Reese Witherspoon’s new drama The Good Lie tells the story of ‘the Lost Boys,’ young victims in the early 1980s of the brutal civil war in Sudan. It follows several youngsters who travel thousands of miles on foot in search of safety at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Fifteen years later, now young adults, they are given the chance to leave the camp and resettle in America.
Witherspoon portrays Carrie Davis, an employment agency counselor in Kansas City, Missouri, who has been assigned to help find them jobs, which is not an easy task when you’re dealing with people who have never seen a light switch or a telephone.
Reese was thrilled to talk with journalists in Nashville, where she grew up, and where the movie premiered last month. The film opens on October 3rd, 2014.
What was it about this movie that intrigued you?
I read Margaret Nagle’s script, and I was just so moved. I remember when I met the director, [Philippe Falardeau],the first thing he said to me was, ‘This movie isn’t about you. And I just want to be really clear about that.’
I’ve never had a director say that to me before. But it made me happy, because I didn’t want to make a movie where it was just an American white girl coming to save African people.
[Carrie] is just as emotionally distraught. She’s as without family as they are. And I thought that was such a beautiful opportunity to talk about family is where you find it.
This is a spectacular season for you with Oscar talk for Wild, this movie, producing and even popping up with Joaquin in Inherent Vice. Was it planned this way?
No, it wasn’t planned. I think for a few years, I was a little bit lost as an artist, not being able to find what I wanted to do, not making choices I was ultimately very happy with.
What kind of started this whole string of things I was doing, personally, was just getting back to wanting to play interesting, dynamic female characters.
What was it like to show your film here in Nashville where you grew up?
I’m so glad to be here, and represent Tennessee. This theater [The Belcourt] where the premiere was brings back so many memories for me that I was getting emotional when I got here.
I’ve seen so many films here with my family. It’s just such a great thing to have a premiere in Nashville, and to have any of my movies, ever, in Nashville.
What was the message of the movie that spoke to you, and made you want to do it?
Margaret did such an incredible job, you could tell that there was so much research involved, because when I started watching documentaries, it was completely accurate.
Every story you’ve heard, the Sudanese refugees told is somehow in the movie or in the script.
There are so many times when you don’t appreciate your life, until you see someone else’s perspective on our privileges and the opportunities that we have, whether that’s education, or health care, or just food and running water.
At the very end of the film, we got to go to the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Even though I didn’t shoot any scenes there, I didn’t want to just do the part in Atlanta (where the movie was shot) and be done and go home to my life.
I really wanted to see what the experience was like, so I took my teenage daughter, and we went. It was very emotional seeing over 250,000 people displaced, sleeping on concrete slabs, just that many people living together.
There was very little health care, very little food. It just came to me that this is [not only] an opportunity to raise awareness, but to also create change.