Hot Pursuit – Cast and director interview

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In Hot Pursuit, Officer Coopper (Witherspoon) and Daniella (Vergara) have to get over their differences as they who race across Texas while being pursued by bad cops and murderous gunmen.

QUESTION: Reese, in addition to starring in Hot Pursuit, you are also producing. What went into your decision to make this film with Sofia?

REESE WITHERSPOON: I was such a huge fan of Sofia’s on Modern Family. My family watches it every Wednesday night on ABC. I was thinking about making a buddy movie, and I thought it would be really funny to make one with her. So I set up a meeting at a hotel lobby, and, literally, she walked in and every man stopped what he was doing and just stared at her the entire time she walked through the lobby. It was like being in a hair-care commercial. [Laughs]

She sat down, and was just as lovely and charming as I thought she would be, thank goodness. We just started talking about movies, and this was the one we both decided would be the funniest idea.

SOFIA VERGARA: It was a road trip, which always bring a lot of exciting adventures and funny situations.

REESE WITHERSPOON: I knew she would be beautiful, so I decided I’d be ‘the dude.’ [Laughs] I like playing weird characters anyway.

SOFIA: Yeah, it’s great because she gets to be comfortable. I was miserable the whole time, compressed like a sausage in that white dress. [Laughs] And then the high heels, blisters, while she was sitting on the floor, all carefree. She wouldn’t even change for lunch – the dirtier she looked the better. She knew what she was doing. [Laughs]

QUESTION: Sofia, do you think some girls will identify with your characters in terms of their self-confidence and friendship?

SOFIA VERGARA: Yes, I think it’s great. This movie is very special in the sense that it’s not the normal movie where girls are trying to get some guy or getting married, or something like that. This is a movie where these two women, who have very different personalities, are trying to achieve something—the same thing—and trying to survive. So, I think a lot of girls can look at this and relate to this relationship. You don’t have to be the same, you don’t have to look the same, to understand another human being and support each other.

ANNE FLETCHER: Perfectly said.

REESE WITHERSPOON: Good one.

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QUESTION: Sofia, how was Reese’s Spanish?

SOFIA VERGARA: Well, it was not very good. [Laughs] Definitely not her best work.

REESE WITHERSPOON: No respect at all. [Laughs]

SOFIA VERGARA: That was actually one of my favorite scenes because she had to struggle a lot. I could see the fear in her eyes … anxiety, confusion. So it was great because that’s how I feel in every single scene of my life—when you’re looking for words and people are making faces, even though they don’t want to. [Laughs] So I really enjoyed it. I tried not to help her that much because I really liked watching her. When I saw the whole movie, I thought, ‘Now I understand also why people laugh so much at me.’ It’s hysterical to see somebody struggling to speak in a language and being so confused.

QUESTION: Sofia, can you talk about how Latin actors are making progress in Hollywood?

SOFIA VERGARA: You know what? It would have never occurred to me that I was going to be able to do a movie with someone like Reese. It was amazing that she came to me. It was even hard for her to reach me because she couldn’t find me. [Laughs]

My husband is my agent, so he arranged a meeting between us to see if we wanted to do something together. I thought it was amazing that somebody like her would have the vision to put us together, which is such a big help to Latin actors and actresses. Hopefully this movie will help more producers think of adding us into movies and television shows.

I can’t complain because I’ve had such good luck getting jobs like Modern Family, which has opened all the doors for me. But we still need places where a Latin can do their thing. And people like Reese are helping.

REESE WITHERSPOON: I’d like to add one thing about that. I was looking around about two or three years ago and reading all these articles in the L.A. Times and Hollywood Reporter about Latin audiences showing up. They are thirty-five to fifty-five percent of the audience. And then looking at movies, I thought, ‘But where are the Latin actors?’ And also movies that are reflective of our culture—where people speak many languages. That’s the life everybody is living every day, but we’re not seeing it reflected on screen. So I think it’s great. And, hopefully, cross our fingers, a film like this could lead to more opportunities to showcase what real life looks like.

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QUESTION: Anne, what attracted you to this project?

ANNE FLETCHER: Look at these two women. My man’s dream. Reese and [producing partner] Bruna [Papandrea] had come to me, and I’ve always loved Reese. Who doesn’t love Reese and want to work with her in any capacity? But to be with her in a comedy again was incredibly exciting. We love seeing her in everything, but her fan base has been chomping at the bit to see her in a comedy again because she’s extremely funny.

Then, to pair her up with Sofia—who we all love and adore and think is amazing on Modern Family—the two of them together was an exciting and brilliant concept, amazingly insightful on Reese’s part. It was also exciting for her to get to play with Sofia in a different way that we haven’t seen from her because she’s so incredibly capable of doing so many things, as you’ll see in the film.

And the two of them together … physically, they are different, and culturally as well.

SOFIA VERGARA: Not really. She has Latin inside of her waiting to burst out.   We sit down and like the same food. We like makeup. We like family around. We like the same places to travel. We had kids young. I mean, we had a lot of similarities.

QUESTION: Sofia, can you talk about how you’ve handled fame? It seems like you really haven’t changed at all.

SOFIA VERGARA: I hope not. I’ve been working in the entertainment business for 25 years—not at this level, of course, since I got lucky with Modern Family. But with my work, I try to make it part of my real life because I’m working seventy percent of my life. So I try to enjoy it, to make it real, to bring my friends, my family to enjoy everything with me: my house, fame, money, events—everything. Because if not, life goes fast very easy. You can’t take just work very seriously. So hopefully I haven’t changed.

QUESTION: What was your screen kiss like, and was that in the script?

REESE WITHERSPOON: That was Sofia’s idea, and it was in the script.

SOFIA VERGARA: Delicious. She smells like a strawberry. [Laughs]

QUESTION: The ponytail, too?

REESE WITHERSPOON: No. She did that.

ANNE FLETCHER: We just wanted to figure out what was sexy and what was stupid and silly without being off-putting for women. So we just started throwing ideas around, and that ponytail was available for the grab.

SOFIA VERGARA: Yeah, it was bouncing around. It felt like the right thing for me to do. It was right there.

REESE WITHERSPOON: She just grabbed that ponytail and started ripping my head back.

SOFIA VERGARA: Things that you can’t fake, you know? The audience is intelligent. You cannot just fake a ponytail pulling. [Laughs]

REESE WITHERSPOON: You’re so right.

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QUESTION: There are so many hilarious moments of physical comedy in the film, like Sofia hugging you to her bosom. How much of it was improvised versus what was on the page?

REESE WITHERSPOON: We were so happy to have Anne Fletcher directing us because I don’t have a lot of physical comedy instincts. I’m more verbal. So we got to certain scenes, like when we’re running from the bad guys, and we’re in that bathroom and have to push ourselves through the window. I turned to Anne and said, ‘Just show me what you want me to do because I don’t know what to do.’ So Anne just got up there and started putting her legs up …

ANNE FLETCHER: ‘You’ve got this option, you’ve got that option. You’re struggling. Sofia, come in.’ It was kind of amazing for me because they just said, ‘Okay.’ And we said, ‘Action,’ and these women were off and running. And my mouth hit the floor. It was just genius. They were on point and were there supporting each other.

That’s where you have two women who have great chemistry. There’s an enormous level of trust that they have for one another, and they’ll go there with each other and support each other in any way. They can listen and talk at the same time, which is an amazing skill to have. [Laughs]

REESE WITHERSPOON: Literally, we talk the entire time. That was another thing that Anne figured out. It was just funnier when we were talking at the same time. So, instead of Sofia having a line and me having a line, she’d say, ‘Just talk at the same time, all the time.’ Sometimes we’d have to walk away and start laughing.

SOFIA VERGARA: It was too much.

REESE WITHERSPOON: She got up there and goes, ‘My teeth.’

SOFIA VERGARA: ‘Are they there?’

REESE WITHERSPOON: Who’s worried about their teeth? [Laughs]

SOFIA VERGARA: I would worry if I had to fall that hard—of course you touch. You don’t know what you hit.

QUESTION: Did you really fall or was it a stunt?

SOFIA VERGARA: It was a stunt. But I had to pretend and move with the feeling that I had gotten up from falling like that. So, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I just fell. What? I have everything.’ [Laughs]

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QUESTION: Reese, you’ve played a lot of Type A characters, like this role and Tracy Flick in Election. What’s the trick to playing memorable characters like these?

REESE WITHERSPOON: Oh, boy. I guess I just have it in me. I don’t know. People just like it, and they think it’s funny. And I just enhance it and make it even bigger and more annoying. And people seem to really enjoy laughing at me.

SOFIA VERGARA: I did [laughs].

REESE WITHERSPOON: Yeah. She thought I was hysterical.

ANNE FLETCHER: But Reese’s characters are so endearing.

REESE WITHERSPOON: I also like to find the heart of a person like that. I loved Officer Cooper. She’s a little nerd. She has no female friends. She has no friends. And she’s kind of a wreck. So when she meets Sofia’s character, she’s like, ‘That’s my first friend.’

SOFIA VERGARA: And it’s not even a friend.

REESE WITHERSPOON: I love that scene where she makes out with a guy, but she runs to tell Sofia because that’s her ‘bestest’ friend, and Sofia’s like, ‘Whoops, we’re not friends.’

QUESTION: Was it a deliberate choice to have two female leads in a film that’s not about finding a man?

REESE WITHERSPOON: Yes, I think. We had the idea to make a movie that wasn’t about romantic involvement. It wasn’t about chasing men. And as soon as you strip that element away, you actually get to dig deeper into the female characters. So, I think it’s great.

ANNE FLETCHER: One of the things that we also really tried to do was to stay focused on just these two characters. Their characters are so well developed, and these women are so amazing to be around, and women have so much more to us than just the romantic element.

I love romantic comedy—don’t get me wrong—but one of the things that I always fight against is the notion of men saving women. Cooper learns a lot of stuff from Daniella to free herself and open herself and take chances and not maybe follow the rules all the time. And she meets this boy, and out of all these great lessons in this journey with Daniella, she’s like, ‘Well, I’m going to take matters into my own hands.’

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QUESTION: As successful women in entertainment, what would you say to younger women who are trying to get into the industry?

REESE WITHERSPOON: That’s a great question. I think the hardest part, first of all, is just to get your foot in the door, if you’re a writer or a director. The most important thing is to try everything you possibly can to just start working. Because the more you have time on set and time learning what developing scripts and movies is like, that’s incumbent upon people like us. It’s incumbent on us to hire interns and have people standing next to us learning how to direct, learning how to write stories and develop them.

That practical experience is the best way to learn, I think. So, I would say it’s important to get those opportunities and work hard. Be on LinkedIn.

ANNE FLETCHER: I think culturally we spoke about this a while ago. But systemically and culturally, we live in a world where women have roles and men have roles. And my broad statement would be: don’t fall prey to that or don’t buy the hype, really. Even if you feel like you’re a strong, independent woman who’s got her own point of view, you are still in the system in some way. So just do your best. And it’s hard. I can say at almost 49 that I’m in it because I was raised in it.

SOFIA VERGARA: You said your age?

ANNE FLETCHER: [Laughs] She yells at me. She wants me to wear lipstick and look like a girl. All the time.

REESE WITHERSPOON: You do look gorgeous.

ANNE FLETCHER: Thank you. I trust Sofia’s advice. Anyway, I just feel like we’re in it, and it’s hard to fight against it, but do your best to not fall prey to it. It is a real thing, but stay powerful and push through, and stay confident and strong within yourself. Surround yourself with really smart individuals. And we’ll keep breaking through. It’s moving. It’s definitely shifting.

We need men. It’s a very important aspect to have both. But as women who are still slightly held back, we need to keep pushing forward and just keep on movin’. Keep on truckin’.

SOFIA VERGARA: Well, they said it all, and I agree. Hopefully, there are more producers like Reese that support all of this.

QUESTION: This is a film about women, made by women. Reese, you’re a producer and Sofia an executive producer. What does this mean for the industry that is mostly dominated by men?

ANNE FLETCHER: I don’t think it really means anything. I think, if anything, it’s a positive move for women moving forward and opening the door. The population is more than fifty percent women, and our money’s equally as green as anyone else’s. So making movies for us, about us, from us, is a smart business move on somebody’s part.

REESE WITHERSPOON: I think one of the most important things, too, is women out there need to know that you have to show up and buy tickets. Because if you want to see something different, you have to support the women who are writing and directing. And we need the people actually coming to the movie theaters.

SOFIA VERGARA: The more people see it, the more opportunities there will be for women to do stuff.

Hot Pursuit opens in cinemas across Singapore on 7 May 2014.

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