LOS ANGELES, Feb 15 (Reuters.com) - In her new romantic comedy "This Means War" Reese Witherspoon portrays a woman who returns to dating after a failed relationship only to find herself torn between two men, who happen to be friends and CIA operatives.
The film, which opens in theaters on Friday, tucks some dating drama in between a lot of action as the two men, played by Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, find their friendship put to the test when competing for the attention of Witherspoon's character, Lauren.
Witherspoon's real life is more stable and less dramatic than Lauren's. The 35-year-old actress is nearing her one-year wedding anniversary to Jim Toth. She spoke with Reuters about the film, her hunky co-stars, her commitment to representing her southern heritage and helping female filmmakers.
Q: You won an Oscar for drama "Walk the Line," and the "Legally Blonde" comedies were big hits. This movie is all out action. Would you say it is a departure for you?
A: "It was a great opportunity to try something new, yet I felt like it had enough comedy that it felt fresh. Combining it with this very viable spy story made it feel new. But I had a few stunt doubles because there were things like driving cars, jumping off buildings, cars tumbling towards me, things on fire...(laughs)."
Q: So you didn't get to partake in all the action?
A: "I did do the trapeze work on this movie because I had been in circus training for 'Water For Elephants' and the shooting was very close between the two movies."
Q: Tell me about your two co-stars. What is Tom Hardy like?
A: "He's a very intense, focused actor. His mind races with thoughts and ideas. He was writing his own lines and helping us construct narrative. He's smart - always adding to the process."
Q: And Chris Pine?
A: "Chris is very thoughtful and earnest. What I didn't expect was this wonderful charismatic charm. He has a composure that's lovely to be around. He's really grateful for everything he has in his life."
Q: In a fictional world, how does one choose between them?
A: "Women on the set were going crazy about both. It actually was very interesting because it was 50/50. They couldn't decide. It was a constant, 'Who would you choose?' We were trying to decide if we should have done alternate endings."
Q: This is not the first film where you played a character in a love triangle. Your last two films before this - "Water For Elephants," "How Do You Know" - had those elements. Coincidence?
A: "It seems to be happenstance. I'm making movies that I would want to see. There is a part of it that's a female fantasy of having two men fight over you, but at no point do I think these guys are really interested in fighting over me. I know all of their girlfriends and wives and we're all very close - those women approved of me! That's how I managed to pull it off."
Q: Next you'll be working with filmmaker Atom Egoyan on "The Devil's Knot," based on the true story about the West Memphis Three, who were convicted of murdering three 8-year-old boys. What made you take on such a serious project?
A: "It happened in an area very close to where I grew up so I understand the cultural idea of who these people are. I want to always represent that area with dignity. It's part of the privilege that I have being southern. One of the things that really touched me is that there are three little boys who are gone and they're not coming home and we don't know who did it. I would want people to have as much awareness of the case and keep looking. I have an 8-year-old son at home and the emotional connection I have to the story is profound. It's a horror you cannot imagine as a parent."
Q: You have an Oscar and are a viable commodity at the box office. What else do you want to accomplish in your career?
A: "I'm starting a new company with (producer) Bruna Papandrea, and we will be producing some films with a very clear female voice. I've been acting since I was 14, and I know every aspect of filmmaking at this point. I think it's important for women who have attained a certain amount of success in this business to give back to other female writers and filmmakers and try and help facilitate their dreams."
Q: Your daughter is 12 - two years shy of when you first began working as an actress. Does she hold any of that same interest in acting that you did at that age?
A: "No. She's a different person with her own personality. I didn't expect when I had a child to have a clone (laughs). She's an individual and that's all you can hope for in life - that you encourage their individuality."
Reporting By Zorianna Kit; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte