‘Legally Blonde’: Reese Witherspoon Once Said Playing Elle Woods Was a ‘Jump’ for Her

It’s hard to believe that Legally Blonde is celebrating its 20th anniversary on July 13. It feels like just yesterday that the world was introduced to Elle Woods, the smart, beautiful sorority girl who goes to law school where she battles and overcomes all of the stereotypes about blondes.

The film starred Reese Witherspoon, who went to great lengths to ensure that she fully embodied the true essence of Elle Woods. But tapping into her inner sorority girl wasn’t an easy process, as the actor previously called the role a “jump” for her.

Reese Witherspoon playing Elle Woods in 'Legally Blonde'
A still of Reese Witherspoon in a scene from Legally Blonde | Tracy Bennett/MGM Pictures

Reese Witherspoon took on the role of Elle Woods because it sounded interesting to her

Although it seems like the part of Elle Woods was made for Witherspoon, it turns out that she wasn’t excited about the role in the beginning.

Witherspoon initially thought the character would be similar to Cher Horowitz in the 1995 comedy, Clueless. However, Marc Platt, who optioned the book rights for Legally Blonde, swore to the actor that that wasn’t the case.

“I literally said to her, ‘I want Elle to be a role model,'” Platt told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019. “I wanted my daughters to watch her and think that they can live in a world where they can do anything.”

After several actors turned down the opportunity to play the film’s leading lady, Witherspoon was brought in to audition for the part.

During an interview with ScreenSlam, the actor revealed why she had a change of heart, sharing that she went after the role because she wanted to explore the stereotypes and preconceived notions people have of beautiful women.

RELATED: ‘Legally Blonde’: Elle Woods Committed a Huge Ethical Violation That Would’ve Ended Her Law Career in Real Life

“I decided to do this movie because I read the script and I thought it was really funny. Also, I’ve had a lot of these perceptions,” she said. “You see so many beautiful people in this world, especially in the world that I live in. A lot of your first instinct is to discount women who put a lot of effort into their looks as maybe not serious about their job or maybe not serious about their relationship. I think there’s that impetus in everyone.”

Witherspoon continued, “Everyone naturally jumps to those conclusions. I was really interested in exploring the idea of the difference between the way someone looks and how people perceive them.”

Reese Witherspoon said that it was tough portraying such an energetic character

Since Elle is known for her California-girl mannerisms, Witherspoon, who is from Louisiana, put in a lot of work to make her portrayal believable.

Not only did she spend time in Beverly Hills to familiarize herself with the Southern Califonia lifestyle, but she also hung out with sorority girls to get a better idea of how to act in the role.

RELATED: ‘Legally Blonde’: Reese Witherspoon Got to Keep Elle Woods’ Wardrobe Including 77 Pairs of Jimmy Choo Shoes

During her interview with ScreenSlam, Witherspoon admitted that playing Elle was “a jump” for her, as she doesn’t consider herself to be naturally cheery or high-spirited.

“It’s definitely been a jump for me. I’m not necessarily like perky and bubbly all the time,” she explained. “It’s really been a lot of effort to stay up. You know, the amount of care and energy [Elle] puts into a lot of things. I think that’s been really a challenge for me. Trying to convey lightness all the time is hard work.”

Still, Reese Witherspoon loved playing Elle Woods

Although it was challenging for her to play such an energetic character, Witherspoon succeeded at bringing the pink-loving law student to life. Now, Elle Woods remains one of the most enduring, well-known characters in movie history.

In 2016, Witherspoon opened up about starring as Elle in Legally Blonde, sharing that she loved playing the bubbly character.

“I loved making Legally Blonde because I love pink! It was really fun,” she said during a Facebook Live session, per E! News. “I got to wear all the amazing costumes. I also got to work with a dog every day… I’m obsessed with dogs. I love dogs!”

Four years later, the actor looked back on her time playing the iconic character, sharing that the world needs more people like Elle Woods.

“I think she just inspired people to believe in themselves,” Witherspoon said during the Legally Blonde virtual reunion in October 2020. “She just has a true sense of herself and she always wants to see the best in others.”

The actor continued, “She’s inspired me to really keep an open mind and always be an advocate for myself and for other people in this world and I think her spirit is something that we could all use a little bit more of right now.”