bettmann / Contributor / Getty

A coal miner’s daughter in Appalachia who became the reining queen of country music playing on the Grand Ole Opry stage, Loretta Lynn's life was the stuff of Hollywood movies. It was only a matter of time for Hollywood to come calling.

After making a name for herself with songs like “Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)" and "You Ain’t Woman Enough," Lynn revealed her humble origins in the song, “Coal Miner's Daughter”. Its lyrics lay out how she was born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, as one of eight children with parents struggling to make ends meet. In 1980, Hollywood turned Lynn’s memoir, also called Coal Miner's Daughter, into a movie with Sissy Spacek stepping in to play Lynn. That film went on to win an Academy Award and Lynn became even more of a country legend.

Here are a few facts that only true fans would know about Coal Miner’s Daughter:

Lynn Personally Picked Spacek To Play Her In The Film

"She was looking through a pile of pictures and when she came to one of me, she said, 'That's her, that's the coal miner's daughter,'" Spacek said in a 1980 New York Times interview.

Spacek Wasn’t Sure She Wanted The Role

In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment in 2018, Spacek said she wanted to turn down the role. “I went to see Loretta at a show in New Orleans, and I was going to tell her, ‘I’m very sorry, you’re a wonderful person and a great singer, but I’m not doing this.’

“We missed the whole show because we were late, but she came out the back door in this flaming-red dress, and she was so mad because the drums had been too loud. She was ragging on her band, and I was just dumbstruck. I thought, ‘I have to play this woman!’ And I’m so grateful that I did, because we’re still very close.”

It’s a good thing she changed her mind, because Lynn had gone on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and said “Sissy Spacek is going to play me”—even though Spacek hadn’t agreed yet!

Spacek Performed All The Songs Herself 

Spacek performed the songs in the film herself, explaining in her 2012 memoir, My Extraordinary Ordinary Life, that she worked with Lynn to nail her Appalachian accent, singing style, and speech patterns. Lynn had encouraged Spacek to sing in the film, rather than lip-sync, and helped the actress learn her guitar-playing style. “We stayed at a hotel in Nashville for about a week,” Lynn told Yahoo! “We’d put the sheet music on lampshades with safety pins and we’d have our guitars, so we’d be walking around the room from one lampshade to another singing these songs.” Not to be outdone, Beverly D’Angelo, who played country legend Patsy Cline, also did all of her own singing in the film.

Spacek Went On To Record A Country Album

Spacek apparently liked singing, because a few years later, she released a country album. Hangin' Up My Heart, produced by Rodney Crowell and featuring both Roseanne Cash and Vince Gill as a session musician, before he was a star. 

The Actors Were A Musically-Talented Bunch

In the film, Lynn’s father Ted Webb was played by Levon Helm, who was a drummer for the rock group, The Band, the group that also backed Bob Dylan. Lynn’s mother was played by bluegrass artist Phyllis Boyens. Their work in Coal Miner’s Daughter was the acting debut for both.

Tommy Lee Jones Learned How To Drive A Bulldozer For The Role

As Wide Open Country notes, in one of the special features that came with the 25th anniversary DVD, Jones told director Michael Apted that Lynn’s husband, Doolittle, personally taught him how to drive the bulldozer used in the movie. 

Spacek Was Nominated For An Award Against Lynn’s Sister

In a funny turn of events, when Spacek was nominated for a Grammy for her version of “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, she wound up competing against Lynn’s real-life sister, Crystal Gayle, who was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance for her song, “If You Ever Change Your Mind.” Any awkwardness was avoided when Anne Murray won for her song “Could I Have This Dance?”

Dolly Parton Was A Fan

Shortly after the picture opened, according to TCM, Spacek got a telegram from Dolly Parton that read "Dear Sissy, I hope you make millions of dollars from Coal Miner's Daughter so that you can get a boob job and do the Dolly Parton story."

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