Witherspoon: I loved university, but I got this job doing a movie called Twilight with Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon and Gene Hackman. That led to Pleasantville and I started getting busy. Then Ryan and I got married and had a baby and . . .
RD: Do you ever think you’d like to go back to university?
Witherspoon: No. I’m just not that kind of person. And you know, life is a constant learning experience. I learn so much with my kids. I read tons of books and study what they are studying. My daughter’s six, but still, she learns about marine life and plants. She’s fascinated with building habitats for pandas – in the back yard. She puts her little stuffed animals in the habitat, then she makes charts to monitor what they’ve been fed.
RD: Did you ever guess you’d be so into being a mother?
Witherspoon: It took me a long time to acclimate myself. I was scared to death. I was 23, got home from the hospital and nobody gave me any instructions. My mother had to go back to work, and I didn’t know what to do. I was terrified. The first six months were unbelievably difficult. I didn’t sleep. Luckily, I had really good friends.
RD: Did you find the second time to be easier?
Witherspoon: No, just as hard.
RD: What else do you want to do in your life?
Witherspoon: So much. I feel a lot of personal responsibility because of how much I’ve been blessed. I do work for the Children’s Defence Fund, which is Marian Wright Edelman’s programme. She’s just tireless about getting children out of poverty. I do a lot of fund-raising events for them. When we had Legally Blonde Barbie dolls, I gave all my proceeds to them. You can always give more, and I look forward to creating opportunities for young women.
RD: Are you as driven as people say? Are you a perfectionist?
Witherspoon: I don’t believe in perfection. I don’t think there is such a thing. But the energy of wanting things to be great is a perfectionist energy.
RD: So you have any desire to do something entirely different?
Witherspoon: No. I kind of really like what I do. But I think about what I’ll do when maybe it’s not as easy for me to work and have jobs.
RD: Is it hard to juggle two show business careers and two kids?
Witherspoon: Surprisingly, not as difficult as it seems. You have to have sort of a “Things will all work out” attitude. We go everywhere, all four of us, together. It’s going to change this year a little because Ava’s starting real school. But Ryan and I don’t work at the same time, so it’s not that hard.
RD: How do you try to make life normal for your kids?
Witherspoon: Ryan and I didn’t grow up like this at all, with this much attention. We’ll just try to keep their feet on the ground and raise them with the values we were raised with.
RD: Do you go to church?
Witherspoon: Yes. I take the kids to church and Sunday school. They love it. I really think it’s important for a child to feel that there are things that are bigger than your life out there.
RD: What do you guys do when you’re not working? What do you do for fun?
Witherspoon: I cook a lot, almost every night. I love to cook comfort food. I’ll make fish and vegetables or meat and vegetables and potatoes or rice. The ritual of it is fun for me, and the creativity of it. I used to be a terrible cook. For our first date, I made Ryan Hamburger Helper, which is basically what I grew up on. I make my own version of it now, with macaroni and cheese and minced meat. And for the kids – it’s their favourite dinner.
RD: So will you cook dinner tonight?
Witherspoon: Yes. We’re having some friends over. I do a 15-minute fish in a pan. Five minutes on one side, five minutes on the other side, then five more minutes in the oven. It’s great.
RD: It sounds so unbelievably normal.
Witherspoon: There’s this older gentleman who’s been in and out of Hollywood for years and years. And he said to me, “You know, Reese, what’s extraordinary about you? Your ordinariness.” And I think that is a huge compliment.
RD: But at some point you don’t live a normal life.
Witherspoon: The thing is, we’re not extravagant people. It’s just unbelievable the amounts of money we make. But we don’t spend it. It’s too scary to spend it. In your mind, you always think you’re at the same place you were when you grew up. We don’t have multiple houses and fancy cars. We each own one car, and we have a reasonable house. It’s a lovely place to be, but it’s not extravagant.
RD: Do you ever wake up and pinch yourself?
Witherspoon: A lot. I’m always endlessly surprised about the people who come into my life, who I get to collaborate with. I feel really overwhelmed by those opportunities. But it’s not like I fell off the turnip truck and suddenly became who I am. I really have worked hard for it, and I have to acknowledge that. I care about what I do, and I have a sense of pride in my work. And you can never be totally settled as an actor or artist or musician. You have to keep the fire under you, because that’s what makes you better.
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