‘Legally Blonde’: Reese Witherspoon Says MGM Execs Didn’t Want Her As Elle Woods — ‘They Thought I Was a Shrew’

It’s next to impossible to imagine anyone besides Reese Witherspoon playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. The actress gained national recognition from the comedy, which was based on a real-life, pink-loving woman who went to law school.

But the 44-year-old actress almost didn’t get the chance to show Harvard Law what a woman can do. Witherspoon told The Hollywood Reporter that she was initially rejected by the studio, who was afraid she was too serious to properly play Elle.

Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde
Reese Witherspoon in ‘Legally Blonde’ | Tracy Bennett/MGM Pictures

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Reese Witherspoon wasn’t sure she wanted to play Elle Woods in ‘Legally Blonde’

Apparently, the rejection went both ways. Witherspoon wasn’t initially excited by the role, which she pictured as being similar to Cher Horowitz in the 1995 comedy, Clueless. But Marc Platt, who optioned the book rights for Legally Blonde swore that wasn’t the case.

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

MGM didn’t think Reese Witherspoon had the range to play Elle Woods

When Legally Blonde was being cast, Witherspoon had recently showcased her talent in the dark comedy, Election. That’s a big part of why MGM execs were hesitant to cast her as the bubbly, fun-loving Elle, who was about as opposite from her previous role as you could find.

“They thought I was a shrew,” Witherspoon said during the interview. “My manager finally called and said, ‘You’ve got to go meet with the studio head because he will not approve you. He thinks you really are your character from Election and that you’re repellent.’ And then I was told to dress sexy.”

Witherspoon went ahead with the audition anyway

As for why she didn’t push back against the blatantly inappropriate instructions, the actress blamed her inexperience at the time.

“And you’re 23, you have a baby at home, you need the money and you’re being told that by people who know what they’re doing. It’s funny to think of all the things we were told to do back then because now you’re thinking, ‘Oh God, if somebody told my daughter to do that, she’d be like, I really hope you’re joking.'”  

Witherspoon aced the audition and got the role. “I remember a room full of men who were asking me questions about being a coed and being in a sorority,” she told THR, “even though I had dropped out of college four years earlier and I have never been inside a sorority house.”

‘Legally Blonde’ was a huge success

Ultimately, the gamble paid off. Legally Blonde made $142 million worldwide and the sequel did almost as well, earning $125 million. Plus the movie catapulted Witherspoon onto the A-list and opened up a plethora of other roles.

Today, Academy Award-winning actress is one of the highest-paid movie stars in the world. She founded the media firm Hello Sunshine in 2016 to help tell women-centered stories, just like Legally Blonde. And now, she’s teaming up with friend Mindy Kaling to release a third installment of Legally Blonde.

It’s good to be Reese Witherspoon.