Female athletes aren’t typically the subject of American movies. In a culture where sex, action, and 3-D sells tickets and wins big at the box office, it’s hard to imagine an athletic heroine winning over an American audience. But in the new romantic comedy, “How Do You Know,” Academy Award-winning writer and director, James L. Brooks, takes a risk and places a professional woman softball player at the center of his plot.
In the film, Reese Witherspoon plays the protagonist, Lisa, who is consumed with her sport and at 31-years-old has no plans to get married and have a family. When she is cut from the national team because she is deemed too old to play, Lisa finds solace in a casual relationship with Matty (Owen Wilson), a major league pitcher who is so much of a womanizer that he keeps an assortment of new women’s clothing in his closet as emergency morning-after attire for his conquests.
At the same time, Lisa goes on a blind date with George (Paul Rudd), a businessman who runs a company started by his father, Charles, (Jack Nicholson). George is recently the subject of a federal investigation and now a nervous wreck. Unemployed and emotional, Lisa soon finds herself in the midst of a love triangle with two equally handsome and complicated male suitors and she wonders if she’s even the marrying type.
Sunday afternoon in the basement of the Ritz Carlton in Manhattan, Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Kathryn Hahn and James L. Brooks gathered for a press conference to promote their new non-traditional romantic comedy, in an intimate and ornate room with chandeliers and impressionist paintings on the wall.
Witherspoon, a petite blonde, sat sandwiched between Wilson and Rudd, and instantly broke the ice, admitting, “I’m really not that athletic. [Brooks] wanted … [me] to work with coaches and train so I did that for four months [and] three hours a day. … I’m still not any good at softball but I learned a lot.”
For Witherspoon, the female athlete’s world made more of an impression than the game itself. “It is … completely different … [for] someone who … grows up as a high school athlete or a collegiate athlete and … it’s sort of a parallel to being an actor. … As a woman, … I don’t even know if I’m supposed to say this, but we have a time that is the time that we work … a lot, and hopefully you shift and you’re able to become the Meryl Streeps or the Diane Keatons … and continue working. … But to play a character who has a shelf life or an expiration date [and] who knows that by the beginning of her thirties her career is over … was an interesting culture to explore” Witherspoon said.
Dating Dilemmas of The Stars
In the movie, Witherspoon’s blind date with Rudd comes soon after she’s cut from the team and he’s hit with the federal investigation. Needless to say, the date is dismal and Witherspoon, a tabloid darling, is no stranger to real life romantic comedy. “I had someone correct my grammar on a … blind date and I just — I knew in the first ten minutes the date was over. … You just don’t correct somebody’s grammar,” Witherspoon told ABCNews.com. “I’m from Tennessee. I probably say everything wrong. I probably said ain’t or something,” Witherspoon laughed.
After chuckling at Witherspoon’s story, Rudd, who is charming and effervescently handsome in real life, wasn’t afraid to boast of a scarcely believable first date that Wilson labeled “almost criminal and beyond stupid.”
“A friend of mine and I went on a double date with these two girls and … we were trying to impress the girls and make each other laugh …” Rudd said. “[So] it started off innocently enough with my friend kicking his shoe 30 feet in the air just as we were walking around the street and it really struck me as funny. … I tried to out-do him. Until … I jumped on a mailbox … and each thing kept escalating. The girls didn’t laugh at any of these [stunts] but it ended finally [when] we were driving back and I thought it would be funny … in the middle of a conversation [to] jump out of the jeep and run alongside and keep the conversation going as if it was normal. But I didn’t take into account that when you’re going slow[ly] in the car it’s still really fast. I was in the middle of the conversation and just stepped out of the car and fell so hard on the road [that] I ripped my jeans … cut up my hands, and … felt the tire whoosh past my head and I looked up and in a split second the car was already 50 feet from me, going into a tree. [Everyone in the car was] completely shell-shocked and I felt so stupid and then just drove home in silence. That was the only date I had with her.”
Romance In The Air
While they were filming the movie Nicholson was taken aback when Wilson invited him on a date of their own. “Though I didn’t get to work with Owen … the only contact I had with him [was when] he called me up when [I first started filming and] all he said was, ‘Hey you want to uh shoot machine guns?’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, all these guys think I’m adventurous. What a date!'” Nicholson said.
When Witherspoon added, “He invited me too. It’s kinda awesome,” Wilson felt the need to elaborate. “Somehow a friend knew somebody with one of the embassies that had a tennis court and then when they let us on to play tennis they had a machine gun range underneath the embassy that then they took us to shoot on,” Wilson said.
So “how do you know” if American moviegoers will go on a blind date with a romantic comedy about a lady sports prodigy? The answer: How Do You Know opens in theaters nationwide on December 17th.