Reese Witherspoon Takes Charge

Source: NY Times


No More Ms. Nice Gal

Reese Witherspoon Goes Against Type in ‘Wild’

Here’s how much of a bookworm Reese Witherspoon is:

In high school she won an award for reading the most books that were not on the required reading lists, a distinction that mortified her, because she had hidden how much she read from the other girls, lest anyone peg her as a nerd.

Ms. Witherspoon’s bibliophilia proved unstoppable, and now she estimates she goes through about four books a week. Plotlines, characters and good writing entrance her. Authors are her rock stars. A chance meeting with the writer Nick Hornby at a party seven years ago flipped her out. “I’m such a dork about authors,” she said.

All of which came in handy when Ms. Witherspoon embarked on a career revamp a few years ago. That was when the actress who immortalized Tracy Flick and Elle Woods, won an Oscar for playing June Carter Cash and cornered the Hollywood market for sunny self-possessed blondes with a lot going on upstairs, found herself facing scant roles.

“Other than one studio, literally one, nobody was developing anything with a female lead,” Ms. Witherspoon, 38, said, sitting down to chat during the New York Film Festival a few weeks back. “It just hit me like a ton of bricks. And I was so mad. And then I thought: ‘Why am I so upset about this? Why don’t I do something about it?’ ”

So, in 2012, with the Australian producer Bruna Papandrea, Ms. Witherspoon started a production company, Pacific Standard, that has burst from the starting gate with two of the most highly buzzed about films of the year. Each is based on a best seller that Ms. Reese optioned after tearing through the galleys more or less overnight.

The first, “Gone Girl,” from the novel by Gillian Flynn and starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, has earned more than $200 million worldwide since its October release. The second, “Wild,” based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, adapted by Mr. Hornby and set for release Dec. 5, has some prognosticators forecasting an Oscar nod for Ms. Witherspoon.

“I’m ecstatic,” she said, “that they both turned out as well as they did.”

Ms. Witherspoon was in New York to participate in a festival panel following a screening of “Wild,” and met up for the interview at the very plush, very beige restaurant Nougatine at Jean-Georges, at Columbus Circle. Wearing a crisp navy blazer and pumps, her golden hair pulled back, she looked more the savvy producer than red carpet regular. Still, her arrival sent a hush over nearby diners, something that Ms. Witherspoon took no apparent notice of, stardom being something she has navigated since she broke into movies as a teenager.

Playing Ms. Strayed has slingshot Ms. Witherspoon further from the rom-com ghetto that she began escaping around three years ago, after starring in three low-buzz love-triangle films. Making “a conscious effort to redirect,” she took a small role as the hard-bitten Juniper in the lauded 2013 Southern gothic indie “Mud.” Other against-type characters followed: a harried social worker aiding Sudanese refugees in “The Good Lie,” which opened last month, and a world-weary district attorney in Paul Thomas Anderson’s trippy ensemble piece“Inherent Vice” (Dec. 12).

But it is her work in “Wild” that has entertainment writers bandying about the dreaded C-word: comeback. (Forbes got more creative, asking, “Can Reese Witherspoon Have Her Own ‘McConnaissance’?”)

“She was in a place in herself like: ‘I’m going to change your perception. I’m going to get out of my comfort zone,’ ” said Jean-Marc Vallée, who directed “Wild,” as well as last year’s award-winning“Dallas Buyers Club.”  (Continued at the source.)


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