Toronto: Reese Witherspoon on Going Makeup Free in 'Wild'

Fox Searchlight

"It was raw. I'd never seen myself in a movie like that before"

Image-conscious Hollywood actresses don't usually skip the lipstick and mascara in front of cameras. So Reese Witherspoon revealed that it was a bit of a shock when Wild director Jean-Marc Vallee ordered her to go cosmetic-free in her starring role in the film. "Yeah, yeah, a little mascara and a little cover-up, right? No, no makeup," Witherspoon recalls being told by Vallee during their first hair and makeup test for the project.

The Hollywood star told a Wild press conference at the Toronto Film Festival Monday of being startled when first seeing herself au naturale on dailies for the Fox Searchlight drama. "It was raw. I'd never seen myself in a movie like that before," she said of the screen adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir. In the film, Witherspoon plays a recovering heroin user attempting an 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail to rediscover herself.

Witherspoon made other concessions to Vallee in the follow-up to his Oscar-winning Dallas Buyers Club, including strapping on a 75-pound backpack. "When I first showed up on set, I thought, sure, I've been on movies where they just stuff newspapers in the back and it won't be heavy," she remembered.

Vallee soon questioned why the overloaded backpack didn't look heavy on her back. "I said because I'm going to pretend it's heavy," Witherspoon recalled. But soon the Wild star was carrying a backbreaking backpack.

"It changed the way I walked. It dug into my shoulders and I saw how quickly I got tired," Witherspoon recalled. Ultimately, Witherspoon's biggest challenge was remaining true to Strayed's solo trek of self-discovery.

"It mattered to me that the film had integrity and that it did honor the book and that it would be pleasing for people who took the book into their hearts," Strayed added during the Toronto presser. The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sept. 14.

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