Reese Witherspoon Was Instructed to ‘Dress Sexy’ to Land Iconic ‘Legally Blonde’ Role

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Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde Tracy Bennett/Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock

She objects! Reese Witherspoon recalled the requests made of her while auditioning for her iconic role as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde.

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“They thought I was a shrew,” the actress, 43, told The Hollywood Reporter in her 2019 Women in Entertainment cover story, published on Wednesday, December 11. “My manager finally called and said, ‘You’ve got to go meet with the studio head because he will not approve you. He thinks you really are your character from Election and that you’re repellent.’ And then I was told to dress sexy.”

Witherspoon noted that her role as a new mom to daughter Ava — whom she and then-husband Ryan Phillippe welcomed in September 1999 — influenced her drive to go after the part. “And you’re 23, you have a baby at home, you need the money and you’re being told that by people who know what they’re doing,” she explained. “It’s funny to think of all the things we were told to do back then because now you’re thinking, ‘Oh, God, if somebody told my daughter to do that, she’d be like, ‘I really hope you’re joking.’”

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Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde Tracy Bennett/Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock

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The flawed audition process did not end there either. “I remember a room full of men who were asking me questions about being a coed and being in a sorority, even though I had dropped out of [Stanford University] four years earlier and I have never been inside a sorority house,” she said.

Witherspoon starred as a sorority girl turned Harvard law student in the 2001 hit. She reprised her role and went on to executive produce the 2003 sequel. Legally Blonde 3 is set to arrive in theaters in 2020.

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Still, the Oscar winner endures sexism in her career. “There seemed to be a resentment, as if we weren’t worth it or it was bothersome, and I thought, ‘Why is that bothersome?’” she said of her and costar Jennifer Aniston’s reported $2 million per episode payout on The Morning Show. “I guarantee these companies are real smart, and if they agree to pay us, they’re doing it for a reason. They probably had a lot of lawyers and a lot of business people decide on that number because they knew that they were going to make more than that back.”

She added: “Does it bother people when Kobe Bryant and LeBron James make their contract?”

The investment paid off in critical acclaim too, with Witherspoon and Aniston, 50, earning Golden Globe nominations earlier this week for their roles as Bradley Jackson and Alex Levy, respectively.

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