In order to play Cheryl Strayed in the film adaption of Wild, Reese Witherspoon had a herculean task: overcome her squeaky-clean, charmingly uptight image in order to play a woman in the throes of a druggy, promiscuous downward spiral. Witherspoon, according to her October Vogue cover story, is the kind of woman who employs parental blocks on her kids’ computers. How would she convincingly tap into her dark side? Fortunately, she had Strayed to teach her how to do drugs and have sex like that slightly unhinged party-happy friend everyone meets during the first year of college:
Witherspoon found the drug scenes in Wild hard to film — on set Strayed had to show Witherspoon how to shoot heroin; “I was like ‘Come on, people, haven’t you guys ever done this?’ ” recalls the author — but even more difficult were the sex scenes, which Witherspoon so dreaded that she employed a hypnotist to help quell her nerves.
Sounds like someone is mock-sinning all the way to an Oscar nomination. But if that hard-core dedication doesn’t seal it, Witherspoon went cosmetics-free for the role. And nothing says “Oscar winner” like an actress brave enough to reveal her “plain,” “slack,” “unadorned by makeup” face on the big screen.