Is ‘Legally Blonde’ Based On a True Story?

Reese Witherspoon has starred in many popular comedies over the years, but few are as beloved and iconic as Legally Blonde. The 2001 romantic comedy film helped to catapult the young actor to international stardom and launched a media franchise that is still going strong to this very day. For many fans, the movie is not only a brilliant example of witty storytelling but a character study that shows there is much more to sorority girls than meets the eye. Still, many of the most diehard Legally Blonde fans might not realize that the film is based on true events. 

Is ‘Legally Blonde’ based on a true story?

Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in the 2001 film 'Legally Blonde
Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in ‘Legally Blonde.’ | Eric Ford/Online USA

Legally Blonde came out in 2001, starring Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, and featuring a star-studded cast that includes Selma Blair and Jennifer Coolidge. The film told the story of a young sorority girl named Elle Woods, who is dumped by her boyfriend for not being intellectual enough. To spite him, and to prove her naysayers wrong, Elle gets into the prestigious Harvard Law School, working her way to a career as a successful lawyer, all while defying stereotypes.

It might seem hard to believe, but Legally Blonde is actually taken from a true story. The movie itself is based on the book of the same name, published in 2001 by Amanda Davis — who based the book on her experiences at Stanford Law School, as reported by Insider. As Davis later revealed, “I wrote it all on pink paper, with my pink furry pen. I finally found an agent who picked it up out of a slush pile because it was on pink paper.”

The iconic toilet paper scene in ‘Legally Blonde’ is based on true events

Not only is the movie Legally Blonde based on a true story, but certain events in the movie are taken from actual occurrences as well. One of the most iconic scenes in the movie is during Elle’s Harvard Law School admission video, when Elle’s sorority Delta Nu votes on opposing the change from Charmin toilet paper to a generic brand of toilet paper. Reportedly, that scene was directly based on Legally Blonde co-writer Karen McCullah’s experience in a sorority at James Madison University.

McCullah herself later revealed to Montpelier magazine that “we were denied our toilet paper. I offered my sorority sisters activity points for stealing replacement rolls from the administration building.”

Did Reese Witherspoon meet with real sorority girls to perfect the character of Elle?

While every aspect of Legally Blonde doesn’t necessarily ring true, everyone involved in the making of the film worked hard to make it special. Reese Witherspoon, the actor who brought Elle Woods to life, even revealed that she went out of her way to spend time with real sorority girls in order to make the character of Elle Woods seem as close as possible to a real sorority sister. According to Witherspoon, “I went to dinner with them. It’s sort of like an anthropological study. You learn what they eat, how they behave, how they take care of their young, that sort of thing.”

Additionally, while Legally Blonde nails the fact that law professors can be really hard on their students, it is not strictly true that everyone at Harvard Law School comes to the institution with a legal background. As reported by Insider, many students come to the school with histories in fashion merchandising, Russian literature, and even women’s studies.

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