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The Sunday Telegraph Interview
Life teaches Reese Witherspoon all she need know
REESE Witherspoon is hooting with laughter. She’s just heard how co-star Jack Nicholson answered the inevitable question prompted by the new romantic comedy How Do You Know: how do you know when you’re in love?
“When you call your lawyer and start enquiring about pre-nups,” is how the legendary actor responded.
Witherspoon’s answer is a little more thoughtful. It’s also topical, because she’s just announced her engagement to her boyfriend of a year, Hollywood agent Jim Toth.
He proposed over the Christmas holidays with a four-carat diamond ring, outshone only by the huge smile the actress has been wearing ever since.
“I’m old enough to know I have no idea,” laughs the 34-year-old, looking ultra-chic in a black Proenza Schouler dress and sky-high Louboutin heels.
“In my 20s, I used to think I knew everything. Now I’m learning that as you get older, you begin to have the perspective that you don’t really know anything.
“Life is this great journey; you just never know what’s going to happen. So I kind of rely on my friends and family – they seem to know better than I do. They’re like, ‘You’re really happy!’
“And I think as you get older, what you want changes too. What you’re looking for in a relationship in your 20s is totally different from in your 30s.”
How do you know it’s not working? Ask Reese Witherspoon, who goes on the date from hell in “How Do You Know.”
In real life, she says, “once I went on a blind date and he corrected my grammar. I knew in the first 10 minutes that the date was over.”
In the new romantic comedy, Witherspoon plays an athlete who must chose between two suitors played by Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson.
Q. What was it like to play a more non-sentimental woman who is confused about love?
A. It was interesting. I’ve done a lot of comedies where the woman talks about the man. She runs around going, “What should I do?” She cries to her girlfriends about love. The woman I play in this movie has a hard time conveying her own emotions. She doesn’t even really want to talk about things. She says to her boyfriend, played by Owen Wilson, “If I wake up in the middle of the night crying, just ignore me.” No woman would say that in real life to her boyfriend! I usually play more verbal characters. This woman is more internal.
Q. You play a woman who is not that interested in settling down and getting married. Can you relate?
A. I have a lot of friends like that. This role was written so beautifully. I love that she’s not afraid to be honest about not wanting what other women want. Obviously, it’s not like me. I have two kids and a very settled-down life.
Q. Your softball player character must leave the sports biz because she’s getting older. Ever worry about aging in Hollywood?
A. It’s a parallel to being an actor. As a woman, we have a time. It’s our time to work, we work a lot, and then hopefully you shift and become the Meryl Streeps or Diane Keatons of this business. I do know actresses have a shelf life and an expiration date.
Watching Reese Witherspoon work the red carpet at the premiere of her new film, “How Do You Know,” like a cheery little munchkin, 5 feet nothing and shrinking, you can’t help but think:
This girl is so not a member of Team USA Softball.
But that’s exactly what the actress plays, and believably, in the film from Academy Award-winning writer-director James L. Brooks (“Terms of Endearment,” “As Good as it Gets”). The old-fashioned romantic-comedy (in theaters Friday) hinges on Witherspoon’s Lisa, a hyper-driven USA Softball stalwart who, at 31, is forced to re-examine her life — and her relationship with a happy-go-lucky Washington Nationals relief pitcher played by Owen Wilson — when she’s cut from the team.
“Coming in, my softball skills were slim to none,” Witherspoon said. “Now, they’re better. Definitely not good, but better.”
For that, Witherspoon gives credit to some of the sports biggest names. The Oscar-winner (for “Walk the Line”) didn’t take the role lightly, enlisting gamers like Jennie Finch and Natasha Watley and legendary UCLA women’s softball coach Sue Enquist to help her climb into her character’s skin. Cleats, too.
Reese Witherspoon claims to have discovered at least one segment of the female population that is not inclined to talk about feelings.
Those would be female athletes.
In James Brooks’ romantic comedy How Do You Know, Witherspoon plays Elise, an Olympic veteran softball player who’s finally “past it” at age 31 and cut from the team. In her adrift state, she has to sort out her feelings about the two men in her life — philandering Major League pitcher Matty (Owen Wilson) and nice guy businessman Frank (Paul Rudd) facing federal fraud charges on behalf of his less-than-ethical father (Jack Nicholson).
“I’ve done a lot of comedies where a woman talks a lot about her romantic dynamics and is always kind of talking about men, and, like, ‘What should I do?’ ” she says.
Then she started meeting actual softball champs, including Sue Enquist, who has coached UCLA to 11 national championships. “Jim had done a lot of legwork meeting all these female athletes (as he was writing the script),”
Witherspoon says. “And really, they talked about very little other than the game. They never talked about their relationships. I was always trying to get more out of them, and it was really hard.”
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, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson on “How Do You Know”
James L. Brooks has the best laugh in the business.
It sounds fake, like he’s actually pronouncing every “Ha Ha Ha.” But it’s so hearty and infectious, it has to be genuine. Even when several people are laughing at once, its Brooks’ chuckle that rises above the fray.
And there was a good amount of laughter from the press corps and the celebrities being interviewed during a recent New York event for Brooks’ latest, “How Do You Know.” The cast – which includes Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Kathryn Hahn and Jack Nicholson – accompanied their director to Manhattan to meet with gathered journalists and discuss Brooks’ latest romantic comedy.
The first question was a true softball, even for a film about a softball player (Witherspoon) who is between athletic gigs and committed boyfriends. One female journalist asked the celebrity panel how they’re supposed to know when they’re in love.
“It has been too long ago for me to remember,” Nicholson chimed in, breaking up the panel and the room.
Brooks took the question a little more seriously. “I had a line that I believed so much in that I threw it in, but I eventually took it out of the movie. Paul was going to say that it’s when you are more yourself then you ever thought possible.”
‘How Do You Know’ Star Reese Witherspoon Recalls Softball ‘Crash Course’ ‘I’m not a ringer or anything,’ she tells MTV News of her newfound skills.
Because director James L. Brooks has only made six films in his career, most actors jump at the chance to work with him — as was the case when Brooks approached Reese Witherspoon for a role in the upcoming romantic comedy “How Do You Know.”
“[It was] incredibly flattering and terrifying at the same time,” Witherspoon told MTV News recently regarding her reaction to Brooks’ initial interest. “When he called me, I was like, ‘He wants to meet me? And do what?’ We sat down, and he said, ‘I want to write this character, and I want you to play it.’ And I was like, ‘Great!’ And he said, ‘I want you to be a professional softball player. Do you play softball?’
” ‘Yes, of course I do!’ ” Witherspoon recalled responding — but she admitted to MTV News in a whisper: “No, I don’t play softball. But I learned. I did a crash course with the UCLA Bruins, and they taught me. Three hours a day for four months. They really helped.”
Given the fact that there’s not much of Witherspoon’s character playing softball in the film, we wondered what motivated her to commit to such extensive training.
As posted about before, Reese appeared on Live With Regis & Kelly today to promote How Do You Know. I don’t have a full video for you yet (can someone help me with this?! Let me know!) but will of course continue looking for one. In the meantime, here is a short clip in which we see Reese talk about her chickens!
Reese Witherspoon: ‘How Do You Know’ When You’re Not In Love?
Reese Witherspoon’s upcoming movie poses the question “How Do You Know” when you’re in love, but Access’ Tony Potts asks how do you know when you’re not in love? Also, Reese tells Tony she had a “good time” working with co-stars Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson. Plus, how did Reese get a black eye while preparing for the movie?