Reese Witherspoon Interview MONSTERS VS. ALIENS

     January 12, 2009

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

With the amount of interviews I posted with the cast of “Monsters vs. Aliens” yesterday, this intro will be brief. If you’d like to read what I’ve written about the movie, or to watch the trailer, please read any of the other interviews by clicking on these names – Rainn Wilson, Kiefer Sutherland, Will Arnett or Seth Rogen. As I’ve said, this is a movie you should be really looking forward to.

At any rate, the last of the long lead interviews is with Reese Witherspoon. In the film, Reese plays Susan Murphy….aka Ginormica. At the beginning of the film, her character is living a normal life. But when a rogue asteroid crashes into her, she’s the next to join the captured monster squad….

The interview you’re about to read (or listen to by clicking here) was done before Christmas and it was a press conference. As you’ll soon see with the questions, some journalists like asking personal questions. Those weren’t mine. The good thing is, Reese doesn’t mind talking about her family or why she wanted to be a part of the movie.

Here’s what she had to say….

Question: Oh, you changed your hair since Four Christmases.

Reese: No, it’s just curly. It’s fluffy like a newborn chicken.

How did you get your head around doing the voice for an animation film?

Reese: It’s sort of an interesting process. I went in to meet Jeffrey Katzenberg as just a general thought, an idea, once I started seeing some of the DreamWorks animation movies over and over again at my house with my children. We had a meeting and he walked me though the process of what they do and I ended up seeing the storyboards for this movie and I got very excited. It seemed like such a good idea. It all revolved around this great image of my character sitting on the roof of the gas station which was really cool. So, we signed on and, I guess, about a year later, I started doing recordings which I like to call ‘actor in a box’ (laughs) but it was great. I’d never really done voice-over work before so it was really helpful to have Rob and Conrad there to walk me through everything because it’s so stop and go and you pick up scenes here and there and then you double back and get them again. It really is a very director-focused medium because they always have to inform the actors where they’re at. Otherwise, I’d be incredibly lost. It’s also ever-evolving. The narrative is always changing. I think, in the beginning, I was the fifth lead and then it sort of evolved and evolved and evolved and they were like ‘oh, no. You’re the lead’ (she laughs). I’m like ‘oh, okay’ but that was sort of news to me.

You are a gorgeous, petite woman so how did it feel to play a forty-nine and 3/4ths foot tall woman called Ginormica? How did you act that?

Reese: They sort of walked me through the process of her and as she was growing and growing and what it was like and they had to constantly give me the perspective too because Insectosaurus is much bigger than me and then the alien robots are even bigger (laughs) so it was constantly like ‘look up and there it is!’ or ‘project further’. And she gets her strength and really enjoys having that super power. She gets stronger and more deeply involved with the voice work.

Any favorite ’50’s B-movies?

Reese: Yeah. My dad used to watch those Roger Corman movies late at night. He’s obsessed with Roger Corman. Apparently he found out some way you can intern for Roger Corman if you just give him five thousand dollars so he’s in the queue. He’s waiting for his opportunity, for his number to be pulled.

But which movies did you like?

Reese: Like The Blob and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Godzilla, stuff like that.

Reese, what was your 3-D experience with this film?

Reese: Experiencing this movie in 3-D? I went over to the DreamWorks studios and Jeffrey (Katzenberg) had explained all the aspects of the 3-D and sort of likened it to sight now is like listening to a vinyl record… uh take this one Conrad.

No, what other 3-D movies have you seen?

Reese: Oh, I saw Jaws in 3-D and I saw Captain Eo and Spy Kids 3-D, anything that comes out for children….and Jaws (laughter).

Any childhood memories of 3-D?

Reese: I just remember being really nearsighted when I was little. I had those giant glasses so I had to put the 3-D glasses over the glasses (laughs) and that makes it kind of difficult and a little bit confusing but we took care of all that. It’s not going to be like that anymore.

Any funny stories about playing Ginormica?

Reese: The running. There is so much action in this movie that they had to run through the movie so they’d (the directors would) be like (breathless voice) ‘okay. Now you’re running, now you’re being chased by a giant, alien robot! Now he’s over your left shoulder. No! He’s over your right shoulder! Now you’re on your giant roller skates which are really cars strapped to your feet so I had to do all that and I guess that was kind of a funny thing. And, to get really good energy, I’d always have to eat an entire pack of M&Ms.

What did you like about this character?

Reese: What I really liked about this character is she starts out as a regular girl who is living her life. She thinks she’s got all the purpose in the world. She’s about to marry a great guy and she’s gonna move and have a very quiet, nice life and she gets hit by a meteor and goes to be forty-nine feet, eleven inches tall and really doesn’t want to be that way. She just wants to go home, wants to go back to normal but when she starts to really realize her strength, and that she has incredible self-possession and strength of character that she really decides she doesn’t ever want to go back and I really love that kind of idea that someone can discover themselves through something happening in their life and having something really important happen, can show them that everything they thought before, that seemed to fit into a certain idea of what she was gonna be, is totally changed forever. Then, she realizes who she really is so I can definitely relate to that for sure.

Reese, are you kids kind of freaked that you are playing this fifty foot woman?

Reese: No. They’re really excited. I’ve seen the website more than these guys (the directors) like we were literally on the website for days and days and my child quizzes me like ‘which one’s this?’ But, hopefully, it’s the kind of movie that’s going to give monsters a good rep because these are some awesome monsters and they’re not scary at all and maybe we can reframe this issue (laughter). I think they’re going to be really excited because it’s one of those great movies where they have a lot of great messages with the monsters. They feel like they’re outside, that no one likes them. They learn to really value themselves and save the world.

They aren’t the usual movie monster villains.

Reese: Yeah. They’re just like you and I.

Is there any message in the movie about being different and trying to conform or find your place in the world?

Reese: Certainly. This is the ultimate outsider movie. These are a band of outsiders who feel always like they’re the ones who aren’t invited to the party and they learn to find that as a strength instead of a weakness throughout the film.

Are you signed up to do a sequel, DVD or TV show?

Reese: On this movie? Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything about that. I don’t know what that is.

You’ve obviously had offers to do animated movies before. What was this the one? Just huge pressure from home?

Reese: No. I’ve had the pressure for years and years. I think the main thing, for me, was finding a female character that I felt like really spoke to young women and that was really important to me. I didn’t want to be somebody’s girlfriend. Not to say that those roles aren’t as good but I loved the idea of this character being pro-active and driving her own story, changing her own life through her own will. That’s such a great message for young women and I’m so excited to be doing that and also, it brings the energy to the party. I’d go in there with such enthusiasm and excitement to be a part of something like that.

Which film to you have to watch at home ad nauseaum with the kids.

Reese: Wall-E. Wall-E’s a great movie. My son is just so in love with Wall-E. It’s Wall-E bed spreads and Wall-E doll. He sleeps with a robot Wall-E that’s hard and he sleeps on it like it’s a pillow (laughs). So, it made robots seem soft and cushy.

You record your part over a long time. Was it difficult or confusing trying to match the voice or accent you did in the last recording session?

Reese: Oh yeah. There were definitely some disorienting moments where I had no idea what was going to happen with her. I remember one day I came in and we’d had like ten recording sessions and I said ‘how does this movie end? Do I die?’ I didn’t know what was going to happen and they’re like ‘oh, right. We never told you what the third act was’ (after the San Francisco chase scene). Where are we going to go from here? Then I found out there were a whole two acts after that. We worked on the first act so much to get it right.

Would you have been upset if you discovered that your character did die?

Reese: Well yeah (duh). I don’t want my character to die (laughs). She has to save the world and dump the guy.

Any difference in playing this versus a live action character?

Reese: No. It’s slightly different. It’s more like goofy I would say. You have to be sillier and goofier but they don’t want you to be too goofy. That’s very confusing; the level of goofiness. We had fun. We got to have a day where Paul Rudd came in, who plays my fiancé and we got to riff off each other. It’s nice to have an actual actor there to work off of.

Do you ever feel exposed like the monsters in the movie?

Reese: Yeah, sometimes I feel like a 49 foot woman. I go places and I see people whispering and pushing their children toward me to take pictures or look cute in front of me so I know what that feels like a little bit but I wouldn’t say it’s a detriment. I definitely think it’s afforded me a lot of great things in my life and I’m very, very lucky and blessed to have everything that I do.

You were saying you liked the strong female character in this movies. Are there any children’s’ stories or books you would like to see brought to the screen in animated form?

Reese: Yeah. This is just such a benchmark for animation and I think it’s going to be exciting to see where female characters go from here on out. I love that it just creates opportunities for more female-driven storylines to be in animated movies, particularly if it does well so that’s a good thing and it was great to see Cameron Diaz do so well in the Shrek series. Those are great characters for young women.

But are there other children’s’ books….?

Reese: See there’s a dearth of it in literature too. It’s hard. It’s really hard. Even female writers are writing books about little boys so it’s great to see Stephenie Meyer write a book about a young woman in “Twilight” and things like that. So, I think the more media outlets that support that kind of opportunity it creates other opportunities for those characters to be there.

What were you most concerned about doing a voice role rather than live action?

Reese: I think just keeping up with where we were at in the story and trying to understand with Rob and Conrad wanted at that moment out of the narrative and figuring out how the character changes and when she decides that she ultimately wants to stay being a monster. I think that was her character journey and figuring that out was kind of the most pivotal thing I think.

How was it just using the voice with nothing else there and not use your physical body?

Reese: There’s a lot of visualization. There’s a lot of pretending there’s giant cars strapped to your feet and you’re fighting off a giant alien robot all the time.

Director: We made her run in place.

Reese: (laughing) That’s right. They’re like ‘you’re fighting off an alien robot while you are talking to BOB (Seth Rogen’s character).

Director: You don’t have to yell. He’s right next to you.

Reese: I was like ‘well, that changes everything’.

When you were doing the voice, did you show up as your glamorous self or just come wearing anything?

Reese: (laughs) Well, heck no. They had a lipstick camera on me. I’d be intereste4d to see the lipstick montage of accumulated hair-dos and different outfits and different colored lipstick.

So you just showed up in jeans and t-shirts?

Reese: Yeah. I didn’t wear my diamonds or my ball gown.

They might sparkle too much.

Reese: True. It might throw everyone off.

How much do you pay attention to the box office of your movies and how surprised are you that 4 Christmases is now going to be two weekends at number one?

Reese: It’s not the first thing I’m thinking about. It’s usually not the first thing on my mind. Usually people are trying to reach me and I think if you really base how you feel on all those things, it’s just a slippery slope of destruction; spiraling self-hatred. If my entire self-worth was based on how well the movies did, I’d just be miserable. I’ve had movies that did great. I’ve had movies that did awful (laughs). Certainly, it’s great that people love it and they want to go see it. I had a screening the other night and people were laughing and having such a good time and moms and dads are having a date night finally because it’s not depressing (laughs). So it’s nice to be the antidote to that kind of serious film that’s going on right now and I think that’s what people are looking for. It’s a tough time. So, this movie is going to help that too. It’s great to be with your family and have affordable entertainment.

A lot of your co-stars are on (or started on) TV shows. Do you watch them?

Reese: Well, I love Will Arnett on “30 Rock”. That’s so funny and I’m a huge Seth Rogen fan and he’s so great in this movie. He’s so funny.


Reese: I worked with Kiefer a long time ago on a movie so it was great to see him doing this and being so funny because he’s a really funny guy which I don’t think he does as much on “24” (laughter). He’s very serious and Hugh Laurie is obviously on “House”. It’s fantastic. I’ve been on Jay Leno once with Hugh Laurie and he was cracking me up.

Is it surreal to see yourself in a movie with him?

Reese: It’s surreal to be in a movie with so many great comedians. If you talk about whether or not those people would all be available to be in one movie, getting this great group of people who are really funny together is so hard in a ‘real’ movie so it creates a great opportunity in an animated film to get the best, funniest voices in one movie because you do do it at different times. It opens up the casting a lot.

You are a great role model but who do you look up to?

Reese: I admire a lot of people who manage to have great careers and a family life and have managed to keep their feet on the ground; Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were a great inspiration. Also people who do great things with their celebrity and manage to create opportunities for other people who really need it. I think that’s a great thing.

You’ve had a great career so far so how do you see your future?

Reese: Hopefully still working, making more movies. I love my job. I’m so lucky to be doing it so, hopefully, I’ll just have endless opportunities for the rest of my life. Acting or producing. That would be good. That’s always fun.

Speaking of other movies, how accurate is it that you’re going to be in Cameron Crowe’s next film?

Reese: That film has been postponed so I’m actually in James L. Brooks’ next movie so we’re going to start that in the Spring.

Can you tell us about that?

Reese: I’m sworn to secrecy.

Do you have a favorite James L. Brooks’ movie?

Reese: Oh my gosh, that’s hard. It would have to be Terms of Endearment or Broadcast News. But, I’m probably going to lean towards Broadcast News because I’m a big Holly Hunter fan. She’s from Conyers, Georgia. She’s a Southern girl.

When he approaches you for a project, how much do you look at the script or how much do you just trust him?

Reese: You just nod and say ‘yes. I don’t know how I got so lucky but okay, whatever you want to write, whatever…yes’. He approached me a few years ago and said ‘I’m thinking about writing this thing and I was wondering if you would want to be in it’ and I was like ‘yes!’, I would love that. That would be so great’. Yeah, it’s been wonderful.

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