"Witherspoon plays the wife of an American-Egyptian chemical engineer who disappears after boarding a flight from Cape Town. She gradually learns that her husband is suspected of being a terrorist, and has been “rendered” by the CIA to a North African country, evidently Morocco. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the CIA analyst charged with overseeing her husband’s interrogation, who becomes troubled by the morality of what he and the US government are doing.
[...] According to the most recent survey by the film-trade paper The Hollywood Reporter, Witherspoon, who is 31, is now America’s highest-paid actress, outstripping Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie. She has been able to command a salary of $15m a movie for the past four years, since the twin successes of the first Legally Blonde film and the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama. Her status was cemented when she won a best-actress Oscar in March2006 for her spirited performance as June Carter Cash, singer and long-suffering wife of the country legend Johnny, in Walk the Line.
Today, on the stage, she seems distant and distracted. Of course, everyone in the room knows there have been tabloid rumours, in the past few weeks, that Witherspoon and Gyllenhaal, who have been discreetly placed some distance apart on the stage, have been seeing each other.Everyone also knows that she filed for divorce from her actor husband, Ryan Phillippe, at the end of last year.
Whatever I may be reading into her demeanour, Witherspoon certainly gives off almost nothing of the super-perky, relentlessly optimistic effervescence that she has imprinted on the public mind through her spot-on performances as the upwardly mobile Southern debutante Elle Woods in the Legally Blonde movies. That Southern-belle pedigree is no Hollywood fabrication: Witherspoon comes from a wealthy Tennessee family (her father is a surgeon) that is descended from one of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence.
[...]One of the things I’m keen to explore with her is the fact that she has built her astonishingly successful career mainly by playing women, such as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, who seem to have an absolute sense of their own destiny, a dead-on certainty about who they are and who they want to be. That seems to be very much who Witherspoon is herself, incredibly focused and goal-orientated, with a very Southern, and conservative, sense of the life she has always wanted – a life she quickly made for herself after she arrived in Hollywood, becoming wealthy beyond anyone’s dreams, married to a Hollywood dreamboat, with whom she has two adorable children.
In Rendition, on the other hand, she plays a woman who is having to deal with events that are out of her control. However determined she may be, there’s nothing she can do to persuade the US government, which won’t even acknowledge that it has kidnapped her husband, to let him go. I ask Witherspoon how she found it to play a character swimming helplessly in a world she couldn’t control. “It was difficult,” she admits. “It was really challenging playing that bewilderment and confusion and isolation. She doesn’t know what she is dealing with. She is so disorientated, and she also has the burden of being pregnant, which is limiting in itself, and the inherent vulnerability in that. It was hard, sad, alienating and isolating.”
Witherspoon acknowledges that she has always been incredibly driven, and has felt a deep need to prove herself to other people. Even now, after rising to the top of the pay charts, with an Oscar under her belt, she says she feels that she is “underestimated”. “I honestly don’t know where that comes from. As a child, I made great grades in school and had some friends – not a lot of friends, but a significant number – and, I don’t know, I’ve always felt this need to accomplish and push myself further. And I don’t feel like people really have any idea what I am capable of.” It’s a sad answer, but it makes me realise how hard it must have been for her, especially as a woman in Hollywood, to achieve what she has. She agrees. “I don’t ever rest on anyone’s ideas of what they’re going to do for me – I never have,” she says. “My mother impressed that on me at a very early age. If you want something done, do it yourself. I have operated under that sensibility for a very long time.” Of course, it wouldn’t be surprising if Witherspoon were depressed, as most people are when coping with divorce. I thought she had been brave to acknowledge, in a recent interview in an American magazine, that about a month after her marriage ended, she found herself sitting in her car in a car park, unable to get out. And, as I say goodbye, I can’t help looking back at a young woman who does seem trapped, like a beautiful, sad princess, in the tower of a magnificent dream castle she has built for herself. But perhaps I just caught her on a bad day". Source: Entertainment.timesonline.co.uk