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SUBJECT: Penelope

Reese Witherspoon Reese Witherspoon is one of Hollywoodís most respected performers. For her role as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, she won the BAFTA, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award for Best Actress. Her other credits include Rendition, Sweet Home Alabama and Legally Blonde. Not satisfied with only an acting career, Witherspoon started a production company, Type A Films, and her first independent movie, Penelope, opens with Witherspoon producing and playing a supporting character.

In this modern fairy tale Christina Ricci portrays Penelope, who is afflicted by a spell that can only be broken when she finds true love. Hidden away in her family estate, the lonely girl meets a string of suitors in her parentís futile attempt to break the curse, but when her affliction is revealed, a pigís nose, they all flee. She believes her luck has finally changed when she meets Max (James McAvoy), but then she discovers he has posed as a prospective suitor so a tabloid photographer can get a shot of her, and she leaves the mansion to live her life on her terms, meeting Annie (Witherspoon), a biker who becomes her first friend.

Q: Did you ever consider playing the role of Penelope yourself?
Reese Witherspoon: Yeah, I actually thought about it but I got busy with other commitments and the movie had to go forward. We decided to cast it, but I always knew I wanted to be in it in some capacity. It was kind of fun for me to get to play a smaller character and get to be a broad.

Q: What did you have to do to develop the character of Annie?
A: I found somebody I thought was kind of like her and I just mimicked her. It was fun. I got to run around the streets of London on a Vespa. I got to wear funny hair and just be ballsy and funny.

Q: You donít get a chance very often to play a supporting role. Is it nice not to have to be the star and carry the weight of the entire movie on your shoulders?
A: Itís fun and freeing to play a supporting character. Those are the kind of parts I came up playing, so it was nice to return to that. I love those kind of characters, like Barbara Stanwyck, you donít know if sheís going to kiss you or stab you in the neck.

Q: Can you talk about casting Christina for the title role?:
Christina Ricci as PenelopeA: She was my first choice. I thought, ĎSheís not going to want to do this with the weird pig face.í But she came in and was like, ĎNo, Iím excited. I want to do this. I want to wear this pig face, itís awesome.í She was fearless. Thatís what Iíve always loved about Christina, she has a real intelligence to her work, also very sharp and witty, sheís always been great. And she looked so damn cute with the nose.

Q: What about casting James McAvoy as Max?:
James McAvoyA: We were lucky to get James. The casting director suggested him and, at the time, I didnít know who he was. Christina had seen some of his work and she was a big champion of his. I watched some of his stuff and I thought he was great. Of course he has become this big movie star now. I tease him and say, ĎI got you when you were cheap.í Iíll never get him again. Heís so great and Iím so happy for him to be having all this success.

Q: Since you shot the movie in London, why did you choose to set it in a non-descript part of the world?
A: I think because it was such a magical fairy tale we wanted it to be timeless. I think our costumes are very timeless. We wanted it to seem like a creative imaginary world to add to the fantasy element.

Q: When your character meets Penelope, I thought she might be a guardian angel. Is there an element of that or is she just a friend?
A: Yeah, I think there are elements of that, itís definitely a magical movie. There are definitely twists and turns that you donít expect. There was something to the fact that we put wings on her bike. We thought of all these little details that we liked. Itís nice that you noticed them.

Q: Can you talk a little about producing?
A: Iíve been on sets for 15 years now. Just being apart of the filmmaking process you absorb so much that you donít even realize it, whether itís lighting, or shot composition, or casting. You realize how important every element is, so itís kind of been a natural progression for me. I did a lot of development and script work. That has been very helpful for me with the production company, learning about what makes a script work or not work. This actual experience of being in physical production was exciting.

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Images above © Summit Entertainment
Feature © 2008 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #693, March 2008 cover

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