Witherspoon: I try to represent reality

31 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

No risky business here! Reese Witherspoon is elegant as she wears a blouse and demure floral skirt at the Produced By conference.

Reese Witherspoon offered plenty of encouragement to fellow producers on Saturday morning by stressing the need to focus on the female audience — as demonstrated by her recent producing efforts, “Wild,” “Gone Girl” and “Hot Pursuit.” Speaking at the Producers Guild of America’s 7th annual “Produced By” conference on the Paramount lot, Witherspoon said the success of her Pacific Standard company stems partly from Hollywood knowing what to expect from the shingle. Reese Witherspoon saw the gender equality questions coming a mile away Saturday as she sat down for a spotlight conversation at the 2015 Produced By Conference in Los Angeles. That’s merely one among a handful of other awards, including a Golden Globe for the same role, and was recently nominated for a 2015 Oscar for playing Cheryl Strayed in the film Wild. The duo, who produced Gone Girl, Wild and Hot Pursuit, were quick to emphasize that, while their focus was on stories about women, they were not making movies only for women. “Women make up 50 percent of the population, so we should make up 50 percent of the [roles and stories] in movies,” she added. “It’s not a crazy thought, it’s just a representation of reality.” “I was just reading scripts, and the scripts were sort of diminishing.

But Witherspoon also noted that Pacific Standard wants to succeed on the basis on story. “The films we make are not chick flicks,” she insisted. “‘Wild’ is just about a human being.” Speaking to a capacity crowd of more than 500 at the Paramount Theater, Witherspoon also addressed the question of whether she’d ever portray Hillary Clinton. Reese has already announced two projects coming up, a fantasy-comedy with director Paul Feig called Wish List, and a limited HBO television series co-starring Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies.

During the discussion moderated by producer Will Packer, Witherspoon and Papandrea made it very clear that they’re in the business of making films with strong female leads. She responded by saying that she’s been asked to do so several times and wryly pointed out that she portrayed a young version of Clinton as Tracy Flick in 1998’s “Election.” Asked by moderator Will Packer if they believed they had made any mistakes with “Wild,” Witherspoon responded: “Shooting 55 locations in 30 days was probably not the best way to start, but we were determined.” Witherspoon attributes their successful partnership to the fact that they share the goal of “creating movies with the woman at the center.” So it’s probably not a good idea to send them material where the female lead is just a wife or a girlfriend.

Don’t kick the hornet’s nest… do you like those questions?” Packer’s credits include “Ride Along” and “Think Like A Man,” which could be considered African-American themed films. “This business loves to categorize,” Packer said in his defense. I just started to notice they were making less movies for women, and that meant less parts for women,” she said. “We [she and her producer partner Bruna Papandrea] are looking for great female parts. Witherspoon’s decision to start her own production came three years ago when her husband suggested that she option some books and turn them into movies.

Witherspoon used the Academy Award nominated “Wild” as an example of what financiers and industry colleagues thought was “a movie about a girl hiking. If she’s the girlfriend or the wife, probably don’t send it to us.” Reese also revealed how she thinks opportunities for women can be improved in Hollywood. In an attempt to regain some of the self-respect her mother had once tried to infuse her with, she decides to go on a long hike (1100 miles) across the Mojave dessert – the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

After a “dating period” as Witherspoon describes it, the duo were able to hone in on their goal of producing “interesting roles for women.” However, even with Witherspoon’s name attached, the duo hasn’t always had it so easy getting the studios on board. Papandrea revealed that when they sent Gone Girl to the studios “no one read it.” It was when the novel hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list that grabbed studios’ attention. Witherspoon said she struggled to find female or non-white staff in entry level jobs on movie sets, which she believes is crucial in resume building. “I feel like it starts very young.

Papandrea said when they first brought the manuscript for Gone Girl around to studios, no one gave it a chance. “We sent the book to every studio, and nobody read it. A studio development deal isn’t in the cards yet, Papandrea said, because “I’m an independent producer at heart,” explaining that each project has unique characteristics that appeal to different studios. I mean… just looking around, I’m standing on set looking for the female interns, Latin American interns,” said Witherspoon. “When we were doing ‘Hot Pursuit’ we had these Latin American writers.

Will Packer, who moderated the session, posed the question “what is it about, literally, adaptations?” To which Witherspoon responded, “We love books, we are book dorks” adding “They’ve done half the work for you, if it’s a great book you already know it’s a great story.” The company is producing another adaptiation, Little Big Lies, in partnership with Nicole Kidman’s production company Blossom Films, based on the book of the same name by Australian author Liane Moriarty. Also in the company’s pipeline is Ashley’s War: The Untold Story Of A Team of Women Soldiers On The Special Ops Battlefield by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and Luckiest Girl Alive from first time author Jessica Knoll. We need to develop the talent when they are 18, 19 years old and that responsibility is on us, our companies, other people in this audience that own companies.

Pacific Standard, whose name came about as a variation on the cocktail Eastern Standard, are certainly doing their part to bring about change in the industry.

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