Reese Witherspoon is very lucky

Reese Witherspoon is very lucky

Reese Witherspoon is very lucky

One of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, commanding 15-20 million dollars per movie, Reese Witherspoon’s entry into the film business was a fortuitous coincidence. At the age of 14, the southern girl and some friends auditioned to be extras in the Hollywood production The Man in The Moon, which was being shot in her town Nashville, Tennessee, and instead she was selected to play a major role in the movie.

I met Witherspoon at Santa Monica beach’s Fairmont Miramar Hotel, the venue she stayed in when she first arrived in Los Angeles, 20 years ago.

“I don’t know how I got into this movie business,” the daughter of a professor and an army surgeon wonders, bringing her hand to her mouth. “I don’t know if it picked me. After the audition for The Man in The Moon, they called me up and said ‘Would you like to fly to Los Angeles and do a screen-test?’ and I said ‘Sure!’ and they put me in this hotel. I had never seen the Pacific Ocean, so I walked across and I was Omigosh, I’m in Hollywood and I felt really lucky.”

Luck continued to shine on the young actress, who won critical acclaim for her comedic role in 1996’s indie cult hit Election and huge commercial success for her lead role in Legally Blonde in 2001. But her biggest triumph was in playing the serious dramatic role of June Carter Cash in Walk the Line in 2004, which garnered her numerous accolades including an Oscar.

Sweet, cheerful and playful, Witherspoon is here to talk about her new movie Water for Elephants, an adaption of Sara Gruen’s novel about a Cornell veterinary medical student, Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattison), who is left with nothing when his parents are killed in a car accident and ends up joining a travelling circus, where he meets and falls in love with the star performer and the boss’s wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon).

Witherspoon, who endured a failed marriage in the past with actor Ryan Phillipe and recently found a new loving relationship with talent agent Jim Toth, felt a connection to and understanding of Marlena’s predicament.

“I think a lot of women relate to the book in that it is a story of a woman who’s in a very difficult, challenging relationship and I don’t think she sees any way out. It’s an opportunity for a second chance at love and a better life; a life where she still gets to fulfil her dreams, but she is loved and cared for,” Witherspoon says.

Married to the circus’s brutal manager (Christoph Waltz), who is jealously protective of her, Marlena’s decision to leave with her new lover is fraught with peril. She has to summon a lot of courage and conquer her fear in order the leap into the promising new merry life of romance.

“Fear can really crush you,” Witherspoon says, clutching her delicate hands. “I certainly have had trepidation about getting in relationships and getting married again.  I never wanted fear to be the reason that I didn’t find happiness in my life.”

With little experience in circuses, Witherspoon had to spend 3 months at a circus school doing trapeze and getting used to performing high above ground, followed by 2 months of perfecting routines while riding horses and an elephant.

“One morning at 3 o’clock I fell off the back of the horse and I hurt my pride more than anything else,” she laughs. “It helps that I grew up with horses and riding horses when I was little. But the first day of shooting I was so scared I launched over the top of the elephant’s head. I somehow grabbed the side of her and I was hanging by one arm.”

Other than the physical preparations, the Oscar-winner invests a lot of time and effort in understanding and inhabiting her character.

“My job is to take a character from a screenplay and bring to it the utmost empathy, I want to give them respect and treat them with the dignity that I would want someone to treat me if they were playing me in a film  and I know the characters in this book were very beloved.”

But in spite of fastidious preparations, the experienced actress shakes with anxiety and nervousness for 5 days before a shoot begins. In fact, there have been occasions, when she panicked less than a week before the commencement of the shooting and backed down.

“Maybe it’s just foolishness,” she laughs, her hands fluttering in the air. “I don’t know. I think as I get older I am much more nervous.”

I was wondering whether her nervousness stemmed from the nervous people around her. While we were taking photos with her co-star elephant Kai, a member of her team noticed a flapping edge of the hem of her dress. Within seconds her make-up team sprung in with their equipment, attending to the wounded garment, while a big guy stood in front of them obscuring the action with his body, his eyes nervously darting around surveying his surroundings.

The superstar told me earlier that she felt very lucky to have the greatest security team in the world, headed by Ray, who she had had forever. So I figured the big guy must’ve been Ray, though I still think that Ray overreacted in the fixing-the-dress situation, because we were in a sterile environment.

Security aside, the source of the 34-year-old’s happiness is her two young children, 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son – and her new husband, Jim Toth.

“Everything is great. The kids get along with my husband and I wouldn’t have married him if they didn’t,” she laughs. “I am very lucky. I have healthy kids and I couldn’t be happier.”

However, family life hasn’t dampened Witherspoon’s desire for more work or taking more jobs. She has recently wrapped the shooting of a Will Smith-produced romantic comedy This Means War.

“It’s a wonderful time in my life. I feel really lucky to be doing work that I feel very proud of.”

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Robert Pattinson prefers an elephant to women

Robert Pattinson prefers an elephant to women

Robert Pattinson prefers an elephant to women

Idolised by millions of teenaged girls around the world and voted several times the sexiest man alive, Robert Pattinson told me at an interview at a Santa Monica luxury hotel that although he has accepted his fame,  he is still not at peace with it.

He seems to be enjoying the adulation, but the shy Brit feels embarrassed by the excessive attention. The poor guy can’t walk the street without being chased by armies of paparazzi and throngs of screaming girls.

“When it first started, I never really realised I had to embrace it to a certain extent, and I guess I think a little bit more strategically about it now. But in terms of living my life, it’s still pretty much the same thing apart from just working all the time.”

Unlike many other young stars, The 24-year-old actor doesn’t squander his fame in debauchery, drugs and clubs. “All I want is to keep working,” he says.

And that’s exactly what fame has bestowed upon him. He is actually one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, commanding a 7 figure salary for playing the most coveted roles in the business. “When you are famous, the quality of the writing and the projects you get are better.” he giggles.

Pattinson invaded the consciousness of humanity in 2005 when he portrayed Cedric Diggory in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” but it was the romantic vampire hit “Twilight,” that elevated him to a favoured pin-up status.

“Before Twilight, I’d just been a piece in a machine and the sum of the parts was worth more than the parts,” he giggles. “But now when I promote a movie, I am aware of how my personality comes across rather than the character in the movie, as people used to perceive me before I became famous.”

Recently, he has starred opposite Reese Witherspoon in the adaptation of “Water for Elephants,” in which he plays the lead character, Jacob Jankowski, a veterinary medical student at Cornell, who is left with nothing when his parents are killed in a car accident. He drops out and joins a second-rate traveling circus trying to survive the 1930s Depression.

In spite of his inexperience in circus and not doing much preparation, Pattinson delivers an impressive and convincing performance, eclipsing the performances of the rest of the cast and  keeping the teetering film flowing. Although he has visited circus only once when he was 7, he eschewed visiting one or watching movies about the subject prior to the shoot.

“I didn’t really look at any other circus movies because I guess Jacob is supposed to be looking at it fresh but I looked at a lot of Gary Cooper movies just for the movement of the ‘30s because he has a similar frame to me and I like that movement.”

Watching a documentary about the 1930s depression and sensing the authenticity of the set helped Pattinson to loose himself into that era and Jacob’s character. “As soon as you walked out into the desert where the set was, you feel you are in the 1930s,” he marvels.

Having spent a few months on set with elephant Kai, Pattinson feels more connected to her than to his human fans. “I definitely understood the female elephant. She seems to be a lot more logical. She likes peppermint and she’ll do some tricks with it, that’s about it. As for fans, I don’t really know how they think at all,” the animal lover says laughing.

The idol of millions is not only a pretty face. While not working, he spends his time at home, reading and writing. In fact, he is so unimpressed with the quality of scripts he reads and films he sees that he has formed his own production company to produce his own work.

“I used to write a lot of stuff when I wasn’t getting acting jobs to kind of dream about writing parts for yourself. The more I read scripts and watch movies, the more I ask ‘Why is that getting made and better stuff isn’t?’ So I think ‘Well, what’s the point of just producing something when you feel you can write something?’. So as soon as I have some time off I’m going to try and do that.”

Indeed, the hard working actor doesn’t even take breaks and still doesn’t know how to relax. “I think generally when I am on vacation I wear myself out more than I do when I am working. I am generally healthier when I am working,” the giggly star says.

His Water for Elephants co-star, Reese Witherspoon, who was stunned by the amount of attention he gets, had told me earlier that he was chased by throngs of women wherever they went. “I tried to take him out, but he wouldn’t have any of it,” she says. “He is very quiet; reads a lot and watches old movies; works hard and never complains,” she added in wonderment.

Not only does he not complain, the young actor says that his life is complete. “If you start thinking I need to fulfill certain criteria you’re going to be disappointed. So generally I’d be happy with living for quite a long time and other than that I don’t know,” he giggle.

Well ladies, you gotta look somewhere else, for Pattinson is not a player! Actually, I am surprised that women want to be with such a gorgeous guy, because his beauty is quite feminine and most likely they are going to look unseemly standing next to him. But if you insist then here is what he says about his kiss-of-death woman: “Someone who is  strong enough to maintain her identity, funny and talented.”