WEIRDLAND: Legally blonde, woman of will

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Legally blonde, woman of will

"Whether her character's husband is a terrorist or not isn't the crux of Rendition. More important is the question of the ethics and legality of the US government's policy in protecting people's safety. Gyllenhaal informs me in our interview, which follows Witherspoon's, that he received a letter from a lawyer whose client had his penis slashed with a razor blade during interrogation. He also directly quotes Streep's steely character in the film: "This is nasty business. There are upwards of 7000 people in central London alive tonight because of information that we elicited just this way from one person."

Rendition director Gavin Hood (an Oscar winner with Tsotsi) is not averse to admitting to using his cast's star power to bring the debate to a wider audience. He calls Witherspoon his "all-American girl Trojan horse". But the actress, despite having the distinction of being a direct descendent of John Witherspoon, a signatory to the declaration of American independence, refuses to be publicly drawn on her own standpoint on the issue.

The closest the Nashville-born actress has come to any kind of prejudice in her life, she says, is when she put the acting career she'd pursued since the age of seven on hold, aged 19, to study. Her fellow students at Stanford University felt she had only been accepted by the institution because she was an actress - despite the fact Witherspoon had applied under her birth name Laura (Reese is her middle name). She needn't have worried as, following her breakout role in the black comedy Freeway in 1996, she left her English literature studies after a year to focus solely on acting. Clocking impressive turns in twisted and edgy films such as Cruel Intentions (co-starring with Phillippe), Pleasantville and Election, Witherspoon wasn't really a household name until she played Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, a frivolous Hollywood comedy on paper. However, the bubbly actress injected such pathos and charm into the bushy-tailed Woods that she single-handedly vaulted the film's box office to the hallowed industry marker of $US100 million.

It prompted studio bosses to swiftly capitalise on their new marquee headliner. Sweet Home Alabama, the story of a white trash Alabama girl turned New York socialite, soon followed, topping even Legally Blonde's box office. Despite the actress's mainstream success continuing with the sequel to Legally Blonde, her acting CV isn't littered with the staple worthy dramatic films of an Oscar-winning actress who can command fees of $US15-$US20 million a film. Her increasing active role as a producer, she hopes, will change that.

Despite her shiny lot in life, Witherspoon had a rough ride dealing with her recent divorce proceedings, which called on all her Southern resolve. Actors are sometimes attracted to roles that reflect their own state of mind at the time and Rendition, filmed during her rocky period, is certainly her most dramatic role to date". Source: The Sun Herald

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