Reese Witherspoon Went Nude in Wild, Admits She “Really Didn’t Want to Do the Sex Scenes”

Reese Witherspoon in "Wild"
Reese Witherspoon, who went nude in the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild, told reporters that she "really didn't want to do the sex scenes" (including one with "two guys"). Anne Marie Fox/Fox Searchlight

No holding back! Reese Witherspoon opened up to reporters in L.A. on Tuesday, Nov. 11, about shooting risque sex scenes for the upcoming film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir Wild.

"It was really hard to do it," Witherspoon, 38, confessed during a film Q&A and screening of Wild. "I didn’t want to do any of it. I really didn't want to do the sex scenes. I really didn't want to do the heroin scenes… No sex scenes are fun. They are just like… sometimes they're fun, but there's a whole other set of stories. No, it was hard."

Laughing, the Oscar winner said she even dialed author Strayed to complain about filming certain moments. "I called Cheryl the day before and I was like, 'I have to do this scene in this alley and I'm having sex with two guys,'" Witherspoon recalled of one conversation, "and I'm like, 'Why did you do this?!'"

Strayed's response? "She said, 'I'm sorry I was such a slut in the '90s, but you're just gonna have to do it. Otherwise people are going to say, 'It's just going to be a hiking movie and that's stupid,'" Witherspoon admitted. "The way she talks and the way she feels and does not give a s— about the way people think about her — it's really liberating."

The actress spoke fondly about the origins of her relationship with the author and ultimately, her decision to option the film under her production company with her husband Jim Toth.

reese in wild 1
Anne Marie Fox/Fox Searchlight

"The book started everything," Witherspoon said. "In November of 2011, Cheryl Strayed sent me the manuscript for the book that would be released four months later. I read it in 24 hours on a plane to New York [and] I was sobbing. I got off the plane and I called my agent and I said, 'I have to meet this woman. I don’t know who she is. I need to hug her!'"

Witherspoon comically recalled their first conversation, which was over the phone. "I think I kind of scared her," she told reporters. "I was like 'Hi. This is Reese Witherspoon. You don’t know me but I love you. And I feel like I went on this journey with you!' And then I just told her all the reasons that I wanted to make it into a movie and why I thought it was so cinematic. And I loved that it wasn’t sentimental. It wasn't saccharin. It was just her being so honest about her life, and I had rarely read a woman or a man or anyone write about their life with that much brutal honesty."

reese in wild 2
Anne Marie Fox/Fox Searchlight

The burden for Witherspoon was hefty, she confessed, but that truth resonated with her even during the most difficult scenes. "I just knew that Cheryl had told the whole truth and I had to be brave enough as an artist to tell the whole truth too," Witherspoon explained. "We pushed the sexuality, we pushed the violence, and sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not. But you gotta try to push to that edge."

The screenplay, which was written by Nick Hornby (who also adapted Gone Girl, on which Witherspoon served as a producer) was "developed outside of the system," the actress explained. "We got private money and then we took it to studios and we were like, 'We're not changing a word. This is the movie we’re making and take it or leave it' and we got three offers that day. It was pretty cool."

Witherspoon also spoke about Strayed's reaction to the film after seeing it for the first time. "I don’t think it hit her until she saw the movie," the star told reporters. "She was like, 'Crap! Now everybody is going to see the movie!' But you know when she was standing on set, she was like, 'Oh my God. This is a movie about my life.' But she said to me, she was really emotional. She loved it and she hugged me. She said to me — I'll never forget what she said: 'I saw my words written on your face.' It was beautiful. She’s a beautiful person."

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