Ron Matthew Inawat is president of the GoPride Network and contributes to ChicagoPride.com, PrideLA.com and other sites within the GoPride Network.
On the fumes of a dream, twin brothers and model/actors Gary and Larry Lane have written a script with a plum roll for one of their idols, Dolly Parton. Having had no luck getting the screenplay into her hands, they embark on a cross-country expedition to personally deliver it to her.
The journey is documented in the new film "Hollywood to Dollywood" which is making a huge splash at film festivals everywhere.
In the documentary, they set off from Dolly's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and drive an RV - aptly named "Jolene" - across the country and headed East for Pigeon Forge, TN. All along Interstate 40 at rest stops, RV parks, bars, and hair salons, they meet everyday Americans as they encounter everything from floods in Nashville to a tornado in Oklahoma.
The road to Dollywood is also one of discovery for the brothers: their relationship with their parents, their hopes, fears and ambitions, and the bigotry they've encountered as they search for tolerance and acceptance and the joy of realizing their biggest dream handing their screenplay to Dolly Parton.
Gary Lane spent a moment to talk to us about the twins' new documentary and about their professional lives on-and-off the screen.
MI: Tell us about "Hollywood to Dollywood" - how did it start and what motivated you to work on the project?
GL: It all started when my brother and I finished a script we had been writing for four years called "Full Circle" and we wrote a special part just for Dolly Parton. So when we found out the 25th anniversary of Dollywood was coming, and she was attending, we thought, lets make the trip from Hollywood to Dollywood and try to hand it to her!
MI: The film is about your journey, both the road from Hollywood to Dollywood and a road to acceptance where you share your own heartfelt personal stories that connect with the audience.
What was the toughest part about opening yourself up and putting yourself out there?
GL: It's hard to come to terms with it, lots of personal details, and our public outing. Our family has known for years, but this is the first time we put it out there for everyone, but we believe in the message of hope and acceptance, and not everyone gets to chase a dream, especially in an RV named Jolene! So this is our struggle and our story set to Dolly music.
MI: "Hollywood to Dollywood" has just started appearing in a number of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) film festivals this year and you've already won a couple of awards. At the Sacramento Music and Film Festival last week, the film picked up the Director's Choice Award and the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary. That is exciting! How does it feel to know the film is being very well received?
GL: It is amazing!
We are going to as many film festivals as we can. There is something special about feeling the love from the audience, as they laugh and cry. And then to do a Q&A, and have people come up to you in tears to say thank you so much for your story. WOW, it's life changing.
We are in 30 festivals so far and 10 of them are non-gay festivals. That's important to us; getting this message out to people who are not usually exposed to it.
MI: Has mom seen the film? What does she think of it?
I'd have to guess that she is extremely proud of her boys knowing that they've worked so hard on a film that potentially helps younger LGBT's out there come to terms with their own personal struggles - especially amidst of all of the news we hear about bullying today.
GL: Well, mom knows about the film and that we tell our story, so she can't be proud of the film because of the backlash it will bring to her from our small town in North Carolina.
Southern people are still so closed-minded, and we show that over and over again in "Hollywood to Dollywood."
And that is hard; but you only get one mom - and we love ours no matter what. Our dad had a bad stroke in April and we have all rallied to help him get back on his feet, but mom has so much pressure right now, we don't push her too hard on the acceptance part.
You're also right. I know that telling our story is helping people. I get so many emails from kids looking for hope and we let them know it does get better day by day.
MI: You've had some great collaborators on this film which also included some pretty exciting cameo appearances. How did each of them make an impact in the production of the film and in your personal lives?
GL: Well, Leslie Jordan, Chad Allen, Beth Grant, Ann Walker and Dustin Lance Black were all amazing!
Leslie gave us a send off that was so FUNNY! And Beth worked with Dolly, so her interview was important. Chad has been a best friend for years, so he is a character reference for us and our struggle with our mom. And Lance helped us get the screenplay ready to hand Dolly. He took it from a heavy 167 [pages] down to a standard 107 industry size!
MI: Coincidentally, GoPride.com just interviewed the witty and wonderful Leslie Jordan - who we understand plays a role at the beginning of your journey to Dollywood. What was the best advice he gave you?
GL: If you see her and you can't get close enough to hand it to her.... THROW it at her, and then RUN! (laughing)
We love Leslie to death, he is amazing. And he has identical little twin sisters, so cute.
MI: It's incredible that you were able to get Dolly's blessing to use 15 of her songs for the film. Which of Dolly's songs to date is the most "special" to you? And what makes that particular track important?
GL: Well for both of us it's the song "Family." We played it to our mom when we came out to her, and she cried and cried, so it was important to have it in the film. One line states "Some are preachers, some are gay, but not a one is turned away when it's family. You choose your lovers, you pick your friends, but not the family that you're in, no, they will be with you until the end, when it's family."
So true, and thats whats amazing about Dolly - her words touch your soul.
And yes, Dolly granted us publishing on 15 songs and her image on the poster. She has been an angel!
MI: To finance the film, you both had to do some pretty death-defying stunts - winning the twin team episodes of NBC's Fear Factor and ABC's Wipeout. What was the scariest thing you had to do and what kept you going?
GL: Well, on Wipeout, we knew we had to pay for all the music, color correction, and sound editing - so we were motivated - and we got our asses kicked.
For every Wipeout I would say, "that was for Jolene." And for every ouch, "that was for Coat of Many Colors!" So we won the $50,000 and it all went into finishing the film. Dolly was worth every bruise and pulled muscle.
MI: You've also been in numerous movies which include Spiderman (1 and 2), Zoolander, The Patriot, Win a Date with Ted Hamilton as well as a large list of credits for television show and commercial appearances. Are there any upcoming big screen appearances we can look forward to seeing you both?
GL: Oh my god, yes! We just did a funny film called "Jack and Jill." Adam Sandler plays a twin, and we also play twins in the film.
When they called us to film, Larry was at the Kentucky Derby and I thought it was done, but production called back 30 minutes later and said, "Sandler wants you guys! What do we need to do to get your brother here?" Next thing I knew, Larry was on a plane to LAX, they sent a car for him, and he met me at Sony studios. Sandler shakes our hands, thanks Larry for flying in, and then we shot about three hours with him - and BOOM, Larry was on his way back to Kentucky. I think he was in LA about six hours total.
Our dad said, "Damn, I guess he really wanted you two in it!"
We just filmed a twin commercial for Virgin America Airlines, so all-in-all its been a hell of a year for us!
MI: Okay, we have a few standard get-to-know-you interview questions we like to ask at GoPride Network - please indulge us:
What is something in your home that would make a stranger think you were gay?
GL: Dolly Parton items!! Helloooo!!
MI: What is something that might make a stranger think you were straight?
GL: All the tools we have in the garage and workshop!
My boyfriend Mike uses [them] to build birdhouses just like the one he built that we handed Dolly of her childhood home. He is amazing with his hands in many ways!
MI: Boxers, briefs, or commando?
GL: Gary, briefs and Larry, briefs
MI: Which of the two of you gets hit on the most?
GL: Larry - he is usually single more, when we were younger anyway. Now he has been with Dusan five years, and Mike and I are very close to five years ourselves!
MI: Congratulations on that milestone! But, how do your boyfriends/partners tell you apart?
GL: They have mixed us up a few times, but found out before anything happened!
But our personalities are so different. Larry is way more stressed and I am easy-going. Larry is in Spain with Dusan right now! They needed a getaway and we needed the break. (laughs)
MI: Now, tell us a secret that you've never ever shared in a previous interview.
GL: Hmmmm.. Chad Allen is not a real blonde... (laughs)
No, truth is, we had six people in the RV together: John Lavin, our amazing director, and Jennifer Durso, 2nd unit director and photography, and Chris who did all of our sound.
But the story on Jen, who has a short haircut, walks into the local Arkansas Walmart where a man felt the need to tell her, with a deep southern drawl, that "girls around these parts wear their hair long."
MI: Speaking of "around these parts," what are you most looking forward to when you visit Chicago this fall?
GL: Two very inspiring ladies! One is Rosie O'Donnell. We know she is in Chi-town doing her show. We have always loved her, and in our film we talk about her and the impact she has had on our lives. We are hoping to reach out to her and have her as our special guest at the screening!
And the second lady is Amy Armstrong. We met her years ago at Roscoe's and she is a true friend we love dearly. She is so talented with her voice. Can't wait to sit on the front row and watch her show!
So if anyone out there knows Amy or Rosie, tell them the Lane twins are coming, with screening tickets in hand!
MI: Lastly, is there a special cause or charity you'd like to mention that's near and dear to your hearts?
GL: Yes! In the film, we talk about The True Colors Foundation that Cyndi Lauper started.
Also the NoH8 campaign is featured in the film. Adam Bouska who started the movement was amazing to grant us photo clearance.
And The Trevor Project! All are out there to help LGBT and LGBT youth.
We are in Chicago, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Shreveport, Indianapolis, DC, Portland, just to name a few - and internationally: Edmonton, Canada, Glasgow, Scotland (where we will be screening and speaking to LGBT youth) and Melbourne Australia.
And if Amy Armstrong and Rosie O'Donnell are our dates - um yes, we will die happy twins!
Our hope is that by this time next year, Dolly is beginning production on our script "Full Circle." And Reese Witherspoon, who was supposed to be at the 25th Dollywood opening but didn't make it, has decided to sign on and do the special part we wrote just for her! That would be a dream come true! We are filming Hollywood to Reesewood right now to hand it to her as well! (laughs)
MI: Gary, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions. See you in Chicago during the festival!
GL: Can't wait to meet you guys and screen in Chi-town!
The film will be screened in Chicago at Reeling's 30th Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film festival which runs from November 3-12, 2011. More information about the festival can be found at the Reeling website at http://reelingfilmfestival.org.