Reese Witherspoon could not have been more thrilled to have her latest film, The Good Lie, premiere in her hometown of Nashville. And Movie Fanatic was there to share in her joy.
“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,” Witherspoon said.
“I've seen so many films here with my family. It's just such a great thing to have a premiere in Nashville, and to have any of my movies, ever, in Nashville.”
The Oscar winner could have her choice of projects and headline every single one of them. But there was something about the supporting character of Carrie, a woman who aids the “Lost Boys of Sudan” in their effort to find a job and assimilate in Kansas City.
“I read Margaret Nagle's script, and I was just so moved. I remember when I met the director, the first thing he said to me was, ‘This movie isn't about you.’ I've never had a director say that to me before! But it made me happy,” Witherspoon said.
“I didn't want to make a movie where it was just a white girl, an American girl, coming to save African people.”
As you can see in The Good Lie trailer, the story focuses on the plight of the thousands and thousands of boys and girls who walked thousands of miles from their homes to find shelter in Ethiopia, only to be turned away and be stuck in the middle of a brutal civil war that had left them all orphans.
Specifically, The Good Lie follows four of them from the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Ethiopia to their being moved to America and the immense challenges (emotionally and others) they faced in adjusting to their new life.
Witherspoon found a connection between her character and the so-called Lost Boys she has been charged with helping that she thought would help drive the story. “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,” Witherspoon said.
The star inhaled anything she could about the Sudanese civil war to be as prepared as she could be to tell this important story. ”I came from a place of not knowing, so other than a random newspaper article or something, I knew very little about the story. There was a lot of really interesting documentaries,” Witherspoon said.
But much of her information came from her co-stars. “Ger (Duany, who plays Jeremiah) would tell us about being a young boy, and walking all that way, and what it was like. It's hard to even conceive.”
Witherspoon even went to the Kakuma Refugee Camp, and even brought her teenage daughter. “I really wanted to see what the experience was like. It was very emotional, seeing over 250,000 people displaced, sleeping on concrete slabs, and just the sprawl of that many people living together,” she recalled. “There was very little health care, very little food. It just really brought it all home to me.”
The mother in Witherspoon found that visiting the refugee camp was a priceless chance to illustrate to her own kin how the world is and how there can be forces of change, even from making a movie. “Even if you read a million books on a situation, you don't understand it until you see it yourself. She didn't say a word the whole day. And then she really didn't talk about it until a couple of days later,” Witherspoon shared.
“We saw women giving birth on metal tables, with their infant sitting there with no clothes on. Babies like her brother's age, sitting on concrete slabs and sleeping with seven other brothers and sisters.”
As for Witherspoon’s takeaway from her visit, it left her with an unwavering feeling that the human spirit is still triumphant, even when facing the darkest of times. “The other remarkable thing was the joy and determination of these people, to rise above, and their determination to have a better life for their children. Their spirit was just incredible! They greet you with smiles and laughter and dancing,” Witherspoon said.
“It was incredible to be there with Ger and his family -- so many of his family members are there, at that very camp.”
“What started this whole string of things I was doing, personally, was just getting back to wanting to play interesting, dynamic female characters,” Witherspoon said.
“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. I’m just excited that everybody’s liking the films I’ve been in lately.”
Above all else, the Oscar winner hopes that The Good Lie will not just entertain and enlighten, but be a motivator to make a difference in the world. “It is an opportunity to raise awareness,” she said. “But, it's also an opportunity to create change.”
Check out the role that won Witherspoon her first Oscar and watch Walk the Line online. Maybe she'll be getting a second for The Good Lie!