Reese Witherspoon can rock a red carpet like no one else, but as she shows in Wild, she’s more than just a pretty face. The Devil’s Knot actress, 38, got down and dirty — both literally and figuratively — for her new movie, an adaptation of Cheryl Strayed‘s best-selling memoir of the same name. Us Weekly has an exclusive clip from the film, which is due to hit theaters on Dec. 5.
In the clip, a makeup-free Witherspoon sits talking with a fellow hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail, quietly contemplating the beauty of her surroundings and the life she left behind. It’s an intimate, tranquil moment on a difficult, often perilous journey.
Witherspoon dug deep to play Strayed, who embarked on the 1,100-mile trek after her mother (played in the movie by Laura Dern) died of cancer. At times during filming — particularly while shooting the scenes involving sex and drugs — the Legally Blonde actress was pushed nearly to her limits.
“It was really hard to do it,” she admitted during a Q&A on Nov. 11. “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.”
She did them, she said, because she wanted to be faithful to Strayed’s story. “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,” she explained.
Her efforts paid off. Wild — which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in August — is already generating Oscar buzz for its leading lady, who won an Academy Award once before for Walk the Line.
Us Weekly‘s own film critic, Mara Reinstein, described the movie as “an absorbing and beautifully shot adventure-drama,” and said Witherspoon is “poised for a mini-comeback (and possible Oscar consideration) with her strong, vanity-free turn” as Strayed.
“Completely devoid of her Hollywood glamour, she cries and swears and scarfs down food with her fingers and licks dew off a tent just to get water,” Reinstein wrote. “It’s a stripped-down performance on every level.”