Reese Witherspoon Says She Was Told to ‘Dress Sexy’ for Legally Blonde Audition

Reese Witherspoon is opening up about a demeaning audition process she was subjected to as an up-and-coming actress.

In her new cover story for The Hollywood Reporter, the Oscar winner, 43, told the magazine that landing one of her most career-defining roles, Elle Woods in 2001’s Legally Blonde, was not an enjoyable experience.

“They thought I was a shrew,” Witherspoon said, referencing the casting directors who couldn’t separate the actress from one of her recent characters at the time, the self-assured overachiever Tracy Flick from Election — a far cry from the bubbly, cheery Woods.

After a string of lost parts, her manager feared Witherspoon would be typecast, and suggested the star change the way she dresses for her auditions.

“My manager finally called and said: ‘You’ve got to go meet with the studio head because he will not approve you. He thinks you really are your character from Election and that you’re repellent,’ ” she said. “And then I was told to dress ‘sexy.’ “

Reese Witherspoon

The advice, she said, didn’t seem too outlandish at the time; however, looking back, Witherspoon can see how off-base it was.

“And you’re 23, you have a baby at home, you need the money and you’re being told that by people who know what they’re doing,” she said of justifying the comment at the time.

During the various stages of auditions for Legally Blonde, Witherspoon even had to demonstrate her range by speaking with studio executives while in character as the now-iconic glamorous lawyer-to-be.

“I remember a room full of men who were asking me questions about being a coed and being in a sorority, even though I had dropped out of college four years earlier and I have never been inside a sorority house,” she said.

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Reese Witherspoon in 2001's Legally Blonde
Reese Witherspoon, The Hollywood Reporter

Legally Blonde was so successful, it not only launched a hit sequel in 2003 (as well as a third installment now reportedly in the works), but it catapulted Witherspoon to movie star status.

Now a sought-after producer with hits like Big Little Lies, Gone Girl and Wild under her production company’s belt, the mom-of-three has her eye set on reconfiguring the Hollywood landscape.

“It’s funny to think of all the things we were told to do back then because now you’re thinking, ‘Oh God, if somebody told my daughter to do that, she’d be like, I really hope you’re joking,'” she said of the differences between now and 20 years ago.

She added: “I don’t want to just admire problems, and I certainly don’t want to leave this business the same way that I found it.”

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