There is no doubt that after seeing her wade expertly through rough waters for “Rendition,” “Just Like Heaven” and “Four Christmases,” Reese Witherspoon is the queen of studio press conferences.
Yet, unlike other stars who try to cram their media requirements into a packed thirty minutes and act as though just sitting on the dais is causing them some sort of physical discomfort, Witherspoon is always as charming as can be. She may be more guarded about her personal life because of the paparazzi attention she”s received since her break up with ex-husband Ryan Phillippe and her tabloid friendly romance with current boyfriend Jake “six pack” Gyllenhaal began, but she still seems as blunt and down to earth as she was when this writer interviewed her for “Election” almost a decade ago. On this particular afternoon, however, America’s reining cinematic sweetheart (clearly after Julia Roberts’ disappointing run of late) was putting on a brave face to chat about her first animated feature film, DreamWorks Animations’ 3D adventure “Monsters vs. Aliens.”
“First of all I was really into the idea that the 1950s B-movie monsters became heroes,” Witherspoon says. “I watched a lot of those movies as a kid with my dad. I thought it was a really good, modern concept and then to put a woman at the center of the film was pretty amazing. I have been offered some animated movies, not as many as my counterpart here.”
Her counterpart? Oh, yes. To help Witherspoon feel less lonely, her co-star Seth Rogen has joined her on the podium.
“I take them all,” Rogen jokes about his animated roles. “That’s the difference.”
While clearly an ensemble, “Aliens” is pretty much from the view of Susan Murphy (Witherspoon); a bride to be that is hit by a strange meteor on her wedding day. When she grows to humongous heights, the government steps in and detains her for her own safety (yeah, sort of heady stuff for kids to soak in). Given the code name Ginormica, Susan meets a quartet of other true “monsters” who have been kept in hiding for decades. Rogen plays Bob, an indestructible gelatinous blob, Hugh Laurie voices the half human/half insect mad scientist Dr. Cockroach Ph.D., Will Arnett is The Missing Link and the gigantic bug Insectasorous only has a growl that thankfully (for DreamWorks stockholders) didn’t need a celebrity to voice it.
Besides the 50s monster homage, Witherspoon thought working on “Aliens” was a great chance to create a female heroine for young girls. She reveals, “I talk to my kids a lot and I ask, ‘What’s your favorite superhero?’ And my son can name 27 different male superheroes and my daughter is like, ‘I don’t know. The girl with the wings. I can’t remember any of them.’ So, this is hopefully an opportunity that people will really start liking [Ginormica] and they will make more of them.”
A tremendous box office draw since the blockbuster “Sweet Home Alabama” seven years ago, I asked Witherspoon if she’d ever been asked to play a superhero role. Even in a male dominated genre, the answer was somewhat surprising.
“No, I had never been offered one before,” Witherspoon says. “I don’t think they make a lot of female superheroes. This is the first one I’ve been offered.
Rogen chimes in noting, “Doesn’t help that the two they made movies out of were ‘Catwoman’ and ‘Elektra.'”
The 33-year-old Oscar winner also revealed that when she began her recording sessions she went in scruffy, enjoying the fact she didn’t have to be in front of the camera. That was, of course, until she found out they actually recorded her sessions for reference. From that point on she made sure she was picture perfect. She admits the whole experience was harder than she thought it would be, basically because there was little to help her visualize the scene.
Witherspoon recalls, “They had like a height chart so we knew how big we were and sometimes when we were fighting a really big alien they would be like, ‘No, no, no. He’s much bigger than that. Even higher.'”
Rogen, it appears, had to really go full bore to reach his character for his own recording sessions.
“I would get naked and paint my body blue every time I recorded,” Rogen says laughing to himself. “And a one eyed patch on. It was the only way I could do it. I wish there was another way.”
The best part of the whole experience, however, seems to be the reaction of the movie from Witherspoon’s two children. They pair have already seen it once, but were proudly anticipating bringing their friends to the Los Angeles premiere.
“My kids were able to maintain their coolness for awhile but literally it has hit a fever pitch. They are rabid,” Witherspoon dotes. “My daughter is nine and she’s trying to be cool and she’s like, ‘It’s O.K. Um, how many friends can I bring to the screening?’ I’m really enjoying this movie because normally my kids think I’m a gigantic dork and they are so in love with me right now it’s great.”
Yep, you can be Reese Witherspoon or Angelina Jolie, but your offspring are always gonna think you’re a dork. Refreshing isn’t it?
“Monsters vs. Aliens” opens nationwide this Friday.
Watch the trailer for the expected blockbuster below.