Reese Witherspoon did not set out to make a feminist film with Hot Pursuit. She just wanted to produce and star in a movie that showed women doing more than what Hollywood usually has them doing.
“We had the idea to make a movie that wasn’t just about romantic involvement, and that wasn’t about men and chasing men. As soon as you strip that element away, you actually get to dig deeper into the female characters,” Witherspoon told Movie Fanatic.
As the Hot Pursuit trailer teases, Witherspoon is Officer Cooper, a San Antonio police officer who has followed in her esteemed father’s footsteps and joined the force. After a headline-grabbing mishap, she has been reduced to working the evidence room for three years. The chance of a lifetime arrives when she’s asked to accompany a U.S. Marshal to pick up a drug cartel member and his wife (Sofia Vergara) and escort them to Dallas to testify against the drug kingpin.
When they get ambushed, Vergara and Witherspoon are on their own and the two mismatched characters hit the road, trying to survive, and find that they have more in common than not.
From Election to Legally Blonde and beyond, Witherspoon has a knack for playing Type-A characters that are also quite hilarious. “I guess I just have it in me. I don’t know. People just like it and think it’s funny, and I just enhance it and make it even bigger and more annoying. People really seem to enjoy laughing at me. I also like to find the heart of a person like that,” Witherspoon said.
Witherspoon just loved the idea of Officer Cooper, and how she relates to Vergara on screen. “She’s a little nerd. She has no female friends. She has no friends! She’s kind of a wreck. So, when she meets Sofia’s character, she’s like, ‘That’s my first friend!’”
The Oscar winner for Walk the Line is a huge fan of Modern Family and her husband Jim Toth is Vergara’s agent. It occurred to Witherspoon that the two should pair up and the genesis of Hot Pursuit began. “It would be really funny to make a buddy movie with her. So, I set up a meeting and we sat in a hotel lobby. She walked in and literally every man stopped what he was doing and stared at her, the entire time. When she walked through the lobby, it was like being in a hair care commercial,” Witherspoon said and laughed.
“She sat down and was just as lovely and charming as I thought she would be, thank goodness. We just started talking about movies, and this was the one we both decided would be the funniest idea.”
The superstar was also motivated to get Hot Pursuit off the ground because she felt it was about time to have a Latino character in the lead, after years of headlines reporting that that populus was the future of Hollywood.
“I was looking around, about two or three years ago, and reading all these articles in the L.A. Times and The Hollywood Reporter about Latin audiences showing up [for films]. They are 35 to 55 percent of the audience! So, I looked at movies and thought, ‘Where are the Latin actors? Also, where are movies that are reflective of our culture, where some people speak Spanish and some speak English?’” Witherspoon said.
“That’s the kind of life that everybody is living, every day, but we’re not seeing it reflected on screen. We cross our fingers for the success of a film like this -- to showcase what real life looks like.”