Nashville brings country and western with a woman's voice

Female-driven drama is too rare, Nashville director Callie Khouri tells Sarah Hughes

We tend to picture Oscar winners in their moment of glory, waving the gold statue in triumph, giving the long-practised speech, at the top of their game. The world is now theirs, the thinking goes, whatever they want they will get.

The truth, as screenwriter and director Callie Khouri could tell you, is more prosaic. Khouri, now 55, was a 35-year-old novice when she won the 1992 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for female road movie Thelma & Louise. It was her first produced screenplay and in her memorable acceptance speech she held the award above her head and proudly declared: “For everyone who wanted to see a happy ending for Thelma and Louise: for me this is it.”

Viewers watching that evening might well have expected Khouri with her fresh voice and ability to write strong, believable female characters to spend the next 20 years becoming a regular at award ceremonies. The reality was less straightforward.

Khouri followed up Thelma & Louise by writing the Julia Roberts/Dennis Quaid drama Something to Talk About, a grown-up relationship drama directed by Lasse Hallstrom, which received mixed reviews but was described by The New York Times as “fresh enough to break the usual Hollywood mould”.

In 2002 she made her directorial debut with an adaptation of Rebecca Wells's bestseller about female friendship, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, following it up in 2008 with the ill-conceived and ill-received Mad Money, a broad comedy starring the unlikely trio of Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes. She also built a strong reputation as a script doctor, especially for those needing female characters to ring true.

Taken as a whole it's a solid career, albeit less glittering then you might have imagined, but now Khouri is the critics' darling once again thanks to her new television series, Nashville, which starts on More4 on Thursday.

The story of three very different country singers, Nashville has been widely praised. The Los Angeles Times described it as “bold, ambitious and fun” and Entertainment Weekly named it “the best new show of the year”. The praise was warranted: Nashville is a strong, vivid and, crucially, believable look at the country music industry in that town.

Like all of Khouri's best work it features interesting, fully rounded female characters as capable of doing bad as good. Most importantly, and in contrast to many female-centric dramas, it is neither melodrama nor knowingly kitsch soap but something more subtle and down to earth.

“It was important people didn't see it as a soap opera,” admits Khouri. “It's an adult drama about many aspects of life and it had to feel real. It's not about catfights and crazy plots.”

Instead, this tale of a fading country singer, a starlet on the make and a young, untapped talent treads its own path, rewarding viewers with a detailed insider's take on the industry that fuels Nashville along the way.

Connie Britton imbues fading star Rayna James with just the right mixture of waspish wit and warmth. She also crucially could pull off the earthy sexuality that's very much a Khouri trademark. “Most movie studios would say that female-driven movies aren't at the top of the list of films they want to make,” says Khouri. “Young female audiences like the Twilight crowd are important to them but they're not interested in the stories of grown women, and being an adult I am, so that kind of leaves me with…” She laughs. “Not a lot of choices, really.”


'Nashville' starts on 7 February at 10pm on More 4

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform