Home Again: Reese Witherspoon explains the state of the modern rom-com
Reese Witherspoon isn’t quite sure how to categorize her next big-screen venture. “It’s about that very particular post-divorce time, and the insecurity and guilt that comes with it — so it isn’t really a romantic comedy,” she says. But first-time writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer (daughter of director Nancy Meyers) may have it sussed: “It’s a modern rom-com,” she says. “I noticed women were feeling comfortable getting divorced earlier in life, and I wanted to explore that trend.”
Witherspoon plays Alice, a 40-year-old mother of two who moves home to L.A. after her marriage falls apart. Somehow she finds herself boarding three aspiring filmmaker brothers in her guesthouse. “Together the three of them make the perfect man,” laughs Meyers-Shyer. Alice adapts nicely to live-in child care, tech support, and a relationship with the brother in his late 20s (Pico Alexander). “It’s kind of beautiful to see a May-December romance the other way around,” Witherspoon says. “It’s good to put that out there and challenge social arrays.”
The older-woman-younger-man romance isn’t the only love story in the movie. With the daughter of two Hollywood heavyweight moviemakers at the helm (father Charles Shyer produced and got an Oscar nomination for writing Private Benjamin and is also the writer-director of the Father of the Bride movies), Home Again is in part an ode to the filmmaking industry. “There’s a great love of cinema present in the film,” says Witherspoon. “Hallie is very respectful of the real craftsmanship and the sincerity of people’s artistry.” For Meyers-Shyer’s part, injecting the warm, sumptuous glow of old Hollywood was entirely intentional. “That’s exactly the quality I wanted the movie to have,” says the first-time director who grew up on movie sets watching her parents at work and learning that the position in the director’s seat was earned not awarded. “I wanted it to feel like a place you wanted to be. Hollywood is really the heart of Los Angeles and it’s based around an art form. There’s that bright reality TV thing that people picture when they think of L.A. now, so I was trying to do my part in showing L.A. as a sort of oasis and bringing back that idea of going west to follow your dreams.”
That dreamlike, candle-lit essence trickles over into the movie’s plot at times and yet, the most unlikely element of the story — a middle-aged mom taking in three jobless strangers — was actually born from reality. “When a friend of mine was growing up in L.A. her mother took in these three guys,” says Meyers-Shyer. “I love it when people tell me, ‘Oh I wish that that could actually happen; it seems like wish fulfillment,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, actually it did happen to somebody I know.’ I just thought it was very interesting and bohemian and it would fit in nicely with the character I had created.”
Still, following the true rom-com tried-and-tested formula, there had to be a male lead with enough charm to melt the best of intentions. “Casting Pico Alexander’s part was really tough,” says the writer-director. “It’s a part of a young movie star and I really wanted someone who embodied old-school Hollywood for that character. While I was writing it I pictured a young Jack Nicholson — those are some very hard shoes to fill, but Pico sent in a self tape and he just leapt off the screen.”
Nonetheless, despite the dewy backdrop and the attractive male suitor, the romantic fling isn’t the crux of the story. “That’s what makes it a modern romantic comedy,” says Witherspoon, finally giving in to that label. “It’s not about a woman finding love; it’s about a woman finding the best version of herself — and that’s very modern.”
Big Little Lies: How Nicole Kidman convinced Reese Witherspoon to play Madeline
Is it any surprise that actor-producer Reese Witherspoon’s first major TV project, HBO’s hit miniseries Big Little Lies, resulted in not just an Emmy nomination for her, but a whopping 16 for the show overall? The star, who also produced literary adaptations Gone Girl and Wild, turned Liane Moriarty’s thriller into a moody, suspenseful — but wonderfully funny — must-watch series that has viewers begging for a second season. And as lovable but complicated busybody Madeline Martha Mackenzie, Witherspoon, 41, was at the top of her game, spitting the show’s funniest lines one moment and delivering taut drama the next.
EW caught up with Witherspoon ahead of the Emmy Awards (airing Sept. 17) to talk about making the switch from film to TV, what story lines could be explored in a potential season 2, and how her costar (and co-producer) Nicole Kidman convinced her that her comedic role was necessary for the series.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is essentially your first TV role, aside from some guest spots. REESE WITHERSPOON: Yeah, this is the only thing I’ve ever done! [Laughs] I’ve never done TV before, other than being Jennifer Aniston’s sister on Friends and a Lifetime movie when I was 15.
Tell me about making the switch. What was it like getting to spend so much more time with a character?
It’s a very different process. It’s a much longer process, but as an actor, the ability to dig deeper into a character and have more time to live with these characters, I think [helps] you create a more whole picture of a human life. Nicole [Kidman] and I were approached and asked to make it into a feature film right before we were about to make a decision about what network we were going to go with, and we just really felt like we wanted to tell the story of five women, not two, and there just wouldn’t be enough time within a film format to get that deep level of storytelling.
And also, to be quite frank, audiences are much more deeply invested in these long-form storytelling opportunities. I think you get a lot more engagement. You’re chasing the audience that is Nicole and I’s audience for years and years, but it’s also Shailene’s audience and Zoë Kravitz’s audience. It’s important to go where your audience is, not expect them to necessarily come to you.
You had to balance so much in this role: Madeline had dramatic and comedic scenes, and she was a bully as much as she was a protagonist.
It was funny, when we were making it, Laura Dern and I kept looking at each other and going, “I think we’re in a comedy and everybody else is in a drama.” But I think that’s what makes it relatable and why people see themselves in it, because there’s a part of it that is so much about the intimacy of marriage and relationships and parenting and the secrets we keep from each other. And then there’s this whole other element of tension and mystery and murder, and that any one of us is capable of something truly horrible at any moment.
Last weekend Reese attended the Television Critics Association Awards in Beverly Hills, where Big Little Lies was nominated for 3 awards. It picked up the award for Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials, and Reese joined her director Jean-Marc Vallee, co-producers Per Saari, Nathan Ross, Bruna Papandrea, and writer David E. Kelly on stage to accept the award – congratulations to the Big Little Lies crew! Reese looked elegant in a little black dress by Antonio Berardi with jewellery from Eva Fehren. HQ photos from the event can be found in our Gallery:
The Television Critics Association Announces 2017 TCA Awards Winners
The Television Critics Association (TCA) recognized the top programs and actors from the 2016-2017 television season tonight at its 33RD Annual TCA Awards presentation. The prestigious organization’s event was held at the Beverly Hilton hotel, hosted by EMMY® and TONY®-winning entertainer Kristin Chenoweth.
The results were determined from votes cast by the TCA’s membership, comprised of more than 220 professional TV critics and journalists from the United States and Canada. The winners represent a diverse lineup of series and stars in 12 distinct categories, putting the spotlight on the absolute best in comedy, drama, reality, miniseries, news, and youth programming. Highlights included Hulu earning its first TCA awards on the strength of its freshman dystopian thriller THE HANDMAID’S TALE, which took home top honors for Program Of The Year and Outstanding Achievement In Drama; as well as ABC’s heartwarming family comedy SPEECHLESS, which won in the category of Outstanding Achievement In Youth for its unique family dynamic and strong, heartfelt storylines.
For the second year in a row, FX emerged as one of the evening’s biggest winners. The network snagged a TCA-leading three awards thanks to its dynamic new series ATLANTA, which earned Outstanding Achievement In Comedy, and scored an Individual Achievement In Comedy Award for series star and creator Donald Glover. Rounding out the network’s big night was an Individual Achievement In Drama Award for Carrie Coon, who made TCA awards history by being recognized for two separate performances. Coon was recognized for her standout roles as the tech-challenged police chief Gloria Burgle on FX’s twisting crime caper FARGO and playing the emotionally resilient Nora Durst on HBO’s spiritually-rich drama series THE LEFTOVERS.
Additionally, NBC’s beloved interpersonal drama THIS IS US was recognized as the season’s Outstanding New Program; HBO’s star-studded suburban murder mystery BIG LITTLE LIES came away with the award for Outstanding Achievement In Movies, Miniseries, and Specials; A&E’s investigative true-life series LEAH REMINI: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE AFTERMATH received the award for Outstanding Achievement In Reality Programming; and ESPN’s provocative five-part documentary event O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA nabbed Outstanding Achievement In News and Information.
Reese Witherspoon on ‘Big Little Lies’ Season 2 Potential: “We’re Optimistic”
The actress talks to THR about the future of the limited series, the other TV character she’d like to play and the project she had to turn down because of the critically lauded HBO drama.
Ever since Big Little Lies wrapped its critically lauded run on HBO in April, there have been rumblings of a possible second season of the limited series.
Reese Witherspoon tells The Hollywood Reporter that those conversations are ongoing, and that she’s “optimistic” about doing more of the drama, which is based on Liane Moriarty’s book of the same name.
Ahead of the Emmys, the Oscar-winning actress chatted with THR about the future of the limited series, the other TV character she’d like to play and the project she had to turn down because of Big Little Lies.
There’s been talk of a potential second season of Big Little Lies. What’s the latest?
Honestly, it’s totally in [novelist] Liane Moriarty’s court. The ball is definitely in her court because these characters were born of her mind and her imagination, and we just want to see if she’s interested in creating more story about these characters. She really created an incredible road map for us that we followed almost to a T. Right now, we’re happy if this is all there is. We’re optimistic that there might be more.
And you’re talking to writer David E. Kelley about a second season as well?
Yes, he’s our producing partner.
What goes into the decision of continuing a limited series?
It just comes down to, do we have the story? It was a stand-alone book and there was nothing after that, so it’s up to the mind of the writer to create the vision for the journey of these characters. Right now, we have nothing. We don’t have a book. We’re certainly not going to create it out of thin air. [Moriarty’s] very deft at, first of all, creating tension through mystery, but also digging deep into the very intimate lives of female friendships — their relationships, their romantic relationships, their parenting styles.
Over the past week I’ve added various scans from UK tabloid newspapers that were contributed by palomafaithcentral.org. They feature reviews and snippets on Reese and several of her films from over the years, including This Means War, Legally Blonde, Walk The Line and Rendition. Some of them are very tabloid-y, but there are some nice reviews – particularly the one entitled ‘Is Reese The Smartest Blonde In Hollywood’! Have a browse in the Gallery:
Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon to Star in Series About TV Morning Shows
More than a decade after Friends wrapped its run, star Jennifer Aniston is plotting her return to the small screen.
In one of the largest TV packages to date, Aniston and Reese Witherspoon are attached to star in an untitled series exploring morning shows and the larger New York media scene that they inhabit.
The package, which has not yet hit the market, is expected to be taken out to premium cable outlets like HBO and streaming services including Netflix. Given the stars attached, it is expected to draw significant interest from multiple bidders.
The project is based on an original idea and is being spearheaded by former HBO head of drama Michael Ellenberg and his newly launched film and TV production company Media Res. Jay Carson (House of Cards) is attached to pen the script and exec produce. Academy Award nominee Steve Kloves (Wonder Boys, Harry Potter) will executive produce. Witherspoon will also executive produce alongside her Hello Sunshine banner topper Lauren Levy Neustadter. Aniston also will be credited as an executive producer.
Aniston and Witherspoon, who memorably guest starred as Aniston’s younger sister on Friends, have remained friends over the years.
Untitled TV Project with Jennifer Aniston
Luckiest Girl Alive
Tiny Beautiful Things
Barbie origins project
In A Dark, Dark Wood
Untitled Rob Long Project
The Thing About Jellyfish
All Is Not Forgotten
Three Little Words
Pale Blue Dot
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