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In conversation with Reese Witherspoon ahead of DIFF 2014

Many actors experience a career slump after an Oscar win, but the Academy Award-winner Reese Witherspoon is being hotly tipped to double her statuette collection with her new film Wild, which is screening at the Dubai International Film Festival.
Reese Witherspoon and Ger Duany in The Good Lie. Courtesy Alcon Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon and Ger Duany in The Good Lie. Courtesy Alcon Entertainment

Reese Witherspoon stars in two films screening at the Dubai International Film Festival, Wild and The Good Lie. The Oscar winner chats to about her new films, living in the public eye and mixing glamour with grit.

Many actors experience a career slump after an Oscar win, but the Academy Award-winner Reese Witherspoon is being hotly tipped to double her statuette collection with her new film Wild, which is screening at the Dubai International Film Festival. Witherspoon produced the film and stars as a young woman who treks the 3,000-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), alone, to come to terms with her past and find a direction for her future. It’s the latest in a recent string of strong performances from the Tennessee, including the upcoming The Good Lie and Mud, co-starring Matthew McConaughey.

Wild looks like the sort of film that would be very tough to shoot, did you do much physical preparation for it?

None. Cheryl enters into the story having had no experience, so it wouldn’t have helped me to have any experience of it. We wanted as authentic a representation as possible, that was really important to Jean-Marc [Vallee, the director] and to me. So, I had the real weight Cheryl had [in her backpack], and that was me really trying to assemble the tent in the movie.

The woman you are portraying, Cheryl Strayed, was on set for a lot of the shoot – was that a help or a hindrance to your performance?

A help, definitely. I was nervous that I would be able to do justice to her story, because the book is so powerful and personal, which was the reason we all got involved in the first place. But we talked so much from the beginning, trying to get across who she was then and now, it was very collaborative in that way. So much so that it didn’t feel intimidating to have her there, because she was so supportive. She knew how hard everyone had worked to make sure we honoured the book, and her journey.

Do you think you could have taken the type of journey Cheryl takes in the film?

Well, there’s an emotional and physical journey. The PCT … I think what she did was tough but what blew me away was that she was alone. That would be hard, facing this enormous physical task but also being mostly alone for all that time.

You’re also a producer on this film, as you were with the international hit Gone Girl – is working behind the camera as important to you as working in front of the camera?

It’s just another part of the creative process. I enjoy it very much, but I couldn’t say more or less than acting. They’re different disciplines with their own rewards. With producing you can choose the projects that inspire you, and help those stories get told.

Finally, you also star in The Good Lie, about an American who helps four Sudanese refugees come to America. It’s another powerful film, also based on real life. Are these the types of films you are interested in making – as opposed to lighter comedies you’ve made in the past?

You know, I was just very lucky that these two scripts came along, with really great directors and based on two remarkable stories.

If I make films like this in the future I’ll be very happy, but I’m not ruling anything out.

• Wild screens during the Dubai International Film Festival in Madinat Arena on Wednesday, December 17 at 4pm.

• The Good Lie screens during the Dubai International Film Festival at Madinat Arena on Saturday, December 13 at 9pm and in Mall of the Emirates 7 Monday, December 15 at 4.45pm.

artslife@thenational.ae

Updated: December 7, 2014 04:00 AM

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