Reese Witherspoon doesn't mind getting down and dirty.
In Devil's Knot (in theaters and on VOD tomorrow, May 9), the Oscar-winner underwent a startling makeunder to play the real-life mother of one of three boys murdered in 1993 in West Memphis, Arkansas. (Three men, who became known as the Memphis Three, were tried and convicted of the killings in 1994, but were released from prison 18 years later after new forensic evidence may have proved their innocence.)
"It's unreal how generous she was and how she completely allowed herself to become this southern mom," Devil's Knot director Atom Egoyan tells me. "That to me was awe inspiring and it was to the other actors as well. She was part of this ensemble and she really wanted it to be as authentic as possible."
Witherspoon wore makeup to make it look like she actually wasn't wearing any. "I think that's a huge statement to her quality as an actress, to assume a role like this and to be so invested in it and at the same time be modest it about," Egoyan said. "It's not a traditional role. The film doesn't center around her…But she saw this was a story that needed to be told and committed herself to it."
A native of Tennessee, Witherspoon become the movie's unofficial consultant on all things southern. "She wanted to make sure that the story was told in the south [they shot the film in Atlanta] and that it shouldn't resort to clichés," Egoyan said, adding, "She was definitely an extras expert. She was sort of obsessed by how people looked. That was so great. I loved that."
Egoyan fears the case of the murdered boys may never be solved. "I pray we might find out what happened but it seems unfathomable given the time that has passed, all the mistakes that have been made, all the records that have been lost," he said. "There was so much that was done wrong after the crime."