Reese Witherspoon was called 'repellent' and told to 'dress sexy' to win 'Legally Blonde' role

Tom Beasley
Contributor
Reese Witherspoon in 'Legally Blonde'. (Credit: MGM)

Reese Witherspoon was urged to “dress sexy” in order to snare her breakout role as sorority girl Elle Woods in Legally Blonde.

She was ultimately nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the film, which made $142m (£106m) at the global box office and spawned a sequel.

The 43-year-old actor told The Hollywood Reporter that studio bosses at MGM were sceptical about her and thought she was “a shrew” after seeing her in Alexander Payne’s 1999 comedy Election.

Read more: Witherspoon kept all of her Legally Blonde outfits

She said: “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."

Reese Witherspoon on stage during The Hollywood Reporter's Power 100 Women in Entertainment. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter)

Witherspoon said she “needed the money” at the age of 23 and with a baby at home.

As a result, she perservered through several auditions at which she was asked questions about being part of a sorority by “a room full of men”, despite the fact she had dropped out of college.

She added: “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.'“

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Legally Blonde proved to be the role which cemented Witherspoon as a Hollywood fixture after it premiered in 2001.

Witherspoon is now one of the highest paid women in Hollywood and has been reported as earning $2m (£1.49m) per episode for her role in Apple TV+ series The Morning Show alongside Jennifer Aniston.

Reese Witherspoon in Apple TV+ series 'The Morning Show'. (Credit: Apple)

As well as its 2003 sequel, Legally Blonde spawned a direct-to-DVD spin-off movie in 2009 and a stage musical.

Witherspoon has also spoken often about a possible third movie in the series, which MGM officially announced in 2018 for a Valentine’s Day 2020 release date, which was later shifted to May 2020.

Read more: Witherspoon and Aniston interview turns tense over #MeToo

The threequel is not currently on the UK release calendar and Witherspoon’s busy schedule may have stalled the project for the time being.

As well as The Morning Show, she is juggling multiple projects as a producer and a leading role on TV show Big Little Lies.