Reese Witherspoon

Sweet Home Alabama

Interviewed by Anwar Brett

At the grand old age of 26, Reese Witherspoon is already a major Hollywood player. The Tennessee actress - born in 1976 - has enjoyed critical hits with "Election" and "Pleasantville", whilst simultaneously reaping box office gold with "Legally Blonde" (which spawns a sequel next year). Now she's playing Melanie Carmichael in the surprise US hit "Sweet Home Alabama"...

Were you surprised when "Sweet Home Alabama" opened as such a big hit?

I was shocked. But I'm always pleasantly surprised when anybody goes to see anything I'm in.

It has been said that the journey your character Melanie Carmichael takes from country gal to city sophisticate is not unlike your own. Is this true?

I grew up in a really small southern town. When I went to LA to do my first movie I faced a lot of prejudice because I came from Tennessee and had a really strong accent. People would assume that I was not educated, or ignorant, or that I was married to my cousin.

The similarities with Melanie really drew me to her. She was a lot closer to me than any other character I've played in recent years. That was a little bit scary but I muddled through it.

You eventually lost the accent then?

I did my first movie when I was 14 and my agent told me that if I didn't lose the accent I would never work again. I had to teach myself to get rid of it, and I did.

SPOILER: In "Sweet Home Alabama" you receive the most romantic of marriage proposals but end the film punching Candice Bergen, your prospective mother-in-law. How do those two things compare to real life for you?

My own proposal was very personal. It wasn't in Tiffany's like Melanie's was but it was in New York City. And it was actually more intimate and personal. As for punching Candice, that was a highlight of the film for me. I really respect and admire her but it's always good to have a girlfight in there. And I have an older brother so I know how to punch.