WOMEN IN CINEMA: With the anticipated release of Gone Girl this weekend, audiences are talking about Rosamund Pike‘s performance. However, it’s another talented actress involved in the film that is also stirring Oscar buzz this award’s season.
After her first Academy Award win in 2006, for her performance in James Mangold’s Johnny Cash biography Walk the Line, Reese Witherspoon’s career took a lethargic turn, with less than well received films such as Four Christmases and This Means War (which co-star Tom Hardy said he regrets making). The actress first broke out into the Hollywood scene with the box-office hits Legally Blonde in 2001 and Sweet Home Alabama the consecutive year. It wasn’t until 2012 when things started looking better for Witherspoon’s career with her role in Jeff Nichols’ Mud, which also helped revamp Matthew McConaughey’s career. This year could be Witherspoon’s second chance at an Oscar, one opportunity of which is for producing Gone Girl with her production company Pacific Standard.
Witherspoon first got involved with David Fincher’s latest film when she optioned the film rights to the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn. Gone Girl is a mystery/thriller about the disappearance of a man’s wife and the media infamy he garners when he is believed to be the main suspect. Witherspoon sought after the main female lead (played by Pike), but Fincher thought she was ill-fit for the role. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Witherspoon says the director didn’t think she was right for the part. “He told me a vision for what the characters were, and it was very clear that I was not right for his vision,” she said.
Witherspoon says she was interested in producing when she noticed a few years ago the parts for women were less than satisfying, according to a Vanity Fair article last month. “And I thought, if I don’t get busy trying to produce things–for myself, for other women–who’s gonna do it?” she went on to say.
Apart from Gone Girl, Witherspoon is also producing and starring in the soon-to-be-released Wild, directed by Dallas Buyers Club helmer Jean-Marc Vallée (whose film produced two Oscar-winning performances for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto last year). The film, based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, chronicles a woman’s physical and mental journey as she takes a pilgrimage along the Pacific Crest Trail. Attendees at this year’s Telluride Film Festival, where the film premiered, had some positive feedback on Twitter, according to an article by fellow Awardscircuit writer Sam Coffey. “Wild’s best bet [sic] a lead nod for Reese,” read one tweet. Over at Indiewire, critic Sam Adams compiled snippets of early reviews of the film. The consensus seems split between praise for Vallée and Witherspoon and disappointment in the interpretation.
Witherspoon could possibly be looking at three Oscar nominations next year, if you believe Kristopher Tapley over at HitFix. However, realistically, she has a solid chance at two. Gone Girl seems like an Oscar safe bet at this point. Two of Fincher’s last three films were nominated for Best Motion Picture – The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And her performance in Wild has ostensibly struck a chord with many Academy Award prognosticators.
In the eight years since Witherspoon’s Oscar win, the talented actress managed to find inspiration for her now seemingly insatiable work appetite. Witherspoon also has The Good Lie, a film about Sudanese refugees integrating into America, due out later this year and also plays a small part in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice due out later this year. She will also be producing and starring in the comedy Don’t Mess with Texas, directed by Anne Fletcher, next year and is slated to produce the yet-untitled Peggy Lee biography, directed by Todd Haynes.
Oscar glory or not, Witherspoon’s return to indie-fare is a welcome comeback for fans of her early career which include indie’s like Election (for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination), Freeway and Cruel Intentions. Her producing credits also demonstrates she acknowledges the gender inequity in the film industry and wants to create more opportunities for herself and other women. As to how she will balance all this extra work now that her Hollywood drought is apparently over, it’s surely no problem for Witherspoon. As her Legally Blonde character Elle Woods would say, “what? Like it’s hard?”
Wild opens nationwide on December 5.