Reese Witherspoon has a bone to pick — the Oscar-winner is sick of being known as Hollywood’s most obsessively organised actor.
The 31-year-old says she often regrets giving her film company the name Type A Productions — a tongue-in-cheek choice the self-confessed perfectionist made many moons ago.
“People immediately assume that I have a very controlling personality,” Witherspoon says with a sigh.
“It’s up for interpretation that term — Type A — and to me it was just about getting things done and being diligent about them happening, which didn’t seem very negative, but sometimes people think of it as a very uptight personality trait.
“I’m just much more easygoing than that — I go with the flow.”
Case in point: the petite screen star is in the very un-Hollywood interview position of being shoeless and snuggled up on a sofa.
She has kicked off the sky-high, flesh-toned Christian Louboutin pumps she wore for an earlier press conference and has a hotel dressing gown as a makeshift blanket draped over the form-fitting midnight blue Prada dress that swathes her tiny frame.
“Sorry — I’m cold,” she says apologetically.
Witherspoon, who has recently become one of the fashion world’s favourite stars, happily reveals her current comfort-seeking state in this plush Beverly Hills hotel suite is much closer to the unglamorous reality of her life away from the red carpet.
“I’m usually just in jeans and T-shirts and flip-flops (thongs),” she says.
The mother of two’s style transformation came in the midst of significant personal upheaval and professional success.
In a year that saw her win an Oscar for her portrayal of June Carter in Walk the Line and file for divorce from her husband of seven years, actor Ryan Phillippe, amid rumours he had developed a romance with his Australian co-star Abbie Cornish, Witherspoon emerged as a feted fashion plate for style scribes across the globe.
Witherspoon is friendly and polite, but guarded and somewhat remote.
She chooses her words carefully — particularly when talk turns to her new film, Rendition, about the US Government’s controversial policy of “extraordinary rendition”, which sends suspected terrorists to secret foreign detention facilities with unorthodox methods of extracting information.
In the post-September 11 thriller, Witherspoon plays Isabella Fields El-Ibrahimi, a heavily pregnant American woman married to an Egyptian-born, American-educated chemical engineer (Omar Metwally), who disappears without a trace while on a business trip.
Her character begins a harrowing search for him that sees her challenging the upper echelons of the CIA, which has secretly seized him without charge and has been torturing him after transporting him to Morocco.
Witherspoon says she was shocked to hear of the real-life classified policy.
“My reaction when I first learned of ‘extraordinary rendition’ was pretty much disbelief that it was happening,” she says in her mild Southern drawl.
“It just doesn’t seem altogether American to detain people without due process and without the opportunity to be charged with a crime and to go through a proper trial.
“That there is no legal recourse for people who have endured this type of torture is shocking. I am really proud to be part of a project that is bringing this practice to the public’s attention.”
Obviously aware of the potentially negative effect that politically inspired diatribes can have on an actor’s popularity, Witherspoon quickly adds an aside that neutralises her earlier statement and places her firmly on the fence.
“At the same time, it’s a very complicated issue,” she says.
“I’m an actor — I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have the responsibility for maintaining national security.
“There are two sides of every coin and I hope this movie shows both sides of this issue.”
The ensemble drama also stars Meryl Streep and Witherspoon’s rumoured paramour, Jake Gyllenhaal.
The pair, who did not share any scenes, have remained tight-lipped about their on-off relationship.
All Witherspoon offers when her co-star’s name is mentioned is a dismissive statement in a tone denoting that any questions about her private life are off-limits.
“He’s great,” she says with a pained smile. “It’s interesting how our stories intersect even though we don’t talk to each other.”
Witherspoon and Gyllenhaal have been a recent favourite of paparazzi and she volunteers that fame has often made her feel isolated, before adding that in recent times she has managed to find a fulfilling balance between her private life and her public position.
“You lose that anonymity and that privacy,” she says. “But I have a wonderful, very rich life where I have a lot of friends.
“Usually . . . all the fame stuff wears off and just melts away and people usually get very open and real and realise I’m just a regular mom.”
A regular mother with a golden man named Oscar sitting on a shelf in her living room.
Witherspoon — who lists Streep, Jodie Foster, Renee Zellweger and Kate Winslet as career idols — says winning an Academy Award has changed her life dramatically.
“It’s made certain opportunities very available to me. I’ve been very lucky to get to work in a movie like this and talk to other film-makers about other interesting projects,” she says.
“It also allowed me to go more easily from drama to comedy and comedy to drama.”
Witherspoon — who has successfully straddled the difficult divide between the two genres — says she does not have a preference between comedy or drama.
“One doesn’t outweigh the other,” she says. “They’re fulfilling in different ways.”
Rendition opens on Thursday.
Source: Herald Sun