Reese Witherspoon is one of the rare former child stars who did not derail with addiction problems. We think she is very much like an “honor student” type of person but she broke that image last April with her arrest and now she plays this dirty, broken person in her new film Wild, which she also produced.
What does she do to find herself? Is she trying to break her image with playing this role? Did she injure herself during filming while walking in the wild? Also, we asked your questions!
Q: How did you pick this project?
Just by reading her book, I was blown away by her emotional honesty, the grit and truth with which she told her story and the unapologetic nature of her. I didn’t know I was going to do it but then Cheryl [Strayed, author of Wild] said to me, “I really want you to play me” on the phone.
Q: How many of these bruises are real?
I got tons of bruises and it was all his [Jean-Marc Vallee, director] fault. He made me do crazy things. One of the first days of shooting, I had the backpack on and he came up and said, “Is this the heavy backpack?” I said, “What do you mean heavy backpack? It’s full of newspaper.” He said, “You’re going to wear the heavy backpack.” I said, “The whole movie?” He said, “Yes, I can see it on your shoulders, I can see the way you walk. It’s totally different.” Then he just walked off. I found out later that Cheryl was the one who came over and said, “I can tell she is not wearing a heavy backpack.” I had to do scenes where I was running. Running after Frank in that tractor — oh my God, it was so painful. Then I was so strong in the end, I mean, really strong.
Q: This role is very different from your image. How challenging was this role?
I think my audience has grown up and changed too. I think the women that saw me in Election or Legally Blonde are not 20 years old anymore. I think they are 35, have kids, have had real life experiences. Their parents have died or they have been divorced. People deal with real things, and as I have evolved as a human being, I have also evolved as an actor. You never know, you take chances. You never know if people are going to accept you or laugh in your face. So I have been really touched that people have been so receptive to me doing something different.
Q: Was it difficult to share your story without giving so much away about yourself?
I think that is the thing about making a film. It is not about one artist and what they want to accomplish. It’s a collaborative medium. We are only as good as how connected we feel to the central idea we are trying to accomplish. What we bring to the table is our life experience. It’s what enhances your work and it’s what connects you to the people you are working with. I think it’s hard if you don’t connect to people. I have had that experience before and it’s really hard.
Q: Cheryl decided to take this hike in order to find herself. What would you do as Reese Witherspoon to find yourself?
I hike, I travel a lot, I like to go back home to Tennessee and spend time there. I feel very free there. Acting is very liberating.
Q: What is your favorite passage or part of Cheryl’s book?
After she drops the boot and in the middle of it she says, “I looked around to see if anyone was laughing, and no one was, and that is when I realized the universe is never ever kidding.”
Wild opens in theaters December 5th.