It's no surprise that Reese Witherspoon is getting all kinds of Oscar buzz for her performance in Wild.
She really goes there in her portrayal of Cheryl Strayed, a former heroin addict who hiked the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail by herself after several tragic events, including a divorce caused by her drug use and infidelity.
In the film, based on Strayed's New York Times bestseller Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Witherspoon appears naked, having anonymous sex several times and shooting up drugs.
"It's beautiful to see her let go and get out of her comfort zone and say, 'I am going to produce it, star in it and I am going to do it in a way that's going to be tough and I'm going to be naked and raw, both physically and emotionally,'" Wild director Jean-Marc Vallée told me yesterday while promoting the movie at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills.
Witherspoon didn't wear makeup for most of the movie. "She could have told me, 'I'm 36, don't show me this way, but she said, 'Shoot! Shoot whatever you see,'" Vallée said. "She arrived on set and it was like, 'Ready, Reese?' and she said yes and took the shirt off and put the needle [in her arm] and then in her ankle."
Vallée directed last year's Dallas Buyers Club. Witherspoon offered him the Wild job after seeing a rough cut of Buyers Club about a month before it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. "I read the script and I was really touched and then I read the book and I was devastated," he said. "I was like, 'This is so powerful and beautiful.'"
And it hit close to home because Wild also shows Strayed's mother (played by Laura Dern) dying of lung cancer at just 45 years old. "I lost my mom to cancer three years before," Vallée said. "I was like, I have to make this film, to pay tribute to my mom and these kind of women, these strong women."
What an amazing tribute it is. In Wild, Cheryl refers to her mom as the "love of my life."
"I thought that was so beautiful to dare to say that about a parent because we all have this thing about finding your soul mate and your soul mate is supposed to be the love of your life," Vallée said as his eyes teared up. "I never thought I could say that my mom was the love of my life, but I think she was."
Wild is in theaters on Dec. 5.