Reese Witherspoon tackles behind-the-scenes role

Reese Witherspoon attends the premiere of "Where the Crawdads Sing" at the Museum of Modern Art ...

Reese Witherspoon’s fans cover a wide age range, including small kids who believe her big little lies.

“My favorite thing to do is tell little kids that my grandmother invented the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup,” she says. “The kids are like, ‘Really?’

“I’m like, ‘Really.’ ”

So what if it’s not true. Witherspoon is doing practically everything else these days, including stepping behind the scenes this summer. She produced “Where the Crawdads Sing” (now in local theaters) and based on Delia Owens’ bestselling novel (a former pick of Witherspoon’s book club).

The film revolves around Catherine “Kya” Clarke (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a resourceful young woman who grows up in the North Carolina marsh alone after her parents abandoned her. She survives on her own, falls in love with Tate (Taylor John Smith) and is left behind again when he leaves for college. When another relationship sours, her boyfriend is found dead and Kya is accused of murder.

For Witherspoon, taking the reins as the film’s producer was a natural transition.

Witherspoon, born Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, began acting as a teenager, making her screen debut in 1991’s “The Man in the Moon” and then making a mark in “Cruel Intentions” and “Election.”

The 46-year-old has also starred in “Legally Blonde” and “Sweet Home Alabama” and won a best actress Oscar for playing June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line.” She won an Emmy for executive producing the HBO drama series “Big Little Lies.”

Witherspoon lives in L.A. and Nashville, Tennessee, with husband Jim Toth, an agent, and children Ava and Deacon (with ex-husband Ryan Phillippe) and Tennessee (with Toth).

Review-Journal: What was it about “Crawdads” that captured your attention?

Witherspoon: It’s a beautiful coming-of-age story mixed with a gorgeous romance and a murder mystery. I just loved it. Beyond that it’s an incredible story about a woman surviving and about women saving themselves, which happens every single day. You have to save yourself. I think it’s important to see that in film and realize you can be the savior or hero of your own story.

What did it feel like to see this beloved book come to life on the set?

When I walked into Kya’s house, which is so vivid in the book, I started to cry. I was so moved by every shell, every feather and every picture and every corner. Every artist on this movie worked so hard to bring the book to life.

As a producer, how hard was it to find the perfect lead actress?

It came together so naturally. I saw Daisy’s incredible audition, and as a Southern woman I thought, “Is she going to be able to nail this accent?” I’m pretty tough, and it was like, “Wow,” before she even trained. She auditioned with that accent and it was amazing.

What was your reaction when you heard Taylor Swift wrote a song for the film?

I freaked out. I couldn’t believe it. She’s one of my favorite singers of all time, and her songwriting is amazing. … The fact she read this book and loved it so much … and then was inspired to write a song, I was blown away. She was doing her “Folklore” album at the time and wrote the song with that whole team. What resulted is so haunting and magical.

Why produce films?

There was a period of time when I wasn’t as turned on creatively. And there were so many poorly written female characters that came my way. Those couldn’t be the only choices. I wanted to become more involved and take ownership of the choices I made as an artist. Now it’s very important to me that the films I put into the world are an extension of who I really am. I want to tell stories that are important. I want to tell stories that you want to discuss with your loved ones.

Best advice you’ve given to your kids?

Listen to your mother. But honestly, I’m like any other mother who thinks she’s messing up all the time. The other bit of good advice I’ve given them is when someone says no, think of another way.

What is your best home-cooked dish?

When it comes to Southern food, it’s either my grandmother’s recipe for iced tea or fried chicken. But my all-time favorite is shrimp and grits. I also cook a mean lasagna.

What’s a great Sunday for you?

I’m really outdoorsy, so it would have to be something outside with my family.

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