Hollywood favorite Reese Witherspoon plays former athlete Lisa Jorgenson who, at 27, is feeling a bit past her prime. To complicate things, she falls into love triangle between Owen Wilson, playing a guy in major corporate crisis, and her baseball-playing beau--none other than movie hot-guy Paul Rudd--with Jack Nicholson rounding out the cast as his father. Buzzine gets an exclusive interview from this all-star cast:
Emmanuel Itier: How do you know when you’re in love?
Reese Witherspoon: My standard answer is I’m old enough to know I know nothing.
Owen Wilson: Very Socrates.
RW: How do you know? Go ahead, Owen.
OW: Sometimes something that maybe ordinarily you might find irritating, all of a sudden you find it very endearing. That’s usually a good indication that something’s happening. I remember a friend of my dad’s saying that it was really easy for him to figure out, when he got married, that it was just he liked being around her more than he didn’t. He just wanted to be around her all the time–this was Mrs. Mullen–and they’re still married ... When you let them have the remote control.
Jack Nicholson: It gets you to bed earlier.
EI: Reese, I like your character. Your career as an actress doesn’t have an expiration date but, on the other hand, must get softer with time. Do you have a kind of strategy to stay in the business? What’s your advice on longevity on screen?
RW: Definitely. My character deals with that in the movie--that she has a definite end to her career. I think it’s hard to imagine being early 30s and your career being over, so it’s kind of a different dynamic to explore, which is interesting. Certainly, as an actress, you think about longevity. That’s more so than probably the men on the panel. I don’t know, but you hope to have a long lasting career. I always say funny doesn’t sag, which is sort of helpful. Seems like a good rule of thumb--if you develop your personality, if you’re more interested in that than how you look in a bikini...
EI: Jack, your advice on longevity on the screen?
JN: Do good work. Work with great people like this--they carry, and 37 you’ve been there a while. I always remembered a quote from Humphrey Bogart. Somebody in the theater told me he said, “What you do is you just do anything. You just keep working until they know your name. Then, once they start knowing your name, they assume you’re good.” [Laughs]
EI: Reese, what would you do if you woke up next to a guy like Matty and you find out that he has a toothbrush for every girl?
RW: I did go on a date with a guy–I’m not joking. I opened the closet door and there was literally just a line of black string bikinis with the tags still on. I was like, "I’m going to go." [Laughs] We probably should talk more. It’s true--there are definitely those kinds of guys out there.
EI: Where did you find this guy?
RW: I live in LA! Hollywood. [Laughs] He actually thought it was a courtesy. He was like, “What?” Just like Owen’s (character) here. He’s like, “What? That’s being nice.”
OW: It’s called being a good host. [Laughs]
EI: Reese, do you have anything in common with your character in regards to how she deals with the big changes in her life?
RW: I don’t know. I think that’s what the movie’s about. It’s people at different crossroads in their lives, making big decisions that will affect their future, and whether it’s about your relationship with your father or in business or your romantic endeavors, I think that’s what we’re all struggling with, and we’re lucky to have Jim [Brooks] articulating these struggles and giving voice to those inner monologues.
EI: Have you played softball for a long time before shooting the movie? What’s your normal workout routine like?
RW: Am I normal? It’s not that extensive. I was working out five hours a day just trying to keep up with these girls and kind of put myself in the mindset of what does it mean to be so focused on athletics and your game and your team. So it was a nice exercise in concentrating. But no, I’m lucky if I get 30 minutes of exercise a day.
EI: This is a question for Jack and Paul. You played son and father, and you could say you probably don’t have the best relationship ever, so I’m going to ask both of you how you think good fatherhood should be. What are your values when it comes to raising kids?
JN: You have to just be there all the time. There’s an old saying: “You’re a prisoner to your children the rest of your life.” You’re held hostage. I’m lucky I got great kids. They’re doing great and had very little to do with me actually, I guess, but they’re great. That’s what you do. You hope. You’re in the lap of the gods when you’re a parent. Don’t fool yourself. That’s it. Really, what you do, you do your best.
Paul Rudd: As a new parent, I’m just going to try and remember that. [Laughs]
JN: You will remember.
PR: Yeah, you’re right. Just let them know how much I love them and then try and be there for them, then hope for the best.
EI: Mr. Nicholson, I was talking to the cast this morning. They were all saying how excited they were working with you. I wanted to ask you, because you choose your projects very carefully: what was it about this movie that made you want to be in it? Was it working with James? The character? What was it?
JN: It’s the overall thing. I’ve always considered it, and I think most actors--what a privilege to work with Jim. He writes so beautifully. You don’t run into the normal clichés about comedy. He’s very observant of life as he is the same way he is a person--very sharp, has the ability to encapsulate things, and always gets a great cast, like this. I knew some of them a little bit before, but I knew all their work and they’re pretty dang fine. So that’s what makes a good experience when you’re working.
OW: That was velvet, man. That was just swinging. That was artful!
JN: That’s how you last a long time. [Laughs] But I wish it’d work a little more frequently. I think I might actually be aged out the next time, unless he’s got a Lionel Barrymore. [Laughs]
PR: I’ll start with that.
EI: For you, personally, what would be worth going to jail for in life? Would it be money? Would it be your family? Would it be happiness? I don’t know...
JN: I’m not going–nothing. Otherwise I’d be a crooked guy by now. Nothing. Jail is a jail...although I heard on the news today it's a budget cutting device. They’re trying to figure out how to let more criminals out of jail, which, if they legalized dope, they wouldn’t have as many.
EI: Owen, do you know any guys like Matty, or have you ever been tempted to behave like that yourself as a young Hollywood star?
OW: It’s a Matty that most guys maybe recognize a little bit in themselves. I think what kind of saves it is that he seems very honest about it so it doesn’t feel like a manipulative kind of dark thing. It feels more like he’s just having a really good time and he’s trying to get other people on board also.
EI: As the actors and the viewers, you know a thing or two about comedy, so how do you know if this is a really good romantic comedy?
RW: I think you know material is good when it’s a character you’ve never seen before and you’ve never played before. Obviously I’ve never played a character like this, and to play a woman who isn’t necessarily articulate about her romantic feelings and is sort of in this delayed adolescence because of her focus on career, I think that’s a character I’ve never seen in a movie. So I was excited for that opportunity.
PR: I think it’s good if read the script and it makes me laugh.
JN: It’s also fun to read the script. It isn’t a chore. I’m actually interested in how it’s going to unfold. Once you get to read a lot of very bad ones [laughs], when you get Jim’s script...most scripts you get you think, “Oh, I can make this work," or "I can make that work.” With Jim, you’d read it and say, “Jeez, I hope I don’t fuck this up.” [Laughs]
EI: Paul, how would you react when your father would ask you a question like that--if you'd go to jail for him?
PR: Probably exactly as I do in the film, just not as eloquently. I don’t know.
JN: Step up from The Shining. [Laughs]
PR: That’s true. I guess… I don’t know…it would suck.
EI: Can a father do that?
PR: It’s a real legitimate dilemma. I think that, actually, we have a very, at times, interesting relationship, but I think we are a father and son that love each other very much in this movie. That’s a tough call. I go to jail how long? 25 years to dead, I think is one thing that he said. Or do I go for three years? How do you handle that situation? It’s a real dilemma.
EI: Jack, everyone that works with you says what a pro you are and how much you still enjoy your job, and you show up with the most enthusiasm. Precisely what do you still enjoy about your job?
JN: When I stop thinking, “Oh, am I this and that…” But somewhere in all of this there’s something that feels like an artist and you can’t turn that off, and there’s only one way to express it--in your work. I always look at it as a privilege. I may complain about this or that, but I always look at it as a privilege, and for a very long time, I’ve gotten to work with very good filmmakers. They’re always asking me what actors, what actress do you like? I watch more television now because of TiVo, and I saw Kathryn (Hahn) first on television; I already knew how good she was before I ever got a chance to work with her. So they're tremendously gifted and competitive or you wouldn’t be in the business. I mean, anybody that you see here, they’re good. Period. They don’t get there if they’re not. That’s nice to be around.
EI: Reese, when it comes to life and love, what do you know now that you wish you knew in your 20s?
RW: I thought I knew everything in my 20s. I think that’s how you are. I think that’s the ignorance of youth and the bliss of youth--thinking that you know everything about love and relationships. I am lucky I’ve had a few shots getting second chances. That’s nice.
JN: I didn’t get to work with Owen. This was the big disappointment on the movie for me. I’ve always been a fan of his charm.
OW: I know.
JN: You always say, “Oh, I’d like to work with so and so,” and now you get in a picture and…it’s funny.
EI: Mr. Nicholson, earlier you said about the script, “I hope I don’t fuck this up.” Does this mean you’re still nervous when you start a role after all these years?
JN: Introspection. Sometimes I think I worry too much. Is it for attention or what have you? I’m relaxed once I hear, "Action." I panic. There’s always a day or two just before I start where I say to myself, “What exactly is it that I do again?” My mind is empty when I ask that question, and the minute that first time they say, “Roll ‘em,” I immediately know what I do. Immediately. I think it’s kind of primitive to go through this as many times as I have. That’s the way it is.
EI: Paul, did you try to something to imitate Jack Nicholson’s behavior to play his son?
OW: I kind of see a father-son resemblance.
PR: I just think it’s apparent. [Laughs]
JN: You look right for the part.
PR: We’re both right-handed.
JN: These things happen.
PR: But no, I didn’t really try and make any sort of conscious decision so it wouldn’t look like a sort of impersonation or anything like that. It was more working and talking about our relationship, and getting to know each other and hoping it’s believable.
JN: I’ve got kids older than all of these people. [Laughs] It’s easy for me.
Columbia Pictures' 'How Do You Know' is released December 17, 2010.