By EW Staff
April 25, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Legally Blond 2: Sam Emerson

In the sequel to 2001’s surprise hit ”Legally Blonde,” Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) makes like Mr. Smith and heads to Washington. Now a sought-after, pretty-in-pink Boston attorney with a Harvard degree and a successful murder trial under her designer belt, the perennially peppy Woods takes on a new cause. And it has everything to do with her beloved Chihuahua, Bruiser: animal rights.

At the top of her game following the success of ”Blonde” ($97 million) and ”Sweet Home Alabama” ($127 million), Witherspoon will make her debut as an executive producer in addition to reprising her starring role, which will earn her a career-high paycheck of $15 million. But she insists she wasn’t rattled in the slightest — even though a scheduling conflict prevented ”Blonde” director Robert Luketic from returning for this second go-round. Thankfully, Luketic’s replacement, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, also knows a thing or two about breakout hits, having directed 2001’s indie sleeper ”Kissing Jessica Stein” (which Witherspoon just happened to adore). Adjusting to a studio picture was daunting, he admits, but he jumped at the challenge: ”I had such a laugh with the first film. I thought, I wish I’d made that!”

Playing an aide to Sally Field’s congresswoman, says Witherspoon, ”gave us an opportunity to explore Washington and politics, which is something I’ve been interested in. Some of my favorite movies are comedies about Washington, like ‘Dave’ or ‘Protocol.”’ But don’t worry: Elle hasn’t turned D.C. dull. She once again saves the day using her infinite Cosmo smarts. ”Sally Field definitely has a beauty faux pas that I pick up on,” she divulges. ”It’s really funny. [But] you’ll have to wait and see.”