Dec. 17, 2010
Fans of the UCLA softball program will see some familiar faces when "How Do You Know" hits movie theaters today. Former Bruins Andrea Duran, Amanda Freed and Anjelica Selden have cameos in the film, while former Bruin coach and Hall of Famer Sue Enquist consulted on the flick and helped mold the movie's star Reese Witherspoon into a softball player.
Witherspoon is cast as Lisa Jorgenson, an Olympic softball player who is cut from the team. While there are a few softball scenes in the film, it is primarily a romantic comedy. The person in charge of turning Witherspoon into a softball player was Enquist, who was first introduced to the movie's director James L. Brooks in the early 2000's and was called upon in late 2008 to consult on the film. Among Enquist's responsibilities were to setup tryouts on the west and east coasts to field United States, Australian and Japanese National Teams for the film, as well as to be on set for technical consultation. She trained Witherspoon for 4-5 months beginning in the Fall of 2009.
"The goal wasn't to become an Olympian technically because that would take too much time and wasn't possible," Enquist said. "But she was able to embed herself in the Olympic culture thanks to Amanda (Freed) and Andrea (Duran), seeing how they think and feel and what their lives are like. They created a wonderful training environment for Reese where she was able to really go for it and feel safe knowing she had never really trained at an extremely high level. Reese was very gracious with her time and these are her people now. They will always be her girls."
"She is so humble and nice," Duran said. "She really respected the game of softball and was willing to do whatever it took to make herself better and definitely got better as time went on. It was a great experience."
Enquist was very impressed with Witherspoon's down-to-earth persona. "Reese is one of the most humble, engaging people I've ever met. She is very warm and doesn't have that intimidation factor of a star actress."
"I was most amazed by her ability to bust through her fear and go for it. She has a grinder mentality on a physical level, so I wanted to teach her how to dive because it is an intense and aggressive part of the game and she learned that in three days. I was impressed with that. She was so driven to get it right."
Selden echoed Enquist's sentiments. "I was most impressed with her diving skills. There was one day where we worked just on her diving at home and it was fun to watch her because she nailed it."
Enquist remembers one specific moment in her teaching of Witherspoon when they were struggling to learn the defensive part of the game. "I called Amanda and Andrea so Reese could get a visual model of someone playing the game at an Olympic level and it just clicked. When Andrea is in her defensive positioning, she cocks her right knee in a little bit. And I remember looking back at Reese fielding and she has that little idiosyncrasy. It was very exciting to see how she was able to get that down in such small detail."
One of the things that fascinated Enquist the most was the research that went into turning Witherspoon into a softball player off the field.
"It was phenomenal," Enquist said. "Jim Brooks has a tremendous attention to detail and he is so determined to get it right. We took photographs of all the Olympians' apartments so we could have Jim understand that Olympic softball players live normal lives. They don't make a lot of money, so it's not going to be a high-rise apartment with expensive furniture. We gave him an image of what they should replicate during the movie and he accomplished that. Jim had great drive regarding this project."
While filming for most of the softball scenes took place in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., one of the climactic softball scenes, the USA-Japan game, was filmed at UCLA's Easton Stadium.
"It was great to have a wonderful relationship with the studio (Sony Pictures) and UCLA Athletics, and our administration was outstanding in working with Reese and Jim Brooks to be able to utilize Easton Stadium for part of the shoot," Enquist said.
In addition to Duran, Freed and Selden, many other Bruins were involved in the project. Current UCLA assistant coach Gina Vecchione helped Enquist with Witherspoon's training, while former Bruin Tara Henry served as one of Witherspoon's stunt doubles.
On Monday, the movie premiered in Westwood, with several Bruins walking the red carpet and seeing themselves on the big screen.
"It was a little bit surreal," Selden said. "It was a lot of fun. It was a joy to be on the red carpet with my fellow Bruins. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I'll never forget."
Duran, who saw herself three or four times clearly on the screen, said "It was weird and a little embarrassing. It was funny seeing my teammates up there and being like `Hey, I know her'."
"As a Bruin, I'm just so proud of seeing our former student-athletes and icons of the game of softball being represented," Enquist said. "We are always trying to get exposure for the sport and this takes it to another level."