Witherspoon earnest in career, but still has fun
So you want Reese Witherspoon’s perfect little life? The kudos for strong comedic performances in Election and Legally Blonde? The cute-on-cute looks? The storybook marriage to actor Ryan Phillippe?
Having it all never seemed so meaningless when Witherspoon was out with her then-infant daughter, Eva, in the park.
“I had to put her in the back of the car and change her and a paparazzi got her,” Witherspoon recalled in an interview to promote her new movie, The Importance of Being Earnest. “I was just wiping her bottom and I felt so bad for her.”
Witherspoon, 26, who dreamed of being an actress while growing up in Tennessee, never imagined that the most mundane and icky aspects of her life would become interesting.
She’s rolling with it. Her momentum is so great that it would shove her 5-feet, 2-inch self forward anyway. Her smart-ditzy take on a perky Harvard Law School babe in Legally Blonde and its near-$100 million gross has vaulted her onto the A-list.
She’s choosing her movies, her directors. And if she can’t get ’em, she’ll hire them herself as the head of her own production company. Witherspoon is developing her own project about the women’s tennis tour and has an adaptation of Melissa Bank’s novel The Girls’ Guide to Fishing and Hunting on the back burner. The name on her shingle is, appropriately enough, Type A Productions.
“I’m not the kind of person who sits on her hands very well,” she said. “It was really about creating the kind of opportunities I always wanted.”
Said Oliver Parker, the director of Earnest, “She has opinions, and they will be heard.”
Witherspoon took on The Importance of Being Earnest before Legally Blonde took off. She wanted to do a period piece in an accent. Earnest, Oscar Wilde’s comedy set among England’s upper crust in the 19th century, seemed like a good idea. Then it occurred to her that she would be the only Yank in a heavy-hitting British cast that included Colin Firth (Bridget Jones’s Diary), Judi Dench (Iris) and Rupert Everett (An Ideal Husband). She was intimidated.
Everett teased her about being such an American. Firth, miffed that he had to loop some of his lines, complained to her that perhaps he wouldn’t be understood in Colorado. And Dench rattled her simply by being Dench.
It all worked out. She nailed the accent, according to her colleagues, and the part of Cecily, who lives with her guardian Jack (Firth) in the country. Jack’s oily friend Algy (Everett) comes to visit, sparking oh-so-aristocratic deceit and and mistaken identity.
“What she brought to it wasn’t so stereotypically British,” Parker said.
Witherspoon returns to more familiar funny-lady territory in Sweet Home Alabama, playing a New York fashion designer whose hick roots come back to haunt her. The movie is due out in August or September.
Meanwhile, Witherspoon’s visibility continues to grow. “My career has been sort of protracted that I’ve gotten to experience fame on incremental levels,” she said.
She isn’t jaded, though. When she and Phillippe arrived at the Academy Awards rehearsal for a presentation they would make, Witherspoon saw a placard with her name on it near the front row of the auditorium.
“I couldn’t believe I had made it this far,” she said. “I nearly started to cry.”