A Chat With Reese Witherspoon...
In James Mangold’s WALK THE LINE, out goes the blonde, in comes the brunette who lets rip in her vibrant portrayal of June Carter Cash. Already minted with a stash of awards and her first Oscar nomination for the part, if you thought that fluffy and blonde was all Reese Witherspoon’s acting career would amount to, think again…
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Reese Witherspoon spent most of her childhood growing up in Nashville, Tennessee where the music of country singers such as June Carter Cash were the soundtracks of her life during her formative years. So outstanding was her singing and performance on the auto harp in Walk The Line, that Witherspoon was inundated with offers from a number of country labels. She turned them down, citing that she found the performance element challenging. “I could do it in a tiny recording studio but then when we had to go out and there were thousands of extras who'd just wait for you to do something and entertain them - it was just awful, awful. Terrifying!” she laughs.
When Witherspoon took on the part, she knew she had her work cut out; not only having to get to grips with the music, but also June the woman. Witherspoon identifies with the feelings, attitudes, religion and family values inherent in the singer’s life and was also inspired by how modern she was. “She had kids from two different marriages, she was divorced twice. She toured with Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison and Elvis and they all had these huge crushes on her,” Witherspoon smiles, “She didn't give them the time of day. I think Johnny Cash had a fight over June with Elvis. Possibly something happened, which the family winked at. Johnny would rage at the mention of his name.”
Witherspoon’s on-screen romance with Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny Cash is truly electrifying. It’s so believable that you momentarily forget that she’s happily married to fellow actor, Ryan Phillippe. Phoenix is well known for his intensity and there were reports of the two of them not quite hitting it off in the early days of filming. So, how did she really find him? “We became really good friends. He'd pick me up when I was down and there were days he felt like he wanted to quit. Joaquin is such a great guy. He was so passionate about the project; he'd go home after rehearsals and practice his guitar. He really inspired me.”
Although Witherspoon landed her first major acting role at the age of fifteen and has been in 29 films since then, including box office hits such as Legally Blonde (2001) and Sweet Home Alabama (2002), her coming of age as an A-list actress comes with Walk The Line. With 9 awards already under her belt, including a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award, she’s in line for a BAFTA and an Oscar. How does she feel? Does she want to win? “Every actor at the Oscars wants to win; I mean what's the point otherwise. It's great to be there and I feel like, I'm 29 years old, I'm really lucky to be there and whatever happens I feel blessed” she says, “I have plenty of awards for this movie and I feel very, very blessed. If this was it for me, I would feel very content.”