Reese Witherspoon talks How Do You Know
In How Do You Know, Reese Witherspoon plays a woman unlike any other character she’s portrayed. "My characters are usually very vocal. She was more interior," Witherspoon said.
In writer-director James L. Brooks' [Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets] new romantic comedy -- starring Jack Nicholson, Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson -- Reese Witherspoon portrays a champion softball player who is facing the possibility of being let go by the U.S. Olympic softball team because she is 31 years old.
Although her character is nowhere near ready to settle down, Witherspoon admitted to us that that aspect was part of the challenge as she is raising two children and also in a serious relationship.
Her How Do You Know character required not only training with the U.S. softball team, but also getting into the mindset of an athlete, one she compared to young actresses in Hollywood.
"I found it really interesting in that there's a parallel to being an actor, especially as a woman. You get the feeling sometimes your clock is ticking," Witherspoon said. "You can only hope to have the career of a Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton."
If winning an Oscar for Walk the Line and the astounding body of work she has produced is any indication, we don't think Reese Witherspoon has anything to worry about in terms of Hollywood longevity. She's already well on her way to being the next Streep or Keaton.
Reese Witherspoon chats!
SheKnows: What do you think it is about James L. Brooks' characters that have these flaws, yet audiences just adore them?
Reese Witherspoon: I think that's really interesting. I've done a lot of characters in comedies that talk a lot about her romantic dynamics, she's always talking about men, what am I going to do. But, this character has a lot of trouble conveying her emotions. She doesn't really want to talk about things, which is an interesting female characteristic. My character says to Owen at one point, "You know, if I start crying in the middle of the night, ignore me please." [Laughs] You hardly ever see that! That was refreshing.
SheKnows: Your Olympic athlete character has Post-it notes all over her house. Do you do that as well?
Reese Witherspoon: I'm definitely one of those people who has Post-its everywhere like the six evils of the world [laughs]. I really do -- desire, greed, envy -- I try to tell myself all the things to avoid. I also have positive affirmation Post-its. I have to say, "Judge not lest you be judged," is one of my favorites. That has gotten me through life.
SheKnows: You mentioned your character is really different than other women you've played…
Reese Witherspoon: I think it's really interesting to play a woman who can articulate that she isn't ready to have a family, not even sure she wants a family. I have a lot of friends like that. I think Jim wrote it so beautifully, that emotional honesty, [she] is not afraid to be honest about not wanting what other women want. Obviously, it's not like me, I have two kids [laughs]. I'm very settled down.
Reese returns to basics
SheKnows: The hospital scene in How Do You Know, it almost felt like a play. Was there a little different feel to it when shooting?
Reese Witherspoon: It did feel like a play. I learned a lot about breaking some habits I've had for a long time [laughs]. It's a testament to the writing that you can play a scene 26 different ways. You can play it funny. You can play it sad.
SheKnows: Could you give us an example of the brilliance of James L. Brooks, not as a screenwriter, but as your director on How Do You Know?
Reese Witherspoon: One time Paul [Rudd] and I did a scene, the blind date scene, he said, "You say Paul's lines and he will say yours." It was just in the rehearsal. So, we did it. It was so amazing. We knew each other's lines and I think it made the scene better when we actually shot it.
SheKnows: Having to choose between Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd onscreen, was that a difficult thing to get your mind wrapped around?
Reese Witherspoon: It's a tough job, ladies, but you got to do it. It was great. How lucky was I to work with two of the most talented, funny, attractive, hysterical men? It was weird, too, because every time I did a scene with Owen, when Owen had to leave, I was sad and almost wanted to cry. Then, I would do scenes with Paul, and I felt I was cheating on Owen [laughs].
Reese revels in being an Olympian
SheKnows: How much research did you have to do to get into the softball Olympian character you were playing?
Reese Witherspoon: It was incredible. I got to work with all these Olympian softball players to get into the mind of a female athlete. I am not athletic. Jim said he wanted detail and specificity, "I really want you to work with coaches and train," so I did that for four months, three hours a day. I'm still no good at softball [laughs]. But, I learned a lot. It's a completely different culture. I worked with Sue Enquist, this 11-time national champion coach. She spoke differently, she carries herself differently. I found it really interesting in that there's a parallel to being an actor, especially as a woman. Hopefully as an actress, you are allowed to become the Meryl Streeps and Diane Keatons of the world and continue working. To play a character that has a shelf life, or an expiration date, she knows at the beginning of her 30s, her career is over. It's an interesting culture to explore.
SheKnows: Speaking of the bad date scene with Paul, have you ever had a bad blind date?
Reese Witherspoon: Yes, a guy once corrected my grammar. I knew in the first 10 minutes, the date was over!
SheKnows: Were you ever given any advice as an up-and-coming performer that turned out to be completely wrong?
Reese Witherspoon: I really wanted to be a Broadway kid. I went to all these camps to learn to sing, dance and act. I remember getting through the singing coaching session and I had my evaluation session and they said, "Whatever you do, don't sing." I thought a lot about that story when I won an Oscar for Walk the Line [laughs]. Thank God I didn't listen! It was hard to get over that mental block. You have to be careful what you tell people.