Down Home Girl
“You’ll probably think I’m weird for saying this, but I don’t want to get older. I really want things to stay the way they are. I want to be seventeen forever!” Well whether she likes it or not, Reese Witherspoon, the actress who broke our hearts with her screen debut in Man in the Moon, is growing up. Hunched over a cup of steaming cappuccino in the back booth of a cozy Hollywood cafe, Reese is obviously more interested in discussing her upcoming birthday than her upcoming miniseries, Return to Lonesome Dove. “Two months ago, I looked like I was twelve,” she says, sighing ruefully. “Now look at me.”
Unfortunately, it’s a little late to keep her burgeoning beauty under wraps. It all started with her captivating portrayal of a rambunctious tomboy discovering love for the very first time in Moon. In the film, Reese, with utter grace and dignity, did what the rest of us usually fail at miserably. She got dumped. Since then, she’s turned out several stunning performances, including parts in Diane Keaton’s award-winning telefilm, Wildflower, and in the feature films Jack the Bear and A Far Off Place.
But today, Reese, who’s in L.A. “taking meetings” with young hotshot directors, has other things on her mind. Namely the life that she’s left back home in Nashville. There’s her family (Dad’s a physician, Mom’s a professor of nursing), her GPA (she’s anxiously waiting to hear back from four of California’s top universities), and last but certainly not least, her spot on the varsity pep squad. “I think they’ve kicked me off,” says the high school senior with a grimace. “I don’t blame them if they do. I’ve been gone most of the summer when they’ve been home practicing.”
While her cheerleading comrades were perfecting their dance routines, Reese was in Butte, Montana, riding horses, shooting guns, and trying to seduce Rick Schroder for Return to Lonesome Dove. She portrays Ferris Dunnigan, an 1870s femme fatale who’s married to a crusty old cowboy. “Most days, it was ninety-seven degrees. I had to wear four petticoats, a camisole and my corset,” explains Reese. “That thing was so tight it squeezed my waist down to like twenty inches [she’s normally a twenty-three]. I didn’t realize how much pain I was in until I passed out. No wonder people thought women were weak back then. They couldn’t breathe!”
A few days later, Reese calls from her home in Nashville, happy to be into her routine again. “It’s nice to be back in school,” she admits. “I go to an all-girls school, you know the kind where you have to wear uniforms. It’s the best. No choices, no decisions, no stress.”
Okay, so her untrendy uniform won’t be leaving anyone breathless, but Reese can still turn a few heads. Recently, the tabloids went nuts when she showed up at a party for Scent of a Woman with Chris O’Donnell. “We dated, I admit it, but we’re not dating anymore,” she says emphatically. “I’ve just started dating and it’s the hardest thing known to man. Before, it was just hanging out with boys. Now it’s real and I’m not sure I understand the rules.” Especially if the guy happens to be a star. “Actors are used to focusing on something for three months [the time it takes to make a movie]. Then it’s like, ‘Now what?'” Not that Reese wouldn’t love to work with some of Hollywood’s leading men. “People like De Niro and Scorsese make me shake.
“But now it’s time for Reese to concentrate on school. She didn’t get kicked off the cheerleading squad after all, and in addition to her studies, Reese is busy memorizing the script of her next project, SFW, in which she stars with Stephen Dorff. “Stephen and I are taken hostage at a 7-Eleven for thirty-six days,” she explains. “It’s a black comedy about how the MTV generation swallows whatever the media feeds us.” A cool gig indeed. But the best part? Reese plays a girl who is, you guessed it, seventeen.