In a conversation with Tracee Ellis Ross for Interview Magazine, Reese Witherspoon recalls the harrowing experience of portraying Cheryl Strayed in the 2014 film, Wild. The storyline follows a recently divorced woman, who decides to start a new life by hiking along the 1,100 mile-long Pacific Crest Trail.
“I was having panic attacks for three weeks before I started,” Witherspoon said. She also admitted that the “nudity, sexuality, and drug-use” were intimidating aspects of the film.
“I hadn’t ever been alone in scenes for days and days,” the actress continued. “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.”
With less than a month before filming commenced, Witherspoon was forced to seek out professional help and turned to hypnosis to quell the panic attacks. She noted that while she could have walked away from the role, it was an important story to share as a woman.
“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,” she told Ross. “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 continues, “I don’t know if I’ll ever work that hard again, but it changed me on a cellular level.”
It’s not the first time an actor or actress has faced mental health pressure off the back of a project. Following the final season of Game of Thrones, Kit Harington admitted his role of Jon Snow caused immense anxiety which led him to take up therapy. Michael B Jordan has also revealed in the past that his role, ‘Erik Killmonger’, in Black Panther also forced him to seek therapy.