Luke Wilson Says Reese Witherspoon Inspired Him to Bring His A-Game to “Legally Blonde ”(Exclusive)

“I thought, ‘It's a romantic comedy, it's not particularly to my taste, but it'll be fun to work with Reese,’” Luke Wilson tells PEOPLE

Tracy Bennett/Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock Legally Blonde
Tracy Bennett/Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock Legally Blonde

Despite starring in his fair share of romantic comedies, Luke Wilson doesn’t consider the genre his thing.

Signing onto 2001’s Reese Witherspoon classic Legally Blonde, he tells PEOPLE exclusively, the actor remembers it as “one of those things where I thought, ‘It's a romantic comedy, it's not particularly to my taste, but it'll be fun to work with Reese. She seems great.’ ”

Wilson, 52, calls himself “a real fan of Reese from Election,” her 1999 satire about a type-A high schooler running for class president. “She was great in that, just kind of a real force. It's harder than it looks, I think, to act like a teen and be realistic.”

Related: Reese Witherspoon Reflects on Election's 25th Anniversary: I 'Never Dropped That Character' (Exclusive)

Then along came Elle Woods. Witherspoon, now 48, led director Robert Luketic and writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith's Legally Blonde as a SoCal sorority girl-turned-Harvard Law School star who, by the end of the story, stormed into courtrooms in all-pink ensembles. 

“The first day seeing her in wardrobe, and how she was talking and carrying herself, I just thought, ‘Okay, now I've got to concentrate. She is really doing something and working hard and making a real character out of this,’ ” recalls Wilson, who played Emmett Richmond, a lawyer and Elle’s eventual love interest.

“I think people take it for granted,” he says of Witherspoon’s portrayal. On paper, the character could have been “a Saturday Night Live skit.”

<p>Gordon M. Grant / Alamy Stock Photo</p> Luke Wilson at Legally Blonde 2 premiere

Gordon M. Grant / Alamy Stock Photo

Luke Wilson at Legally Blonde 2 premiere

But the actress had so mastered Elle’s “over-the-top” mannerisms and yet given her such depth, she reminded the Dallas native “of people I'd come across in Texas: just very forthright, they know what they want, very direct and ambitious, but also sweet and kind. And having this veneer of clothes and hair and nails and things like that.”

Early on in filming, Wilson recalls thinking, “She's doing something really, really cool and I better buckle down and do a good job to play the straight man alongside her, to serve her character.”

Related: The Wilson Brothers: All About Owen, Luke and Andrew

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Wilson and Witherspoon reprised their roles in 2003’s Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde — in which their characters tied the knot — and a third Legally Blonde film has since reportedly been in the works with Mindy Kaling and Dan Goor as its screenwriters.

Asked for any intel, Wilson says he hasn’t “heard anything about” another sequel. “We had a Zoom meeting a year or two ago,” he says, adding on second thought, “It wasn't a meeting about the movie… I don't know what it was, but it was great to see [Witherspoon] and the other actors.”

<p>MGM/courtesy Everett</p> Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde

MGM/courtesy Everett

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde

Related: Reese Witherspoon Says 'There Is No 'Legally Blonde 3' Without Jennifer Coolidge'

For Wilson, Legally Blonde will always have a special place in his heart. “I've met women who watched it when they were kids who now have kids who are seeing it, and that's very funny to me,” he says. 

Wilson’s next project is decidedly not a romcom: he plays a frontiersman in writer-director-star Kevin Costner’s Western epic Horizon. The saga’s Chapter 1 is in theaters June 28, with Chapter 2 to follow Aug 16. 

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