“I didn’t have control over it,” Witherspoon, 47, told Harper’s Bazaar in a cover story published on Wednesday, July 12. “It wasn’t explicit in the script that that’s what was going to happen, so that was something that I think the director thought of on his own and then asked me on set if I would do it, and I said no.”
Witherspoon was 19 when filming with Wahlberg, then 25, in the psychosexual thriller. The movie — which follows a wealthy family’s reactions to their teenage daughter (Witherspoon) dating a mysterious boy (Wahlberg) — featured a NSFW scene where Witherspoon’s Nicole had an orgasm on a roller-coaster.
Witherspoon was initially uncomfortable about filming an intimate scene, even requesting a stunt double to stand in her place — to no avail.
“I’m certainly not traumatized or anything by it, but it was formative,” she explained to the outlet. “It made me understand where my place was in the pecking order of filmmaking.”
After filming the difficult scene, Witherspoon wanted to become an “agent for change” and help other actors in similar positions. She now helms her own production company, called Hello Sunshine, crediting her Fear experience with inspiring her to “be in a better leadership position to tell stories from a female perspective instead of from the male gaze.”
Witherspoon also found that many women she came across during her early career in Hollywood were “very competitive and jealous” in the audition room.
“I was really unhappy. I was not seeing the abundance of opportunity,” Witherspoon confessed, noting that it felt like “only one girl would make it” at a time.
“‘Who do I want my daughter to see?’ I really want to be a woman she looks up to,’” she recalled asking herself. “ I worked on it a lot.”
Witherspoon — who also shares son Deacon, 19, with Phillippe, 48, and son Tennessee, 10, with estranged husband Jim Toth — further explained that reading “a lot of self-help” books helped her with taking on complex roles.
“I got Election and I created Tracy Flick, and I ended up being in Pleasantville, which was amazing,’ she added. “Ava was asking me the other day about where I come up with these characters, like Tracy Flick, Elle Woods, and [Melanie Smooter from] Sweet Home Alabama. I created them all within the span of five, six years in my 20s. … Sometimes I look back and go, ‘How the hell did I do that?’ ”