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Calling All Monsters
The choice of the actors lending their voices to the cast of "Monsters vs. Aliens” (MvA) was anything but spontaneous. Filmmakers put together their wish lists of names and some initial calls were made. But sometimes, being the right filmmakers in the right place at the right time proved serendipitous, and a certain leading lady heeded her own inner call to join the MvA crusade.

Director Letterman relates, "The first time Reese Witherspoon came in and we actually met her, Jeffrey brought her by the studio and gave her a tour—he was basically showing her all the movies going on to see what she would respond to. Conrad and I were waiting and she came in, and we gave her a basic pitch of the idea of the movie and explained to her that we really wanted to make the female lead the hero character to balance out the dudes in the film. When she heard that her eyes just lit up.” "Reese connected to the story and character of Susan,” adds Vernon. "She emailed Jeffrey later that day and said she wanted to come onboard!”

For producer Stewart, a big draw to the project was similar to Witherspoon's: "I love the idea of this ordinary woman thrown into this extraordinary world. The monster characters are so funny and individual, and this idea of a small-town girl from Modesto, California suddenly becoming part of this outrageous crew—thrust into this situation in which she has to fight off an alien invasion—it was inventive and funny.”

The Oscar®-winning actress explains, "I like that she is a regular girl who learns to value herself. She starts the movie where she thinks she has everything going for her in her life. She's about to be married. She's got this great guy. She's really ready to start a life that she thinks is the right life for her. In one twist of fate, she has to really face the fact that she never really wanted much from herself, never really learned to value what was great about her as an individual. I think that is a journey that a lot of people can relate to. Susan is a great character, and it's fun to see somebody become a superhero—to suddenly have that kind of super strength. Don't we all sort of dream about those things?”

For the filmmakers, Witherspoon's award-winning talent wasn't the only draw— it was her stature, literally. Director Vernon says, "We thought it would be great and a nice contrast to have a petite girl play a giant woman—and we had fun with that. Susan is living vicariously through her fiancé. We liked taking that idea and turning it around…so when she becomes the most powerful woman in the world, she realizes that she doesn't really need him to lead the amazing life that she's always wanted.”

Stewart adds, "Five feet, one-and-one-half inch Reese Witherspoon playing the five-story monster was instantly appealing to us. Reese is a great actress, really smart and game for anything. I think she really enjoyed the idea of the transformation of this character—she sunk her teeth into it.”

For working mom Witherspoon, the other themes present in the material also resonated: "Through the journey of the film, Susan starts to really value and appreciate the monster crew for the support that they give her—the love, the companionship—the understanding that they have of the situation…they're all different. She has to come to terms with the fact that she can't really go home again in the same way. She'll never be just Susan Murphy from Modesto. And, at first, that kind of depresses her, but then, through the help of the Monsters, she realizes it's a little awesome to be different. They all value each other for their qualities, and they kind of form this offbeat family.”

"Offbeat” is one good word to describe the most intelligent of the incarcerated Monsters that Susan (later named "Ginormica”) meets in the secret military facility—Dr.

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