Teen Talks To: Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon’s latest movie, Penelope, cruises in to theaters on February 29th, but this go ’round, the Oscar winner leaves the leading lady duties to Christina Ricci and plays a supporting character who helps Penelope learn to love herself just the way she is.
The modern fairytale about a girl who’s cursed (blessed?) by having a pig’s snout for a nose (no joke) is the first movie from Reese’s production company, Type A, so, of course, she’s more than a little excited about it. Read on to find out why!
Q: Did you ever think about playing Penelope yourself?
Reese: Yeah, I actually did. I got busy with other commitments and the movie had to go forward, so then we decided to cast it. I always knew I wanted to be in it in some capacity. And it was fun for me to get to play a smaller character.
Q: What did you have to do to develop your character? She’s sort of a biker chick with fun hair – not typically “Reese Witherspoon.”
Reese: (Laughs) I found somebody I thought was sorta like her, and I just mimicked her and it was fun. I got to run around the streets of London on that Vespa [motorbike] and got to wear the funny hair, and just be ballsy and funny.
Q: We heard there were some, um, “mishaps” on the Vespa?
Reese: Um, yeah, because I’m “height challenged,” my feet couldn’t touch the ground and they tried to lower it as low as they possibly could, and my feet still couldn’t touch the ground on it. So we had to put it on a rig and Christina’s too short too, and she had to sit on the back so we had to rig it up.
Q: How did you cast Christina Ricci in the role of Penelope?
Reese: I was so excited because, well, it’s great when you have this hot script in your hand, and you’ve got this great character. Christina was my first choice and she and I sat down for lunch and I was like, “She’s not gonna want to do this. She has to wear a pig nose.” But she just came in and said, “No, I’m excited, I want to do this!”
Christina is fearless. That’s what I’ve always loved about her. She always plays a very intelligent woman, but also very sharp, very witty. And we’ve grown up auditioning together, and we’ve known each other for years, and sitting in the waiting room, waiting to get cast, or not cast in movies, we made a friendship. So it was great to finally have that collaboration we had talked about for so many years.
Q: What about James McAvoy (as Penelope’s love interest), what brought you to him?
Reese: We were just lucky to get James. The casting director suggested him and, at the time, I didn’t know who he was but Christina had seen some of his work and she was a big champion of his. And then, of course, with Atonement, he’s become this big movie star now, and I tease him and say, “I got ya when you were cheap!” It’s not gonna happen again, I’ll never get him again, but he’s so great, and I’m so happy for him to be having all this success.
Q: Speaking of success…Where do you keep your Oscar?
Reese: I’ve considered making it into a doorknocker or a necklace but neither one of those are actually very practical. I just keep it in my living room.
Q: What’s the best career advice you ever received, and who gave it to you?
Reese: “Never miss an opportunity, just shut up,” by my granddad, and also the other interesting thing about our business is that it’s so ever-revolving. Always be nice to everybody, particularly people that answer the phones, because they’re going to be your boss in four years. And it’s true, it happens all the time!
Q: What do you hope that real girls in the audience who are having a really tough time with their self-image take away from this movie?
Reese: I guess that there’s all sorts of different definitions of beauty and that it’s about finding what makes you unique. It’s important to really know yourself.