Reese Witherspoon Reveals She Nearly Didn't Land Her 'Legally Blonde' Role
By Rachel McRady
Legally Blonde was a transformative movie for Reese Witherspoon. The 43-year-old actress and producer opens up in The Hollywood Reporter's new Women in Entertainment issue about the film that skyrocketed her career and how she handled situations prior to playing Elle Woods.
Two years before Legally Blonde, Witherspoon famously played the ruthless Tracy Flick in 1999's dark comedy Election. Though she garnered plenty of praise for the role, she might have played her part a little too well. It was this role that made studio executives doubt she could portray the bubbly Elle Woods.
“They thought I was a shrew," she says of studio execs. "My manager finally called and said, ‘You’ve got to go meet with the studio head because he will not approve you. He thinks you really are your character from Election and that you’re repellent.’ And then I was told to dress sexy. And you’re 23, you have a baby at home, you need the money and you’re being told that by people who know what they’re doing. It’s funny to think of all the things we were told to do back then because now you’re thinking, ‘Oh God, if somebody told my daughter to do that, she’d be like, I really hope you’re joking.’”
Witherspoon herself took some convincing to take on the now-iconic role of Elle.
Producer Marc Platt reveals, "She was afraid it was too similar to Clueless, which had recently come out, in terms of the character. I literally said to her, 'I want Elle to be a role model.' I wanted my daughters to watch her and think that they can live in a world where they can do anything."
Witherspoon went to her audition in character and was so effective that she sort of tricked the casting team.
“I remember a room full of men who were asking me questions about being a co-ed and being in a sorority...even though I had dropped out of college four years earlier and I have never been inside a sorority house,” she dishes.
The part earned her big box office numbers, lots of praise and several other successes shortly after. But Witherspoon admits she didn't know how to use that success to her advantage career-wise.
“I was so used to being underestimated that when I was somehow accepted, I didn’t know how to look at material. I didn’t know how to make decisions and I didn’t know what I wanted to say,” she reveals.
Thankfully, she figured things out and went on to create a career for herself outside of acting as a producer. In fact, in a full-circle moment, Witherspoon is producing and starring in the highly anticipated Legally Blonde 3, which is set to come out next year.
She recently opened up to ET about what to expect from the film. Watch the exclusive interview below: