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Reese Witherspoon says she needed hypnosis to calm her fears while filming this movie

The actor opens up about the fear and panic attacks she experienced while filming the movie "Wild."
Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon is proud of her work in the movie "Wild," but says the experience of filming was an extremely emotional one.Danny Moloshok / Reuters
/ Source: TODAY

Reese Witherspoon gave a confident and moving performance in the 2014 film "Wild," but behind the scenes, things didn't go so smoothly for the actor, at least initially.

In a new Q&A for Interview magazine, Witherspoon opens up to her pal and fellow actor Tracee Ellis Ross about the emotional experience of filming the movie, which is based on Cheryl Strayed's nonfiction book of the same name.

In the movie, Witherspoon portrays Strayed, who began using heroin after the end of her marriage and the death of her mother. When she was 26 years old, the author decided to hike the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail, despite the fact that she had no prior backpacking experience, and the film portrays all the challenges she faces along the way.

A scene from the 2014 film "Wild." Alamy

Witherspoon told Ross that this was the role that has changed her the most so far and explained that she had a difficult time approaching the project at first.

"I was so scared to do that, Tracee. I had hypnosis, I was so scared. I was having panic attacks for three weeks before I started," she explained.

The actor was certainly intimidated to approach the nudity, sexuality and drug-use aspects of the role, but said there was one other thing that worried her the most: being alone on camera with no other actors.

"I hadn’t ever been alone in scenes for days and days. There were probably 25 days of the shoot where I had no other actor opposite me. It was just me and a camera and a backpack. I was like, 'Is this going to be so boring?'"

In the end, filming the movie was an eye-opening experience for the 45-year-old and she told Ross that the book has left a lasting impression on her.

"Cheryl Strayed’s book was so beautiful and sacred to me because it spoke to me so deeply about how we as women have to save ourselves. There’s no mother or father coming to save us. There’s no spouse. I thought it was radical that at the end of the film, she ends up with no family, no money, no job, no partner, and she’s happy," she said.

Witherspoon said she's not sure if she'll work as hard as she did on that film but did say the experience changed her "on a cellular level."

During their chat, Witherspoon also revealed what compels her to take on a role for herself or for her media company, Hello Sunshine.

"In the past four years, I’ve emphasized positivity and optimism. There’s a tendency to delight in the trauma of women. We see it in the news constantly, and I believe that you can create engaging, deep entertainment without exploiting women," she said.