Byline: Michael Marlow

LOS ANGELES — Reese Witherspoon is having one of those days. The 18-year-old actress is trapped in a
maze of generic hotel rooms, being shuttled from door to door every 15 minutes or so for yet another interview.
She’s giving rote answers to the usual questions: What is the movie like? What is your character like? Witherspoon discovered these are the things everyone asks, and she has run out of unique or funny replies.
Now, a photographer wants her to hang her legs through slats in the back of a chair for a quick portrait. The set-up appears innocent, but something bothers her.
“This may seem strange,” she explains. “My mother told me never to get photographed with my legs apart.”
The shot is modified, knees together according to mom’s rule. She begins the next interview with an apology because, she explains, it has been one of those days.
“I’m not really like that,” she says. “I’m naturally a very cheerful person. It’s not that hard. But you become ornery.”
Mom’s rules are something that has seen Witherspoon through trying times the past several years: attending high school at home in Nashville while keeping one foot on the set in Hollywood. She has appeared in four movies, including “The Man on The Moon”, with Sam Waterston and the telefilm “Wildflowers” with Diane Keaton. She is young enough to have that all-American wholesomeness but old enough to flash that smile that hints bombshell. Although her acting has drawn critical raves, she has not gotten the attention that someone with her talent and looks might expect. “I’m not in this to be the flavor of the month,” she says. “I want to be around for a long time. If that means you aren’t going to know who I am, so be it.”
Not for long. Next month Witherspoon and Stephen Dorff star as hostages held in a convenience store in “S.F.W.”
The movie follows Witherspoon and Dorff after they are released from 36 days of captivity and become media sensations. Dorff’s answer to reporters’ questions — “so f — -ing what?” — is the acronym that is the title of the movie. Witherspoon headed for Northern California this fall, entering Stanford University. As she did in high school, she plans to juggle classes with film shooting. “I decided it would be a nightmare to go to USC,” she says. “People say Hollywood kids are so jerky and all they do is hang out in clubs. But it is really hard to not want to hang out with your peers. If that’s what your peers are doing, that’s where you’ve got to go.”