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Reese Witherspoon talks of prom dresses, pregnancy and new film

Reese Witherspo| Ramzi Dreessen - Suntimes

Reese Witherspoon | Ramzi Dreessen - Suntimes

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Updated: July 25, 2012 6:48AM

When a reporter told Reese Witherspoon how great she looked Saturday night, the pregnant Oscar winner quipped, “Thanks, but frankly I’m feeling very round tonight.”

When it was suggested she likely was avoiding things like Chicago’s famed deep-dish pizza, Witherspoon laughed, then said, “Maybe, but it’s not easy. I’m always feeling like I’d like to eat everything in sight!”

While the actress politely refused to indicate either the sex of her third child — or the possible names she is considering — Witherspoon did say she’s “very excited” about the pending birth, expected in late summer or early fall.

She was in Chicago for “An Evening With Reese Witherspoon,” and to receive the Renaissance Award at the annual summer gala at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago. The event benefits the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which was named in memory of the late film critic.

Told that Siskel’s widow, Marlene Iglitzen, and the couple’s three children were present Saturday, Witherspoon, said, “That adds so much and makes this wonderful honor even more special for me.”

It also thrilled her that fellow Academy Award winner Alexander Payne — who directed her in “Election” — was on hand to conduct a post-dinner Q&A with her and to present Witherspoon with her award.

“Election” was the movie that played a huge role in turning Witherspoon into an “A-List” actress, coming near the start of her career.

“Alexander was a big champion for me early on, and said, ‘That’s the girl I want in my movie,’ so I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for him. And we’ve subsequently become very close friends.

“We joke about this, because it hasn’t happened, but we both truly do want to work together again. And I know we eventually will find a script and a time when that can happen.”

For Payne, “It’s intriguing how many people love ‘Election.’ They’ll tell me, ‘I really like [films he’s directed like] ‘The Descendants,’ or ‘Sideways,’ or ‘About Schmidt,’ but that ‘Election.’ Now that was a movie!’”

When Witherspoon was asked her thoughts about being back in Chicago on Saturday, she said it made her flash back to her teenage years.

“You know, I grew up in Nashville and, for us, coming to Chicago was always a big deal. It was all about coming to the big city. One of my favorite memories was coming up here with a bunch of my girlfriends in high school to buy our prom dresses. . . . We thought we were really in the big-time then!”

Obviously, Witherspoon has gone on to much bigger times since her high school days, but the actress said the thing she loves most about filmmaking is “the chance to learn new skills, almost on every movie I’ve made. I had to learn to play the autoharp for ‘Walk the Line,’ how to ride an elephant for ‘Water for Elephants,’ learn to play softball for ‘How Do You Know?’ — that’s the best part. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but learning new skills is a good thing, and a huge part about what I love about being an actress.”

As for Payne, he revealed a possible scoop Saturday about his next film, “Nebraska,” which he described as “a journey of discovery about an estranged father and son forced to take a road trip together from Montana to Omaha, Neb.

“While it’s not definite, we have been scouting a number of locations in Illinois, so we might — and at this stage I can only say might — film part of the film in this state.”

Witherspoon is shooting “Devil’s Knot” in Atlanta with Colin Firth. “It’s about a crime that occurred in 1993,” she said.

“It happened in Arkansas, and it’s what I’d say is a very American story.

“And, after I finish that, I’m going to take a little time off — and go have a baby,” Witherspoon said with a wink.

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