Reese Witherspoon Was “Terrified” Of Wild Sex and Drug Scenes
Reese Witherspoon opens up about the emotional experience of making her new movie Wild in an upcoming Harper’s Bazaar UK cover story. From the first time she read Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir, Witherspoon was overwhelmed by the story of a woman using a treacherous hike to test her limits and get through emotional turmoil.
The actress recalls, “At the end of it, I was in a river of tears. I was so moved by Cheryl’s words. I didn’t know who this woman was but I had to call her.” And she did, calling Strayed the next day and telling the author, “I want to hug you. I feel like I know you. I feel like I went on this journey with you. I would love to option this book.”
As a producer of the project, Witherspoon knew that if she wanted to act in it, she’d have to go to different places than she’d ever gone before. ‘To be honest, if this was an open-casting project, I don’t know if anyone would have cast me,” she admits. “I could be wrong. It’s nothing like any movie I’ve ever done – it was a way of challenging myself.”
Speaking of how the role resonated with her, the Oscar winner says, “This idea that we are our own saviors, our own heroes. That’s hard, but also incredibly uplifting. I think I realized, probably in my twenties, that there’s no going home, do you know what I’m saying?… Well, maybe when I was 18. I was like, ‘My parents can’t pay for me to have a life or go to college.’ Whatever I was going to do in my life, I had to do it myself.”
She also explains of wanting to do Wild, “It wasn’t as if there was a lack of roles being offered to me. It was the dynamic aspect of playing a really interesting, complicated person that was not readily available. Honestly, I don’t know a woman who isn’t complicated. It’s strange that you don’t see many complicated women on film; complicated meaning complex, I should say.”
What about the content of the story, which includes sex and heroin use? “There were small descriptions in the script,” Witherspoon tells the magazine. “But when he started describing what we were going to do, that’s when I started to panic. I was like, ‘Wait. What are you talking about?’… I would have fired myself a couple of times during rehearsals because I was so scared, oh my God. I got my sh*t together, but it took me a while.’”
“I’ve never done drugs, so I was really confused. I didn’t know what I was doing. It just required being in a really raw emotional place that didn’t feel good,” she tells the outlet. But the sex scenes were even more difficult for Witherspoon. “That’s, like, three percent of the movie, but it took up a tremendous amount of fear in my mind because it’s daunting,” she explains. How did she do them? “I never looked ahead at the schedule. I would wake up in the morning and say, ‘What are we doing today?’ And I’d prepare on the way to work. Sometimes I was just terrified. Like a cat on a raft… ‘You can’t make me do it.'”
Were there times when Witherspoon thought of bailing? She says, “I think about backing out of everything. I get to the beginning and I’m like, ‘I do not want to make this movie.’ I’ve never had an experience where I was like, ‘I can’t wait to start.’ I don’t know why. It’s always going to require something that doesn’t feel good, some sort of challenge or emotional gutting. It’s not a fun space to live in a lot of the time. It’s why I enjoy doing comedies. It’s much easier, thinking of what rhymes with truck.” What do you think of what Witherspoon has to say?