REESE WITHERSPOON: REMARRIED, REBOOTED AND MADLY IN LOVE
REESE Witherspoon was dancing around her house, singing at the top of her voice, when her children walked in on her.
“Usually I play country music and they just plug their ears, but I’d heard this great new rap song by Pitbull and I was dancing around to that. My kids came in and just stared at me with saucer eyes, like, ‘Oh my God! That’s SO embarrassing!’ But I didn’t stop. You can’t stop dancing.”
The laughter in her eyes shows how far Reese has come since splitting from her husband, actor Ryan Phillippe, five years ago. At the time, she was said to have sunk into a depression as she and the father of her two children – Ava, now 12, and Deacon, eight – untangled their lives after seven years together. But last year she married a second time, to talent agent Jim Toth, and she hasn’t looked back.
They met at a party, when Jim rescued her from the attentions of his drunken friend, and it seems he has kept up the gallantry ever since. “Jim is a good person,” says Reese, 35. “He’s like, ‘I’m going to take care of you,’ and I feel lucky to be with someone who is kind and loving. It’s nice to finally have that.”
Having wed for the first time at 23, Reese has learned a lot about relationships since then. “I think you have to be ready. And you can’t do the right thing with the wrong person. But once you are finally in the right situation, you have to be willing to compromise. I do think marriage is a negotiation.”
However it works, she’s looking good on it. Wrapped in a tight-fitting LBD with scarily high Louboutins (well, she is just 5 feet 2 inches tall) her minuscule waist shows no sign of two pregnancies. “I feel good about myself,” she confirms. “Having a baby makes you feel powerful, and as you get older you start to think, ‘It’s not important that I look exactly like everybody else – I kind of love the way I look. I’m the only me there is.’ And that makes you feel… I don’t know if it’s sexy, but it’s confident, and I think those two go together.”
All that confidence – and more – is on display in her latest movie This Means War. Reese’s character is involved in a love triangle with two CIA spies (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine), and having two men fight over her was not exactly a hard day at work. “I’m just doing it for the ladies,” she laughs. “For all the women in the world, this is what we want to see in movies: two hot guys fighting over a girl. I’ve never had two guys fight over me. I’ve never even dated two people at the same time – I wouldn’t know how – but it’s certainly fun to see.”
Having two on-screen lovers means double the usual ration of love scenes, but Reese took it all in her stride. “I get more naked in this movie than I have in a long, long time, and I definitely feel comfortable in my body,” she says.
“I’ve never played a character like this, very comfortable in her sexuality. It’s a much more grown-up part for me. But it was nerve-wracking. The director had to push me on set a couple of times, and be like, ‘Just do it!’ But when he showed me some pictures afterwards, with the lighting they use, I was like, ‘Who’s that girl?’”
Reese also had a blast with the action scenes. “There would be entire days where I was just hanging off the side of a Jeep. And I got to shoot a flamethrower. That was crazy – they put this thing in my hand, it was really rushed that day and they were like, ‘Right, here’s the flamethrower. Ready? Action!’ That was great fun.”
All of this makes a refreshing change from the girl-next-door roles she initially became famous for.
Louisiana-born Reese has been in the business a long time – more than 20 years in fact – but it was her 2001 performance as a ditsy Southern belle in Legally Blonde that made her career. Then in 2005 she won worldwide acclaim, a BAFTA and an Academy Award for her portrayal of country singer June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, another film that made the most of her Southern roots.
She is now one of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses, commanding $15 million per picture, but she’s clear where her real priorities lie. “I don’t make a lot of movies. It’s usually just one a year because I have another full-time job, which is being a mother.”
It seems that Reese enjoys nothing more than sitting down with her children to watch their favourite movie School of Rock (while singing along, of course) before “putting them to bed at night, calming their fears and being there for them”.
But surely she must have some professional ambitions? “I just want to continue to do work I’m proud of. It’s exciting to be part of a community where people are dreamers and coming up with amazing stuff. I think it’s not an easy world to live in right now, so it’s good to go to the movies and just escape.”
This Means War is released on March 2.