Watching Reese Witherspoon work the red carpet at the premiere of her new film, “How Do You Know,” like a cheery little munchkin, 5 feet nothing and shrinking, you can’t help but think:
This girl is so not a member of Team USA Softball.
But that’s exactly what the actress plays, and believably, in the film from Academy Award-winning writer-director James L. Brooks (“Terms of Endearment,” “As Good as it Gets”). The old-fashioned romantic-comedy (in theaters Friday) hinges on Witherspoon’s Lisa, a hyper-driven USA Softball stalwart who, at 31, is forced to re-examine her life — and her relationship with a happy-go-lucky Washington Nationals relief pitcher played by Owen Wilson — when she’s cut from the team.
“Coming in, my softball skills were slim to none,” Witherspoon said. “Now, they’re better. Definitely not good, but better.”
For that, Witherspoon gives credit to some of the sports biggest names. The Oscar-winner (for “Walk the Line”) didn’t take the role lightly, enlisting gamers like Jennie Finch and Natasha Watley and legendary UCLA women’s softball coach Sue Enquist to help her climb into her character’s skin. Cleats, too.
“It was a lot of fun getting Reese ready for the movie,” said Finch, who worked with the actress during pre-production at UCLA and walked the carpet just a short-hop from co-star Jack Nicholson. “It was awesome seeing her take the whole thing on and being an amazing representative for softball, doing awesome stuff out there on the field, diving, getting ground balls. She could totally handle her business. I’d take her on my team any day.”
“I’d pick her over Owen Wilson, for sure,” kidded Enquist, who worked with the actress three days a week for a period of several months. “She came to it with no skill or experience and really went for it. I was so impressed with her guts, her level of commitment to the character overall — the grit, the passion, what it means to be a teammate. Everyone knows Reese as a petite actress, but pound-for-pound, she’s impressive.”
“They were so awesome for letting me onto their field and into their world,” Witherspoon added, before noting, with a tinge of regret, that very little game footage — maybe 20 seconds — found its way to the screen.
Wasn’t a total waste, though.
“Maybe I’ll give church softball a try.”