As I previewed yesterday, Reese Witherspoon is the cover girl for the May issue of Vogue, all to promote Water for Elephants. CB and I, both Reese fans, are in agreement about this: Reese is overselling this bitch. It’s all too much, and Reese looks… kind of desperate. Desperate for a hit, desperate to justify her paycheck, desperate to work with the best people… I don’t know. I don’t like this version of Reese. I also dislike this Peter Lindbergh photo shoot – I mean, we get it. She’s in a movie with an elephant. Her blonde looks frazzled and her makeup looks Christina Aguilera-esque. The styling just sucks, overall. The full Vogue article is here, and here are some highlights:
Tabloid attention: “It usually heats up during, like, pregnancies or babies or marriage. It’s the drama of real life. . . . It’s interesting to people. Readers want to know! I was talking to an actress the other day who is pregnant right now, and she was like, ‘What is it? What’s the deal?’ She said, ‘Oh, maybe once I have the baby no one will pay any attention,’ and I was like, ‘Bwah-ha-ha-ha!!!!’ ” She exaggeratedly tosses her head back. “‘Oh, yeah. They will leave you alone after you have the baby. Suuure. That’s exactly how it works.’”
How she handles fame: “I get hugged a lot,” she says. “Which is fun. Mostly it’s all good, positive energy that comes to me. I like people. And at the end of the day, we’re all just people, you know? We’re all just going through it. Nobody’s life experience is all that much different than anyone else’s. We’ve all had our share of heartbreak. It’s the universal language of life.”
On Jim Toth: “He’s wonderful,” she says, beaming. “He’s just a really great guy, and I feel really lucky. It’s so cute: Over the holidays I was at a department store in L.A. with my friends, and these three women from Oklahoma came up to me, and they said”—she lays on a thick Southern drawl—“ ‘Reese. We are so happy for yeeew. We liiike this guy for yeeew.’ And I said, ‘You do?!’ ‘Yes, ma’am. We think he is a niiice man. We think he is going to treat you well and be good to yeeew.’ I was like, ‘Really?’ So sweet! And I told them my mother likes him very much, too.”
In a good place: I had been hearing from people who work with Witherspoon that she is in, as they say, “a good place.” When I mention these reports, she looks at me with one of those faces she is famous for, a look that telegraphs surprise tinged with irritation. “I mean . . . it sort of indicates that at other times I was not in a good place.” She laughs. “Which is true. I have had my share of heartbreak. But I think your friends really know when you are at your happiest. Even though I am nervous and excited and all those things people feel when they are about to get married, I think I am mostly very calm right now. Usually, I’m a little bit of a squirrel. I have a squirrelly energy. Like, you don’t know where your next nut is gonna come from?” She stares at me with those unblinking blue eyes. “At the moment I am not buzzing around all squirrelly and nervous. I just feel really lucky to be with someone who cares so much and is so kind and loving. You know? It’s a really nice thing to finally have that.”
Preparing for Water for Elephants: “About three months before the movie started, I went to circus school,” she says, “doing trapeze and acrobatics with Cirque du Soleil performers. A lot of it is flexibility and learning to bend your body backward. I had been a gymnast when I was little, so getting that flexibility back was really fun.” Then she went to a ranch to train with Tai [the elephant]; she was slightly nervous the first day. “She could crush you with her jaw, but she knows the exact right amount of pressure with which to pick you up but not hurt you. It’s really incredible. I trust her more than any other animal I have ever been around.”
Hollywood life: “You know, it can be a crazy life. Sometimes you feel like you are on a speeding train and you just don’t know where it’s going. You can start to lose your identity and what it is that you are really working for.” Like a lot of working women, she’s constantly looking for the right balance. “I don’t wake up to make movies. I wake up to have a wonderful family and to cultivate the best life for all of us, and it’s great to now have a partner in that. We have a lot of family meetings. ‘Mom’s going to be away and coming home on the weekends. How does everybody feel about that?’ It’s always military operations around here. Lots of different moving parts. I have my moments when I feel like I’m just going to collapse and I can’t do it anymore and I’m failing at everything. Like, you’re kind of good at a bunch of stuff but not really good at anything.”
On being 35 years old: “I’ve had some really kind of sad moments lately. You don’t go backward! And I think 35 for a woman is a big thing. I remember when I was a little girl looking up at my mother at 35 doing her hair in the mirror, and I thought, my mother has never been more beautiful. She had years of wisdom you can’t erase. And now I feel the same way when I look in the mirror. You can’t pretend you are an ingenue. You can’t pretend you are wide-eyed and innocent. It’s on your face! It’s in your body. It’s in your voice. It’s in your reactions to things when people say, ‘I just did the most morally corrupt thing I’ve done in my life’ and you literally don’t blink.” She laughs. “You’ve either done it yourself or you know someone who has.”
The difference between 26 and 35: Because I first met Witherspoon eight years ago, when I interviewed her for this magazine, I ask her, What does 34 know that 26 didn’t? “I definitely know now that I know nothing,” she says. “When I was 26 I would have told you a lot of things that I thought I knew really, really well,” she says. “I was a little more shut down in my 20s. I was really scared of a lot of things and a lot of people. I have gone through so many changes since then. Obviously, being divorced and having a couple of relationships. I’m much more open than I was. I think with life experience you go: I have no idea what’s next. The unexpected doesn’t surprise me anymore. It really shocked me then. [I was] really blindsided. I was always shocked about finding out things or behavior or people’s attitudes toward things. You just realize that you don’t know anything about love or relationships.”
On privacy: But one thing that hasn’t changed is that she is as private as ever. Indeed, she seems almost constitutionally unsuited for the level of fame she has to live with. At one point, I ask her what is the worst thing about being Reese Witherspoon, and she pauses for a very long time. Finally she says, “I mean, I feel like an ingrate for even thinking anything isn’t good. I’m very, very, very lucky. But . . . umm . . . probably that I parted with my privacy a long time ago. We went different ways. And sometimes I mourn it. Sometimes I will sit in the car and cry. Because I can’t get out. That’s the only thing: I mourn the loss of my privacy.”
Yeah, people who sell their wedding photos to People Magazine and Hello Magazine don’t really have the right to whine about their privacy. But those are the only comments I really took issue with. My favorite exchange is actually a little aside by the author, who says that Reese has a habit of finishing his sentences, with hilarious results. He started a sentence, “People who love fashion often . . .” and Reese finished it with “ . . . Lack perspective?” Ha! That’s the Reese I love.
Photos courtesy of Vogue.