Reese Witherspoon, who won an Oscar for her supporting role in Walk the Line, is now promoting Penelope, the first film from her production company, and the actress took some time to chat with us about the movie and her role behind the camera.
Is this the first movie your company has put out?
Yes, this is the first independent film. We produced Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, but yes, this is the first movie that we picked the script for, the director and did everything.
What makes the script special?
Jennifer Simpson brought me the script four years ago. A lot of people read it, and everyone had a different idea about how to do it – if it had to be an animated film or what to do with it.
I thought it was a fabulous story and great for our company because it would make a fantastic movie, and it also has a great female character.
Did you consider playing Penelope?
Yeah I though about it, but I was busy with other things, and the movie had to move forward, so we decided to have auditions. But I always knew that I wanted to be a part of the movie in some way. It was fun to play a smaller character.
How did you develop your character?
I found someone who was almost just like her, and I copied her. It was fun. I got to drive around the streets of London on a motorcycle, have weird hair and be careless and fun.
Is it a relief to avoid the pressure of being the star of a movie?
Well, I’m under a different kind of pressure, because we’re going to distribute the movie and all those things. But it’s fun. It’s liberating to play the type of character that you don’t know if she’s going to kiss you or stab you in the neck.
How difficult was it to find a distributor for the movie?
We were at the Toronto Film Festival. Finding the right partner has been an interesting journey. I feel like we’re now in the right situation. We really believe in this movie and we want it to premiere the right way.
Do you have any funny stories from the filming?
Yeah, (laughs) since I’m so short, my feet couldn’t reach the ground in the scene when I drive the motorcycle. They tried to lower it as much as possible, but even then my feet didn’t touch the ground. So we had to put it on a platform. Christina is short too, and she had to sit behind me. So we had to film that scene the old-fashioned way.
Was it hard to make the character believable with that nose?
Yes, and we were really particular when we were editing the script to make sure that there weren’t any miraculous changes, because she gets accepted before she changes physically. Christina Ricci looked so beautiful with the pig nose that we didn’t want to take it off her. We thought: “If we don’t get rid of the nose, maybe everyone else should change.”
Why did you choose Christina Ricci to play Penelope?
Christina was my first choice. We sat down for lunch and I said: “She’s not going to want to do it…” But she showed up and said: “I’m excited. I want to do it. I want to wear that pig face.”
That’s what’s so great about Christina – she’s especially smart when it comes to making decisions about her career. We grew up auditioning together, and we met years ago. We sat together in a lot of waiting rooms to find out whether or not we were going to get chosen for movies. We’re friends, so it’s great to finally bring to life that collaboration we’ve been talking about for seven years.
What do you have in common?
I think we have similar styles. It’s fantastic, and she has great taste.
Tell us a little about your character in “Four Christmases”
I play a woman who’s in a relationship with a man, and they’ve decided that they’re never going to get married or have kids, and they’re very happy with their lifestyle. A chain of events eventually forces them to go home, and since their parents are divorced they have to celebrate four Christmases in one day.
Where do you keep your Oscar?
I’ve thought about making it a door-knocker or a necklace, but neither of those options was practical…I have it in my living room.