Premiering in Nashville: A Conversation with Reese Witherspoon for the Home Entertainment release of The Good Lie | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

Premiering in Nashville: A Conversation with Reese Witherspoon for the Home Entertainment release of The Good Lie

31 August 2015

The Good Lie is a story set in a civil war, so obviously, it has all the tragedies that came out of that, but there’s some hope to it as well. Filmed in Atlanta, Georgia, The Good Lie stars established actors like Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon, Corey Stoll, and Sarah Baker as well as several actors of Sudanese descent -- Ger Duany (Jeremiah), Arnold Oceng (Mamere), Kuoth Wiel (Abital), and Emmanuel Jal (Paul) -- who tell the collective experiences of several survivors of the a civil war that broke out in Sudan in the 1990s. 

Based on real-life events (compressed into this film by screenwriter Margaret Nagle), it is an upcoming American drama directed by Oscar nominee Philippe Falardeau and features Witherspoon as a brash American woman assigned to help four young Sudanese refugees known as Lost Boys [and Girls] of Sudan who have won a lottery for relocation to the United States. 

The 38 year old Witherspoon was born at Southern Baptist Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana, but spent her childhood in Nashville, Tennessee. Witherspoon attended middle school at Harding Academy and graduated from the all-girls' Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, during which time she was a cheerleader. She attended Stanford University as an English literature major. After completing one year of studies, she left Stanford to pursue an acting career. Witherspoon is proud of the "definitive Southern upbringing" which she received. She has said that it gave her "a sense of family and tradition" and taught her about "being conscientious about people's feelings, being polite, being responsible and never taking for granted what you have in your life."

Witherspoon landed her first feature role as the female lead in The Man in the Moon in 1991. In 1996, she appeared in Freeway, and starred in Pleasantville in 1998. For her role in 1999's Election, she earned a Golden Globe nomination.

2001 marked her career's turning point with the breakout role as Elle Woods in the box-office hit Legally Blonde, and in 2002 she starred in Sweet Home Alabama, which became her biggest commercial film success to date. 

2003 saw her return as lead actress and executive producer of Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde. In 2005, Witherspoon received worldwide attention and praise for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, which earned her an Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role and the Critics Choice Movie Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Now married to agent Jim Toth, Witherspoon has three children and after something of a hiatus has several films being released this year including this one.

In our interview, Reese tells us about opening The Good Lie in her hometown of Nashville, remembering her first time in front of the camera and taking her daughter to a refuge camp...




Having this movie premiere here in Nashville… This film has some great Tennessee connections. producer Molly Smith, with quite a bit of credits to her name. [Alcon Entertainment's] Fred Smith, who started this transportation company over in Memphis that's changed the world [FedEx]. And obviously you’re a local girl who's done really, really well. 

Thank you for being here to support us. The film is incredible. I read the script and I just knew. It was just one of those things -- I couldn't not do it. The other really wonderful thing about the process was I got to meet a fellow Tennesseean, who was producing the film, and her name is Molly Smith.


What was it like to show your film here in Nashville where you grew up?

Thank you so much, I’m so glad to be here, and represent Tennessee. This theater [The Belcourt] where the premiere was brings back so many memories for me that I was getting emotional when I got here. I've seen so many films here with my family. It's just such a great thing to be have a premier in Nashville, and to have any of my movies, ever, in Nashville. 


This is a spectacular season for you with Oscar talk, this movie, producing and even popping up with Joaquin in Inherent Vice. Was this organized like a military campaign? Have you been on the march to do something like this?

It's so good to see you all in Nashville! It's so exciting. I'm so used to seeing you in Los Angeles or New York. No, it wasn't planned. I think for a few years, I was a little bit lost as an artist, not being able to find what I wanted to do. Not making choices I was ultimately very happy with. What kind of started this whole string of things I was doing, personally, was just getting back to wanting to playing interesting, dynamic female characters. 


How do you feel to be back in Oscar buzz spotlight?

It’s so nice it so sweet about it. I’m just excited that everybody’s liking the films I’ve been in lately. I will be talking about it at the Inherent Vice press conference.


And The Good Lie is a spectacular, surprising film with an amazing story, told with such humor as well as compassion. 

I read Margaret Nagle's script, and I was just so moved. And I enjoy that idea that... I remember when I met the director, the first thing he said to me was, "This movie isn't about you. And I just want to be really clear about that." And I've never had a director say that to me before. But it made me happy, because I didn't want to make a movie where it was just a white girl, an American girl, coming to save African people.

My character [Carrie Davis] is just as emotionally distraught. She's just as without family as they are. And I thought that was such a beautiful opportunity to talk about family is where you find it. And the rest is, I made these movies, and they all seem to be coming out within three months of each other. I'm in a little bit of a traffic jam, right now. Hopefully that we'll be able to see all of them, and see them for their different qualities. 


What was the message of the movie that spoke to you, and made you want to do it? 

Margaret did such an incredible job, you could tell that there was so much research involved, because when I started watching documentaries, it was completely accurate. Every story you've heard, the Sudanese refugees told is somehow in the movie or in the script. So we just met and I met with Margaret, and Molly Smith, and Philippe Falardeau, the director. 

I just felt that there were wonderful — there are so many times when you don't appreciate your life, until you see someone else's perspective on our privileges and the opportunities that we have, whether that's education, or health care, or just food and running water. 

One of my favourite scenes is when he's running his hands, turning the water on and off, after they'd walked through the desert, without water or food. I just thought it was a great message also for families. I think it's really great to take your kids to this movie. It brings up a lot of integral conversations that we should all be having. I'll take my kids! 


Having three kids, how do you juggle everything?

You should have seen my hotel room this morning. It's a disaster; chaos! Pancakes and milk and fruit and teenagers - it was madness. I felt that this script was so beautiful. 


Did you avoid the process of researching or looking into this?  It must have been an incredible challenge for you to play a character where you don't know the backstory to the other characters. You have to discover it along the way. What did you learn, talk a little bit about what you have learned about south Sudan in general? 

I came from a place of not knowing, so other than a random newspaper article or something, I knew very little about the story. So there was a lot of really interesting documentaries, some stuff on 60 Minutes that was interesting. Still, I didn't know. A lot of the things that I learned were from talking to Emmanuel and talking to Ger, and sometimes we'd be doing scenes and I'd say, "Well, did that really happen?" 

And Ger would tell us about being a young boy, and walking all that way, and what it was like. It's hard to even conceive. And then at the very end of the film, we got to go to the Kakuma Refugee Camp. So I, even though I didn't shoot any scenes there, I didn't want to just do the part in Atlanta and be done and go home to my life. I really wanted to see what the experience was like, so I took my teenage daughter, and we went. It was really.... it was very emotional, seeing over 250,000 people displaced. Sleeping on concrete slabs, and just the sprawl of that many people living together. There were twelve different languages being spoken; seven different kinds of religions. There was very little health care, very little food. 

It just really brought it all home to me — this is an opportunity to raise awareness, but it's also an opportunity to create change. Because as I was talking to Rick Warren, I don't know if you know him, the religious leader. And he said, "Sometimes we assume because people are poor that they're not intelligent. That they don't have anything to offer to society.” 

But these are people who are on top of their field. They're doctors. They're educators. They're community leaders, and they've essentially been displaced." So it's amazing, through this process, to even two days go, be in D.C., and have all these wonderful men and women from the studio, and they're there, and they're doing incredible things. One of them is a war veteran, from Iraq and Afghanistan. One of them is a community leader. So, it's been really educational for me to learn about refugees, and their contribution to society, and how we hopefully lift more of them up out of those situations. 


Why do you think it's hard for us, as Americans, to grasp what's going on, the persecutions that's going on in Sudan — how can this movie change that?

I think there's not been a lot of media coverage. A lot of people are making comparison to 'Hotel Rwanda', but it wasn't a situation that a lot of people knew a lot about. Once they saw the film, it makes you want to go home and look it up and get more involved. 


How did you arrive at Carrie's look? Was it written on the page, or did you have any input on that?

Her look? Oh, how she looks. Molly called me and told me she wanted me to be a brunette, and I was like, "All right." I've done that before. And we did it. I'd just had a baby, that's the reason why I didn't know if I wanted to make the movie, because I'd just had a baby. So I was still nursing and taking care of him. 

And I read the script, and I was like, "Oh my gosh! I have to do this. How am I going to do this?" You know how your brain gets confused, right after you have a baby? I was really confused. We just kind of worked with the hair and make-up people. It's always nice to sort of depart from yourself. I was sort of covering all my post-baby weight, too.






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