Witherspoon plays Lisa Jorgenson, a woman who finds the entire life she knew slipping away. Lisa has a true love of her life: her sport, softball. She has dedicated herself to it and been celebrated as one of the world’s best. Like many athletes, she is highly competitive and driven. “Her whole life has been based on creating goals for herself and then exceeding them,” says Witherspoon. “When we meet her in the story, she’s at a crossroads, because she’s uncertain about the future of her career.”
In fact, too old at 31, her playing time is over – she’s been cut from the team. “I think every athlete has the idea in the back of their mind that someday they’re going to have to change paths; a sports career doesn’t last forever,” says Witherspoon. “But it’s another thing to be suddenly thrown from the ship. She’s forced to rebuild her life without a clue of how to do it.”
It is a character, Witherspoon says, that could only have been written by Brooks. Not only is the character richly detailed, but reflects Brooks’s signature outlook on life. “Jim has an extraordinary understanding of the absurdity of normal life,” she says. “He can look at a very simple, even mundane situation and find it absurd and completely hysterical – that’s the perspective he brings. He’s also brilliant at drawing characters who are grounded in reality – he finds these times in people’s lives when they are at a crossroads and finds what is so beautiful about those moments.”
Witherspoon, with no background in softball whatsoever, practiced “two or three hours a day with softball players for months,” in preparation for the role, says Brooks. “There’s maybe 20 seconds of Reese playing ball. The point is that it isn’t about how she caught or threw or hit the ball, though she picked some of that up. What matters is you’ve been with those athletes, and she took that on.”
Witherspoon trained with legendary UCLA women’s softball coach Sue Enquist. “I’d work with her three days a week for two or three hours, just working on basic skills like throwing, catching, batting, posture, stuff like that. But there was also a different aspect of it – it was a study of a completely different kind of person. I’d never really known many athletes in my life, so jumping into their world and learning how they wake up, what their day is like, how much they work out, how much of a personal life they have, what their college experience was like, really informed my character. Their relationships with their teammates are paramount in their lives.”
Witherspoon also trained with the USA Women’s softball team. “I got to meet almost all of them and work and train with some of them. It was an incredible, awe-inspiring experience – they have an incredible athleticism, professionalism, drive, and focus that was really inspiring.”
Opening soon across the Philippines, “How Do You Know” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.