Movie Article

A Far Off Place

Witherspoon plans biopic of slain activist. She'll play fellow Stanford student Amy Biehl, killed in South Africa in 1993

Reese Witherspoon | OUT OF AFRICA Witherspoon will portray Biehl, a fellow Stanford graduate
Image credit: Reese Witherspoon: Nancy Kaszerman/ZUMA Press/Newscom
OUT OF AFRICA Witherspoon will portray Biehl, a fellow Stanford graduate

After ''Election'' and this summer's ''Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde,'' Reese Witherspoon will turn her attention once more to electoral politics. Screen International reports that she'll play Amy Biehl, an American anti-apartheid activist killed in 1993 on the eve of South Africa's first all-race elections. ''Reese has been attracted to the project for a long time,'' said producer Anant Singh. ''They both went to Stanford University. She knew of Amy and they are like-minded people.''

Biehl was a Fulbright scholar based at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, studying women's rights and working with previously disenfranchised voters in the months before the 1994 elections. She was stoned to death by a mob chanting anti-white slogans. Years later, South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission granted amnesty to her killers.

Singh, producer of such films about the struggle against apartheid as ''Cry, The Beloved Country'' (starring James Earl Jones and Richard Harris) and ''The Long Walk to Freedom'' (with Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela), said he didn't know when Witherspoon would be able to make the film. She's starring in the about-to-shoot adaptation of Thackeray's '"Vanity Fair,'' with Mira Nair (''Monsoon Wedding'') directing. Plus, there's the little matter of her salary, which has gone up since she and Singh first discussed the project two and a half years ago. ''She's probably a $15 million star now,'' he said.

Originally posted Apr 25, 2003