"Penelope" shows Witherspoon's nose for producing

Wed Feb 27, 2008 3:00pm EST
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By Iain Blair

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Reese Witherspoon has won a best actress Oscar and is among Hollywood's A-list actors, but for her latest film "Penelope," the global star took a small supporting role so she could focus on a new job -- producer.

"Penelope," which debuts in major U.S. cities on Friday, has been a pet project for the star who, along with producing partner Jennifer Simpson, worked four years to develop and make the quirky contemporary fable about a rich girl, played by Christina Ricci, who is cursed with a pig's nose.

"This was the first film that we found the script, found the director and did all the heavy lifting," said Witherspoon.

Her company, Type A Films, also produced "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde." But on that movie, Witherspoon took the starring role and was credited as executive producer, which is often more of an advisory role. As producer on "Penelope," Witherspoon was involved in various ways including script development, casting, production, editing and distribution.

The 31-year-old producer said the story of "Penelope" was perfect for a Type A personality because, among other reasons, it spoke to some big issues yet centered on a young woman.

"It had a really great female character who was strong, ambitious, but definitely had a journey to go through to get to the place where she would find herself," Witherspoon said.

Penelope's wealthy socialite parents unsuccessfully try to break a family curse by marrying off their disfigured daughter to a rich suitor. But the lonely girl meets a handsome stranger (James McAvoy) and decides to flee her gilded cage.

Out in the real world for the first time, Penelope is befriended by free spirit Annie (Witherspoon) who whisks her new girlfriend around London on the back of a scooter, ultimately helping to restore Penelope's self-esteem.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Reese Witherspoon arrives for the premiere of the film "Penelope" in Los Angeles, February 20, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>