Reese Witherspoon had panic attacks for 3 weeks before making ‘Wild’: ’I had hypnosis, I was so scared'

Reese Witherspoon won an Academy Award for Walk the Line, but she says it was her role in Wild that changed her most as an actress.

Witherspoon chatted with Tracee Ellis Ross for an Interview magazine feature and said she was "so scared" to take the role in the 2014 film based on Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

"I had hypnosis, I was so scared," the actress and producer revealed. "I was having panic attacks for three weeks before I started."

Part of it, she explained was "the nudity, sexuality and drug-use aspect," but "also being alone on camera with no other actors" as it was about Strayed's solo journey of self-discovery while hiking in the wilderness. "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."

While she filmed, she said she wondered, “Is this going to be so boring?” The film, which was directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and also starred Laura Dern and Thomas Sadoski, wasn't — and she received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for it.

Witherspoon — who spent much of the interview talking about making female-powered projects through her production company, Hello Sunshine, and breaking barriers for women in Hollywood — said 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."

She continued, "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 added, "I don’t know if I’ll ever work that hard again, but it changed me on a cellular level."

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 03:  Reese Witherspoon and Cheryl Strayed attends the Apple Store Soho Presents: Meet the Filmmakers: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, and Cheryl Strayed,
Witherspoon with Cheryl Strayed discussing the film in 2014. (Photo: Ben Hider/Getty Images)

While Witherspoon is largely focused on producing, she also has a few big acting projects in the hopper. It was a big deal when Legally Blonde 3 was announced earlier this year, and she'll voice Rosita again in Sing 2. Plus, the trailer teasing Season 2 of The Morning Show was released Monday and she'll be back as TV host Bradley Jackson, opposite Jennifer Aniston, on Sept. 17.

Witherspoon called TV "a bigger commitment than I’ve ever experienced." She said she's "never worked that long on a project in my whole career," adding, "I started when I was 43 and we’re wrapping when I’m 45."

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