Why Dolly Parton Initially Said She’d ‘Never’ Produce or Adapt ‘Dumplin’

Dumplin’ debuted on Netflix in 2018. It tells the story of Willowdean, a plus-size teen who protests her town’s beauty pageant. Willowdean goes through many changes through the course of the film, but one thing stays constant: her love of Dolly Parton.

When someone first approached Parton about adapting Dumplin’ the book into a film, Parton was staunchly against the idea.

Jennifer Aniston and Dolly Parton at the premiere of Netflix's 'Dumplin''
Jennifer Aniston and Dolly Parton | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Why Dolly Parton would ‘never’ produce or adapt ‘Dumplin’

Before Dumplin’ became a Netflix movie, it was a novel by Julie Murphy. Someone sent the book to Parton and suggested “This might be something you’d like to produce or adapt.”

“I said, ‘No, that would be too self-serving. Because the story is about me,'” Parton wrote in her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “This little girl in the story liked me. I was an inspiration to her, and she loved my songs. So I said, ‘No, I would never do that.’ Then I forgot about it.”

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But, a few years later, Jennifer Aniston decided to turn the book into a movie.

“At that point, they approached me to see if they could use my music [in the movie],” she wrote. “I said they could. Then they asked if I would write some additional music for it, and I said I would. So I started working with [producer/songwriter] Linda Perry.”

‘Red Shoes’

One of the songs that Parton wrote for the film was “Red Shoes.”

“It’s kind of like my modern-day ‘Coat of Many Colors,'” she wrote. “In the movie, there was a pair of red shoes that represented dreams and plans and things.”

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Parton had a good time writing and singing the song. She tried to incorporate elements from the film into the lyrics.

“In Dumplin’, the ‘Aunt Lucy’ character just loved Dolly,” she wrote. “So I used her name in the song. I loved writing that song, and I love singing it, too. Because it talks about ‘If I ever get to Heaven, I hope to tromp around on those golden streets in a pair of red shoes. Just like the ones that ‘Aunt Lucy’ let me wear to tromp around on her porch.'”

Dolly Parton’s personal tie to ‘Red Shoes’

Parton has a personal connection to red high heels.

“In my real life, there was a pair of red, high-heeled shoes,” she wrote. “The welfare people used to send boxes of clothes up to the mountains where we lived. When I was a kid, I found this pair of red shoes that were kind of like the shoes I wear now. I thought I could wear those shoes, but they were grown-up people’s shoes. I cried over those shoes, because they wouldn’t let me have them.”

The memory of those red shoes have stuck with Parton her whole life. And now they’re immortalized in the Dumplin’ soundtrack.