Ac­claimed ac­tress Reese Wither­spoon is turn­ing the tide to help fe­male ac­tresses find their voices

Women's Weekly (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Why Reese Wither­spoon has gone from girl next door to be­com­ing a vi­sion­ary

To see the movie in­dus­try through these dark times, a guardian an­gel is needed. The 41-year-old su­per­star ac­tress and suc­cess­ful pro­ducer, Reese Wither­spoon is one of three guardian an­gels hop­ing to spread a lit­tle light and magic in Tin­sel­town where bit­ter­ness, de­ceit and scan­dals have been more preva­lent than usual of late.

Think what The Wizard of Oz did for the world and you be­gin to un­der­stand why Reese is so ex­cited by her new film, A Wrin­kle in Time, play­ing Mrs What­sit op­po­site her mag­i­cal screen sis­ters Oprah Win­frey as Mrs Which and Mindy Kal­ing as Mrs Who.

Di­rected by Ava DuVer­nay and based on the clas­sic 1962 novel by 0, the film brings to life the story of Meg Murry

(played by 14-year-old Storm Reid), an ado­les­cent who trav­els across di­men­sions to res­cue her sci­en­tist fa­ther.

In an ad­ven­ture story about what it means to be a source of light in a world in which dark­ness seems only to pro­lif­er­ate, Meg is guided by Reese and her fel­low guardian an­gels, col­lec­tively called “The Mrs”.

She is un­der­stand­ably proud to be a part of such a pos­i­tively charged project. The film con­nects with mat­ters close to her heart. Cam­paign­ing for strong and em­pow­er­ing roles for women of a cer­tain age and colour has pushed the New Or­leans-born star even fur­ther into the fore­ground of what is hap­pen­ing right now in Hol­ly­wood.

Here, Reese talks about the movie, why now is a time for change and pos­i­tiv­ity, and how she is proud to be one of Tin­sel­town’s guardian an­gels – both on-screen and off-screen.

What at­tracted you to this role?

I am such a Dis­ney fan that any­time I get a call about any­thing Dis­ney-re­lated, I am all over it and just go­ing, “What is it? I’ll do it!”

I was also a huge fan of this book grow­ing up. It’s so mag­i­cal – a story about a young woman go­ing to other worlds, es­cap­ing her earthly bounds and re­al­is­ing that any­thing is pos­si­ble when you think pos­i­tively and seek the good out in life. I loved how Ava (di­rec­tor Ava DuVer­nay) chose to put her beau­ti­ful di­rec­tion to­wards this ma­te­rial and think about it in that way. I was just so ex­cited to be a part of this project.

How would you de­scribe the char­ac­ters that you, Oprah and Mindy play?

Our char­ac­ters are ce­les­tial be­ings. They are kind of like su­per­heroes who are mo­ti­vated by good­ness and light. They are pulled to­wards the light and they pro­tect the light. They can­not stand dark­ness – it is ac­tu­ally like their Kryp­tonite (like it was to Su­per­man). It is their weak­ness. They are seek­ing out the good and are there to save the world, like find­ing these kids.

Did any­thing sur­prise you work­ing with Oprah?

A lot of peo­ple know that Oprah is tal­ented and that she is the queen of all me­dia – of all things – but they do not know that she mixes a mean mar­garita, for ex­am­ple. She can do any­thing!

What can you tell us about Meg, the pro­tag­o­nist in the film?

I love the lit­tle girl at the cen­tre of it. She is just fig­ur­ing out her own life and be­ing a hero of her own story – it is so mag­i­cal. I can just imag­ine lit­tle girls out there who have never seen a char­ac­ter like that are just go­ing to be all lit up

in­side be­cause of it.

What can you tell us about the mes­sage be­hind this film?

It has many pow­er­ful mes­sages and themes in it. It is a film about em­pow­er­ment and about find­ing your­self. While the story is about a young girl trav­el­ling through the uni­verse, try­ing to find her miss­ing fa­ther, at the same time, it is also about self-dis­cov­ery and learn­ing about her­self. She sees how im­por­tant it is to cul­ti­vate pos­i­tiv­ity, hap­pi­ness and find the good in life.

As a pro­ducer, how do you know when you are read­ing a book that it will trans­late into a great movie?

I try to find things that are uni­ver­sal and re­lat­able. If it is two sis­ters dur­ing the French Rev­o­lu­tion, it is just not go­ing to be a movie – it is too ex­pen­sive and too niche.

My main di­rec­tive has been hav­ing a woman at the cen­tre of it, do­ing some­thing, telling an­other aspect of the fe­male ex­pe­ri­ence. Gone Girl was like, “I don’t know, is she psy­chotic? I don’t know.” But it is some­thing that took an idea of the per­fect girl and flipped it on its head.

With Wild, I loved the idea of a woman ver­sus na­ture be­cause you see men ver­sus na­ture all the time. It is about find­ing stuff like that – things that feel fresh and new.

How is the in­dus­try evolv­ing for women?

It is a bet­ter time than ever, but when I first started, it was a good time too. Women were the stars of their own movies. At the time I came up, I got in a win­dow where I made Legally Blonde and Sweet

Home Alabama. I could be the lead of a movie. It is ac­tu­ally much harder now. You do not see women star­ring in movies very of­ten. I have had peo­ple say to my face: “We have one movie that has a woman star­ring in it this year. We do not need an­other one.”

How can we ad­dress the is­sue?

The great news is, with all of these stream­ing ser­vices and new plat­forms, they need con­tent more than ever. That cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity for women of all ages and peo­ple of all colour. It has broad­ened the spec­trum in cre­at­ing more roles.

How im­por­tant is it to keep the mo­men­tum go­ing?

After Legally Blonde, I got a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties to play the girl­friend in su­per­hero movies, but I was like, ‘ Why would I be the girl­friend when I could be the lead?’ I would rather take less money and be the lead of a movie and show a girl that she can be the cen­tre of her own story than be a wealthy girl­friend be­cause it does not move the nee­dle for me.

I grew up with Holly Hunter, De­bra Winger, Diane Keaton and Meg Ryan, when they had movies com­ing out on a Fri­day night. That is what I want to see – a woman who is fig­ur­ing it out and she does not know the next step of her life.

That is why I have a mis­sion to cre­ate those parts for my­self, for other women and for fe­male di­rec­tors to have that op­por­tu­nity to tell women’s per­spec­tives. Women of dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions and per­spec­tives need to be rep­re­sented. If we do not see new per­spec­tives, we can­not have dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tions and so­ci­ety can­not change.

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