Reese Witherspoon is recalling riding out the rollercoaster of being a young Hollywood star under the male gaze.
The Hello Sunshine production company founder told Harper’s Bazaar how the infamous 1996 erotic thriller “Fear” — released when she was 20 — partly inspired her to shift her career to become an “agent for change” for women in Hollywood.
Witherspoon unpacked the iconic rollercoaster scene in which her character is fingered by the sinister love interest, played by Mark Wahlberg. Witherspoon noted that she requested a stunt double for the below-the-waist scenes; the film was directed by James Foley.
“I didn’t have control over it,” Witherspoon said. “It wasn’t explicit in the script that that’s what was going to happen, so that was something that I think the director thought of on his own and then asked me on set if I would do it, and I said no. It wasn’t a particularly great experience.”
Witherspoon continued, “I’m certainly not traumatized or anything by it, but it was formative. It made me understand where my place was in the pecking order of filmmaking. I think it’s another one of those stories that made me want to be an agent for change and someone who maybe can be in a better leadership position to tell stories from a female perspective instead of from the male gaze.”
The “Legally Blonde 3” star recalled how becoming a mother at age 22 impacted her creative decisions, noting that she realized “something had to shift” for the roles she was taking.
“Who do I want my daughter to see? I really want to be a woman she looks up to,” Witherspoon said. ”I worked on it a lot.”
She added, “I got ‘Election’ and I created Tracy Flick, and I ended up being in ‘Pleasantville,’ which was amazing. [My daughter] Ava was asking me the other day about where I come up with these characters, like Tracy Flick, Elle Woods, and [Melanie Smooter from] ‘Sweet Home Alabama.‘ I created them all within the span of five, six years in my 20s. Sometimes I look back and go, ‘How the hell did I do that?’”
Witherspoon is set to reprise her role as Tracy Flick for an “Election” sequel, titled “Tracy Flick Can’t Win.” Alexander Payne is set to write and direct the follow-up to the 1999 dark comedy, with Tracy Flick now a hard-working but frustrated assistant principal at a public high school in New Jersey, where she is still fighting for the top job. The original 1999 film also starred Matthew Broderick and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay based on Tom Perrotta’s novel.