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When Dolly Parton first played the song “9 to 5” for Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, they knew they had a hit in the making.

Fonda and Tomlin recently recalled the moment they heard that song, shortly after being cast in the 1980 film by the same name. “I remember Lily and I just looked at each other and we both had goosebumps,” Fonda recounted during a press event in support of fair wages for workers. She added that even if the movie flopped, the song alone would make it a hit.

Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ was thrilling

“Remember the day that Dolly came to us and asked us to listen to the song that she composed that night?” Fonda asked Tomlin.

Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton sing 9 to 5 at an event.
Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

“And I said, Jane if this movie is not a success, this song will make it so,” Tomlin replied. “This song was so great. And Dolly’s beating the tempo out on her nails and just singing acapella. It was just really thrilling because the song was just so darn good.”

Fonda added that her son, who was 7 years old at the time had a big crush on Parton. “He came to the set one day and Dolly came up to him,” she shared. “And of course, every time she was near him, he would turn bright red and she looked down at him. And she said, ‘Do you know why my feet are so small?’ Well, no. ‘Things don’t grow big in the shade.’ He didn’t get it [laughs], but everybody else did. Of course, the shade for her breasts. Her feet couldn’t get sun.”

The ‘9 to 5’ cast bonded before they started filming

Tomlin recalled how she, Fonda, and Parton bonded before making 9 to 5. “Well, actually, it was a set deal that the three of us would make the movie,” Tomlin shared. “And I’d known Dolly a little bit before I got to know Jane, although I was a huge fan of both of them.”

“But I was really a fan of Fonda,” she added. “I had the Klute hairdo for half my lifetime or something. But anyway, when we got together, we got a cabana or a cottage or a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. We stayed up all night and told all kinds of stories about ourselves and about who we were involved with and everything else that went on in our lives. And we just bonded like that. We just felt like great friends. And it just stayed that way. Even if we’ve gone a long time and working, we still are connected to one another in some way. I just value those two women so much. They’re just such great friends.”

Lily Tomlin tried to quit the movie

Despite their quick bond, Tomlin tried to back out of the movie when cameras started rolling. “But I have to say, though, that it took a year to convince them to do the movie,” Fonda recalled. “And after we were shooting for a week, Lily came up to my producing partner, Bruce Gilbert, and asked if she could be let out of her contract because she didn’t think she was doing a good job.”


Dolly Parton on Why a ‘9 to 5’ Reunion Hasn’t Worked out Yet

Tomlin worried she would “ruin” the film. But after some convincing from partner Jane Wagner, she decided to return. And she turned to Parton’s manager, Sandy Gallin to help her ease back in. “And I asked Sandy Gallin, I said ‘Sandy, you got to get me back in the movie. I quit, and I’m so sorry.’ I didn’t really quit because they wouldn’t let me go that easily. But anyway, he pasted it up.”