Reese Witherspoon talks about living a life of action and ‘This Means War’
Living in the glare of a media life can be a blinding reality, but not for Reese Witherspoon. As she enters her second decade as a major film star, the Southern-born beauty has evolved into the quintessential modern woman on her own terms and with identity intact. Now this Oscar winner’s incredibly diversified life is inspiring some bold choices beyond the juggling act, at least on screen. She’s tackling her first ever action film done in the classic Reese-style: starring as a woman at the center of a romantic battle in This Means War.
JORGE CARREON: We should have seen this coming. Reese Witherspoon, action star! It was cool to see you in this kind of film. Was that really you behind the wheel during that final car chase?
WITHERSPOON: [LAUGHS] I have a tendency lately to be doing a lot of stunt work. I did all my stunt work on Water For Elephants, too. It was a big stunt year. Now I’m taking a break because I’m a little bit accident-prone. [Smiles] But it was great. I had so much fun on this movie working with [director] McG who is always fun and funny. He’s very open to actors’ suggestions and ad-libbing, so we had a lot of fun in that direction.
Also, I was really interested in the storyline between Chelsea Handler’s character and myself. We’re very good friends. I just loved the idea that we explore the men’s relationship with each other, but these two women take care of each other and support each other and give each other advice. We save ourselves. I think that’s sort of a unique part of this movie.
CARREON: It is interesting to see you in what is generally a role played by men, that object of affection at the center of a battle.
WITHERSPOON: It’s a great fantasy for women to have two men fighting over you. I don’t know a better way to say it. I just think the idea that women are in control and able to choose over so many different aspects of their lives is a relatively new concept in femininity. We are the babies of the equal rights movement, so we are feeling the benefits of having the freedom of choice in many different areas. With everything that women experience, from having babies by themselves, having big careers, running companies and studios, I think women’s options are different now and in regards to who they choose to be their partners.
CARREON: Yet, we have yet to conquer the mysteries of successful dating and relationships. Why does that continue to engage us an audience to watch on screen?
WITHERSPOON: People have infinite hope for love and I think that’s great. It’s part of the human spirit. It’s what wakes you up in the morning. It’s what keeps you going. There’s always that possibility that something great is going to come into your life. I always believe that you never love in vain. Any kind of relationship or friendship you have in your life is meant to be there for a reason and just contributes to who you are as a soul. I think that’s part of it. We feel hopeful. I think there’s a real hopefulness in the movie, too.
CARREON: The film does have a challenging moral issue in this age of confused conservatism, though. Is a “sexual tiebreaker” ever really a good idea in choosing between two men?
WITHERSPOON: [Laughs] The genesis of her online dating is about having her heart broken. She’s terribly betrayed by her last boyfriend and feels completely shattered which I think pretty much everybody on God’s green earth can relate to, I’ve come to understand. She’s very tentative about any kind of relationship. She’s terrified to leave the house for fear of having her heart broken again; I think it does take a certain amount of courage on her part. When we were trying to figure out what we were going to do about whether she was going sleep with these guys or not sleep with these guys, it was very difficult.
Out there it’s a totally new world. I got married when I was 22 the first time and I’m married again. I don’t have an extensive knowledge of dating or relationships, so I was asking my single fiends. I was talking to other people who were working on the movie and I think we came up with a nice sort of balance of what is too much in a new relationship. You get to see her sort of tortured by it, too, which is great. She’s crazy about both these guys, she doesn’t know if she should sleep with them, all that kind of stuff.
CARREON: Are you like Lauren, a woman who can make a commanding decision?
WITHERSPOON: One of the really interesting things we built into this character was that she was this woman who always makes the right decision. She works at a consumer reports type job and she is always evaluating products and things. I thought it’d be really funny for the comedy to have the most decisive women in the world feel completely crippled by this decision, so it was really just a great opportunity. I’m a very decisive person when it comes down to it. If I’m given the opportunity to really ruminate about things, I will go round and round and round, but if somebody says to me make a choice, I can do it really fast.
CARREON: We should only have the kind of dates you enjoy with Chris Pine and Tom Hardy on screen. Have you ever had a really memorable date?
WITHERSPOON: I’ve had great dates in my life. I’ve been really lucky. I had one incredible birthday where somebody did a treasure hunt for me. I had to go all over the city. It was really special.
CARREON: After reaching such a career high with winning an Oscar for Walk the Line, are you more concerned about the perception of your career choices? Is there something that you still want to essay on screen?
WITHERSPOON: I think it comes less from creating some sort of legacy, really. It’s just things I connect to. I think more in my life now, I’ve been connecting to where I’m from, my culture and my heritage. I’m almost having that moment of wanting to go home a little bit and tell more stories from a Southern perspective. There’s so much heartbreak and so much joy in that environment. I loved The Help. I thought that was such an inspiring film and that gets to my heart because it’s really where I’m from, that area. I look forward to doing more films like that.
CARREON: Perception is everything in Hollywood, particularly when a star reaches a particular level of success. Do you worry about whether certain career risks will pay off at the box office?
WITHERSPOON: It’s difficult because I think the media focuses a lot on box office. I think what really matters is whether or not the film is good. If people want to see great films, it doesn’t matter in what capacity they see it. Whether they see it on DVD or in the theaters, movies have long, long lives. I have noticed that just from years of being in movies and traveling throughout the world, movies really touch peoples’ hearts. It’s so important for me to have dignity in storytelling. I love what I do. I have the greatest time. I get to create characters, I get to play real life people and honor their memory. It’s just a real honour and a joy.
CARREON: The beauty of playing against expectations is how such roles can reveal something surprising about the actor. What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?
WITHERSPOON: Sometimes people assume they know who I am or what I’m capable of. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been able to make comedies. I’ve been able to make dramas. I’m in a really great place. Every opportunity, every movie that you make is another opportunity to make new friends and have new experiences. I’ve never been really put in any kind of box, which is nice.
CARREON: Do you find nurturing a successful career or home life as being the bigger challenge?
WITHERSPOON: Name a woman who isn’t juggling a million things at one time? I’m just like everybody else, just a working mom. I’m lucky that I get periods of time where I have breaks and then I have periods of time where I’m very busy. My children are sort of acclimated to it now, but yeah, do I wish there was another me? Yes. Do I wish just to take care of all the day to day stuff? All the things that slip through the cracks, all those teacher gifts you wish you had bought, all those personal letters you wish you had written, that are like sitting in your mind? Yeah. But, I’m on the good side of the struggle, so I’m happy. It’s nice to have a full life and to watch my kids growing up and thriving. It’s a wonderful thing.