Reese Witherspoon Becomes Screen Giant in 'Monsters vs. Aliens'

Reese Witherspoon has hit the (really) big time as the voice of a 49-foot-tall woman in "Monsters vs. Aliens."
Reese Witherspoon has hit the (really) big time as the voice of a 49-foot-tall woman in "Monsters vs. Aliens." (Dreamworks Animation)
By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 27, 2009

Reese Witherspoon's kids are at that age -- the one where they discover a movie they like and proceed to watch it "over and over and over again."

Her 9-year-old daughter, Ava, and 5-year-old son, Deacon, don't get bored of their favorites and don't find themselves satisfied with a third viewing. They just get excited to watch it again.

So it should come as no surprise that the 33-year-old Oscar winner is particularly concerned with the quality of children's entertainment, and that's why she chose to work back-to-back on major animated feature films.

"Obviously having two young children, it's nice to be able to go to the movie theater and have a film there that's okay for kids, but it also has some adult humor it in that kids won't necessarily catch," she says from her Los Angeles home. "It's great to do those movies, because I have to watch a lot of them."

The first of those movies to be released is "Monsters vs. Aliens," the first DreamWorks picture to use 3-D animation. In the film, Witherspoon lends her voice to a would-be bride who is struck by an asteroid with radioactive material that turns her into a 49-foot woman renamed "Ginormica" by her new government captors.

The film is intended to evoke early sci-fi flicks of the 1950s and '60s.

Several years ago, Witherspoon met with DreamWorks chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg to discuss various projects, and his staff pitched "Monsters vs. Aliens" to her with one roughly sketched image: that of a giant woman sitting on the roof of a gas station.

"I thought it was really cool because I had always liked those [sci-fi] movies," she recalls. "My dad and I always used to sit up late watching them."

Witherspoon signed on to that movie and not long after agreed to a second animated project, "The Bear and the Bow," a Pixar film in which she gives voice to a mythical Scottish princess. That film is expected to be released in 2011.

The actress, last seen in the romantic comedy "Four Christmases," says she was attracted not only to the content of the films, but to the endeavor itself: voicing an animated character is much less intense than shooting a live-action movie.

"It's a very different process," Witherspoon recalls. "I got into a sound booth probably once every couple months for three or four hours." And though it takes less time, she adds, it requires much more imagination. "There is nothing visually in front of you to inform the scene. And you don't have a full script in front of you, so you don't even know what's going to happen next. They kind of talk you through everything, and then you just go in there and play around with it."

In "Monsters vs. Aliens," Witherspoon was cast alongside some of the funniest actors in Hollywood who play fellow monsters, their rival aliens or, in the case of Stephen Colbert, a vapid U.S. president. Her character shares scenes with creatures voiced by Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson and Will Arnett, though she never sat in the same recording studio with any of them.

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