It’s no secret that Hollywood hasn’t been doing a great job with lead rolls for women, especially in the buddy comedy world, so Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara decided to just go ahead and make their own. “We came up with the idea, and it almost makes the whole process easier because you just present it to the studio and you go, ‘Here’s the script, we have the director, let’s go,'” says Witherspoon about “Hot Pursuit,” the action comedy they headline. “It was clear to me the second we met that we would make a good pair because not only did we have a great rapport, but she’s so tall and composed, next to her I felt short and funny.”
There wasn’t a ton of time for rehearsal because of Sofia’s TV schedule, but can that sometimes be a good thing in comedy?
REESE WITHERSPOON:I don’t like to rehearse on comedies because it’s not funny anymore.
SOFIA VERGARA: Yeah, I don’t like to rehearse either. I am more of a regular with comedy than Reese is because I have “Modern Family” every week, which is, like, all comedy. And you see it in some scenes that we have for some reason where it doesn’t work maybe because of a technical thing and you have to repeat the scene a million times, and then there’s a part where it loses something. And they’ll usually end up using an early take anyway because that’s where it was.
Did you find that held on this film as well?
WITHERSPOON:No, it was kind of interesting because my early takes are my best takes, and then Sofia’s best takes are, like, number four or five.
VERGARA: But you know why is that? It’s because of the language. Because I get more and more comfortable with the words. Maybe I should do more rehearsal on my own. I feel at the end after saying it many times that it finally becomes a little bit organic, a little bit like if I was speaking Spanish.
When Anne Fletcher came on as director, she says she insisted you go for a PG-13 instead of an R rating. How did that change the humor?
WITHERSPOON: Well, the only way it was rated R was that Sofia’s character had really vulgar language, which was funny for probably two scenes, and then after that it’s not funny anymore. And Anne was really smart, because Sofia’s audience reaches so young, and so does mine, and we wanted everybody to be able to go see the film.
Buddy comedies are very specific beasts. Did you look to any particular past pairing for inspiration?
WITHERSPOON: I like “Outrageous Fortune” or “Midnight Run,” or “The Heat” was a really good movie. Stuff with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. “The Toy.” (laughs) I tried to show that to my kids the other day and I was like, “Oh! This is inappropriate. This is, like, really vulgar.”
It’s kind of amazing what PG and PG-13 films used to get away with in the ’80s.
WITHERSPOON:I know, like “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”? My kids were like, “Whoa, Mom, that’s inappropriate!” It’s funny that it’s gotten more conservative. It’s interesting, cultural shifts within Hollywood. There were times in the late ’20s and early ’30s when anything went — bisexuality, people having really racy movies. And then the ’40s were much more conservative, and then the ’50s became really conservative and there became all these morality clauses with the studio system, and then in the ’70s it changed again and was a little more laissez-faire. It just kind of shifts like that, back and forth — which is kind of ridiculous because the amount of stuff that’s on YouTube?
VERGARA:Now it’s super-difficult to control any of that. Now, raising kids has gotten difficult.
WITHERSPOON:It’s really hard. And also it’s just this question about what is love and what is sexuality that’s really confusing to kids.
VERGARA:Yeah, it’s too much information.
WITHERSPOON:Too much! And weird stuff, like uncomfortable stuff.
How much are you looking for another project to team up on again?
WITHERSPOON: I would love to work with her again. I think she has a huge audience, and even after this film I think people will be really excited to see what she has next. In fact, I have another idea for a movie for her.
WITHERSPOON:I told you about that idea!
VERGARA: No, you said you had it but you didn’t tell me!
WITHERSPOON: I told you what it was and I told you what you need to watch … We’ll talk about it later.
VERGARA: Maybe I didn’t like it that much, because I don’t remember.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick