SWEET HOME ALABAMA - 2ND Q&A with REESE WITHERSPOON
How surprised were you by the success of SWEET HOME ALABAMA when it opened in the US?
I was very shocked. I'm always surprised when anybody goes to see anything I'm in. It was really surprising, but pleasantly so. Yeah, very exciting.
It's been said that the role of Melanie took you back to your roots. How come?
I think that the movie mirrors my own life in the sense that I grew up in a really small town in Tennessee, and when I went to Los Angeles to try and become an actor I dealt with a lot of prejudice because of that. I dealt with a lot of negative stuff from people. But then every young person goes through a period in their life when they have to reject where they're from or their family in order to ultimately accept it as part of their identity. That's what I related to in her character.
Did you have a very strong accent that you also had to lose before your film career took off?
I did my first movie when I was 14 and my agent - who's the same one I have now - he told me that if I didn't lose the accent I would never work again! So I basically had to teach myself to get rid of it. And I did.
Are there any other personal echoes for you in the film?
Well, I could relate to the material very easily because my character was from the South. I like the idea that it mirrored my own life in the sense that I moved away to the big city trying to make it, in a completely different industry of course. And then having to go back home, and seeing how other people perceived her success and how she perceived them because of her success, that was really interesting to me.
The film offers a nice change in how the American South is usually depicted, doesn't it?
I liked that, because I'd grown up watching a lot of television shows and movies that sort of represented Southern people as rubes, kind of ignorant and silly. There certainly is a very comedic aspect to growing up there, and a lot of eccentricity and colourful characters. But there was also a very great sense of family and community and a real genuine caring about each other that came across in the movie I think. I was glad to be a part of that, because I felt it was something you don't see that often in movies about Southern life.
Are you as driven as Melanie is here? Do you, for instance, have a career plan?
I've always sort of had an idea of the kind of career I wanted to have. But a few years ago I started doing a lot of really character roles, and I think I really found what I wanted to do then when I started to play over the top, crazy characters. It was more fun for me to get into the physicality of a role, and try dialects from different parts of the world. I also look for roles that are 180 degrees different from the last thing I've played. I just try to mix up a little, to keep people guessing.
What is it that draws you to a particular role?
I'm really attracted to roles that are comedic because I love funny movies and I love funny women. I knew so many funny women in my own life, so it's great to play the comedy of a real life. But also I look at the elements that really resonate with me as realistic in peoples' lives. I think making people laugh and finding moments that people can really connect to and make them recognise some experience in their own lives, that's what really moves me about a role. I have to connect to something and have experienced it, or to have seen one of my close friends experience it, in order to relate to it.
Are you a lively party girl like Melanie?
No, I like to stay at home, I'm married and I have a little 3 year old daughter, so basically by the time I get her in bed I'm lucky if I can do anything else before I pass out. I'm just so tired, but I've never really been too much of a party person.
After films like this and LEGALLY BLONDE it seems like you have become one of that rare breed, a star that can 'open' a movie. Does that add a little extra pressure for you?
It's certainly a different kind of pressure that I hadn't experienced before, and it's a little nerve wracking the night before the movie opens. You wonder if anybody is going to see it - or will it just be my mother. But it's nice. I've been in this business for 14 years and as an actor you don't want to work in a bubble, so it's great to know that people are seeing your work and are hopefully enjoying it. I don't do many movies, so it's great when you get a nice response.
Is it true that you are a clumsy person by nature?
I have a broken foot because I fell down the stairs at my daughter's birthday party! I was wearing flip-flops and I slipped in a patch of water and tumbled down a whole flight of stairs. And I basically walk around with stains all over my clothes. There's not a day that I go to my daughter's school when I haven't spilled coffee down my front. And I've been clumsy on a film set more times than I can count. It's really embarrassing because, without fail, I will always walk past my mark. I'm getting better now that they put down big bags on the floor, so my feet hit them and I kind of lurch forward, and you'll see me stop suddenly. I like to think it's because I'm very focussed.
Does motherhood change your attitude to the kind of roles you get offered?
I think to a certain extent it does. I went through a lot of stuff personally when I became a mother, dealing with those ideas that are important to me as a human being knowing that your daughter emulates everything you do. So I try to look at things from a young woman's perspective and ask myself what they would get out of something. I try to be really aware of those things while still maintaining an artistic integrity that allows me to interpret different lifestyles that may not be exactly my own.
How do you and Ryan keep it all together when your level of celebrity inevitably means a degree of press intrusion and tabloid gossip?
I don't read the tabloids. It helps to never see or read them. You know what's true yourself. In any profession people are going to be subject to supposition and gossip. That's just the nature of gossip. You can either give it power in your life or just ignore it and know that it really doesn't matter. My husband is incredible, he's so happy and supportive, really wonderful and he helps maintain the most important aspect of my life, which is the stability of my family. Without it I couldn't do what I do, I wouldn't be able to travel across the world and work 20-hour days. He's a great support to me.
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