For Reese Witherspoon, Arrest is a PR Nightmare

PAN Media

This post is courtesy of Donna Freydkin and Andrea Mandell and originally appeared on USA Today.

April 22, 2013

And let the Walk the Line jokes commence.

Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon, she of the squeaky-clean, perky image and picture-perfect family, was arrested along with her husband, Jim Toth, early Friday morning in Atlanta. He was pulled over under suspicion of DUI, and she was busted for disorderly conduct after verbally sparring with the police officer.

Her now-infamous line to the officer, after he pulled the couple over: "Do you know my name? You're about to find out who I am."

The police report, obtained by Variety, is almost as entertaining, and eyebrow-raising, as some of Witherspoon's best lines from her breakout comedy Legally Blonde. "You should read the police report and see her comments," says Gary Morgan of Corbis Entertainment and co-founder of Splash News. "It was a very tragic but comical situation. She's going to be highly embarrassed. The public will see the persona behind image."

The report is wince-inducing, says Paul Dergarabedian, a chief analyst for "The line 'Do you know who I am?' — that rubs a lot of people the wrong way," he says.

Witherspoon, 37, who won an Oscar for playing June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, issued an immediate apology — and walked the red carpet Sunday night in New York to promote her film Mud, without doing any interviews. "I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said. It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse. I was disrespectful to the officer who was just doing his job. I have nothing but respect for the police and I'm very sorry for my behavior."

Still, the damage is done, and there's no undoing it, says Janice Min, editor in chief of the Hollywood Reporter. "It's a terrible thing to happen to someone with this sort of image. She's not 22. She's a mother of three. Thank God they didn't kill someone. It's a perfect storm of terrible: the time of night, the way she's reported to have behaved, and her using celebrity as a way out."

People may wonder why Witherspoon and Toth didn't opt to call a cab or get a driver. "That's a big mystery," Min says. "As a parent, you never want to put someone in jeopardy. It makes you think they were so impaired they didn't have the judgment to make that call. There's no good part of that story. There's no silver lining."

Dergarabedian agrees. "A lot of people feel today that a star has the financial means so that they should never get a DWI," he says. "Call a car service."

Witherspoon was in Atlanta shooting the drama The Good Lie; her last few films, including Water for Elephants, Rendition and This Means War, were less than impressive both critically and commercially.

"In terms of her career, it comes at a vulnerable point," Min says. "She hasn't had a major blockbuster in quite a while. For the movie she's doing right now, it creates problems because the narrative will be about her being arrested while she was filming it. I thought her apology was as good as you can get. She said the right things. But an apology can't erase the facts. It's in such stark contrast to the public perception of her."

Continue reading on USA Today...

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