Witherspoon As Producer in ‘Penelope’

February 22, 2008 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) She might be a tad shy about cracking the whip on set, but Reese Witherspoon is every bit the shot-caller. “I hate being in charge, so I’d say I’m more of a collaborator,” laughs the producer and co-star of the independent film “Penelope,” opening February 29. “I don’t want to be the one to tell (the crew) that they have to stay for two extra hours or come in at 6 o’clock in the morning.”

Witherspoon’s production company, Type A Films, grossed $125 million worldwide five years ago with its first project, “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde.” Now Witherspoon, 31, is back in the producer’s chair with the magical love story “Penelope.” “When my producing partner, Jennifer Simpson, brought me the script, I just loved the idea,” she remembers. “There’s a great girl at the center of the story who’s sassy and funny and smart and opinionated, yet she has obstacles to overcome.”

Witherspoon starred in “Legally Blonde 2,” but this time she handed the title role to Christina Ricci in exchange for a smaller role as Annie, “the friend.” That allowed her to focus on working behind the camera with her first-time feature team, including television-turned-movie scribe Leslie Caveny and director Mark Palansky.

“Since I didn’t have to be in every scene, I was able to spend a lot of time planning shots,” she said. “One day, we were trying to shoot 20 close-ups before the sun went down and I thought, ‘Oh, we can use the dolly and shoot from this side.’ That’s when I realized how much I’ve absorbed from just being on the set for so many years.”

Witherspoon commands $15 to $20 million per picture after winning a best-actress Oscar for her performance in the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line.” So what’s it like to have that golden statue on the mantel?

“It’s a great feeling,” beams Witherspoon, who’s already on to her third production, “Four Christmases,” in which she’ll co-star alongside Vince Vaughn. “For me, going to the movies is about laughing, having fun and seeing the guy kiss the girl. Life is hard for people and I try to make movies that are a reprieve. I want to put positive things into the world.”


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