Reese Finds Meaning in Film About Self-Acceptance

Actress reveals why she chose to produce "Penelope," starring Christina Ricci.

Feb. 11, 2008— -- Reese Witherspoon has charmed audiences in roles ranging from the iconic airhead in "Legally Blonde" to June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line," which won her an Academy Award. Now the megastar actress is trying her hand at a new role — producing the upcoming film "Penelope."

"Penelope" is an oddball fable about a girl, played by Christina Ricci, who is cursed with a pig's nose and who learns about life and love. Witherspoon says she got involved as a producer because she believes the film will teach people, particularly young women, about the value of self-acceptance.

"The character of Penelope really spoke to me, finding what's really beautiful about yourself — that can really define you," Witherspoon told ABC News Correspondent Chris Connelly.

Witherspoon also appears in the film as Ricci's friend Annie, a bike messenger in New York City, who she says "talks a lot and has a lot of energy."


Witherspoon says that the process of getting the unsightly nose to work on a beautiful woman played right into the movie's theme that "your perceived imperfections are sometimes not what other people see."

"I think there's another theme here, too, about parents and how parents can see some sort of tiny flaw in their child as a horrible stumbling block for them. Whereas, you know, maybe it's not," Witherspoon said.

In the film, Ricci's wealthy socialite parents are embarrassed of their daughter's pig-like snout, for which the only cure is finding true love. To break the curse, her determined parents arrange a series of unsuccessful meetings with suitors that ultimately leave her feeling like a failure and convince her to run away.

Though Witherspoon's life might seem like a series of successes, she says she can relate.

"I've had movies that were stinkeroos! And then, you know, I think everybody has experience of a being awkward. I was always really short and really underdeveloped and had big coke-bottle glasses … I think, that's where I got a personality from, though, man. I wouldn't give any of it back — not for a day."

What Makes You Stronger

Penelope has grown up not only dealing with the shame of her parents, but also with the ridicule of her classmates. Witherspoon sees this taunting as "formative" and says her own experience with failure has helped define who she is.

"I wouldn't want my children to miss out on any of that teasing and bullying and don't you think it kind of makes you who you are?" Witherspoon asked Connelly.

"This drives me crazy about today. Everyone wins the award and then, you know, everybody's an MVP? No! They're not! Okay? I distinctly recall the two weeks of crying because I didn't make the softball team. It made me interesting, you know?"

Witherspoon is a mom to 8-year-old Ava and 4-year-old Deacon, who she had with her then-husband, actor Ryan Phillippe. She says that as a parent, when her kids come home with disappointment, "you deal with it. Hopefully, it helps kids really understand who they are. You know, figure out who they are. But it is tough. That's part of being parent!"

Life These Days

Witherspoon has recently made headlines for supposedly being Hollywood's highest-paid actress and for her new romance with Jake Gyllenhaal, with whom she co-stars in the upcoming film "Rendition."

She says the stats about her salary are just rumors. "No, none of that's true. You know, I don't even read any of it 'cause it's like, one day you're up, next day you're down. I just try to keep focused on the work. And try and just stay in movies that people want to see!"

Reese also has been busy shooting a new film called "Four Christmases" with Vince Vaughn, and advocating for women's issues such as breast cancer as the first global ambassador for Avon cosmetics. In March she will address the United Nations in honor of International Women's Day, a role that the actress says she relishes.

Witherspoon says right now she's feeling "really good" in her life. "I feel very, like, grateful — I'm, I'm really lucky. I've had, you know, a lot of ups and downs, and I'm not going to lie and say it was easy. It's not been easy, but I'm finding some peace, you know, I feel, like, good and I'm so lucky to have two beautiful, healthy, lovely, giving sweet children."

Valentine's Day

With Valentine's Day coming up this week, Reese is helping her kids who "love it" get ready and cut out little valentines for them to take to school.

"As soon as I get done here I have to run to the arts and crafts store because I have to make Valentine's Day cards and boxes. It's too fun. It's like having a second childhood. You get to go and do it all over again."