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“We made this movie because we want people to feel hopeful about life,” Reese Witherspoon was telling me at the “Wild” premiere in Portland last week.

Honestly, I was trying to listen, but all I could think about was how good her makeup looks, even though there is a lot of it. And about that time she drunkenly asked a Georgia state trooper, “Do you know my name?” And about how much I loved her Elle Woods character in “Legally Blonde.” Man, I love that movie.

But back to “Wild.” Right. You were saying?

“I think it’s an important film for women,” Witherspoon said. “I think it’s an important film for people. But I think a lot of people don’t realize how rare it is to see a woman on-screen, basically not talking for a lot of the film.

“And that you finish the film and she has no man, no money, no job, no parents and it’s a happy ending,” she said. “That’s pretty much a revolution.”

The movie is based on the book by Portlander Cheryl Strayed, who got Fox Searchlight to hold a premiere in her hometown and flew in Witherspoon, her co-star Laura Dern and director Jean-Marc Vallée.

Strayed has been to “Wild” premieres from Telluride to London, “and they were all beyond thrilling,” she said, “but this is thrilling in a different way.”

“The room is filled with people who have been there for me, who have followed not just my career but my life,” she said.

Strayed asked that the premiere be held at Cinema 21, where her husband, documentarian Brian Lindstrom, has screened his films.

“It’s really special to us,” she said. (Also special? She’s appearing at Benaroya Hall on March 5 in Seattle Arts & Lectures event. Tickets:

Vallée told me he made a mix CD for all of the actors with music that Strayed mentions in the book, but also some of his own choices, specifically “El Condor Pasa,” by Simon & Garfunkel.

“Other than David Lynch, I’ve never had a director give me music that they are already hearing in their head,” Dern said. “It is so useful and lucky.”

Vallée, who directed “Dallas Buyers Club,” depends on music to make good movies.

“It’s a nice source of inspiration,” he said. “It gives me ideas. I dive into a universe and I try to nail the emotional feeling.”

Author Nick Hornby, who wrote the screenplay, made a couple of musical suggestions, including Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher Than the Rest,” Vallee said.

“Everything else was coming from me and from the book,” he said. “I am the DJ and the general.”

At the after-party, Vallée held court at the bar while Witherspoon and Dern were whisked in through a side door, and escorted to a long, L-shaped couch in the corner. A stone-faced security guy paced the perimeter, and a steady parade of civilians pretended to be looking for the bathroom, just to get a peek.

One local actor who has no lines, but is shown in a compromising position with Witherspoon’s character in an alley, asked to walk the red carpet so he could be photographed and interviewed about his motivation.

They said no. He brought an entourage anyway.

To JJ’s, with love

Pity the newbies to JJ McKay’s annual Christmas party, which I have taken to calling his annual Festive Fire Code Violation.

“Should I bring in my coat?” a woman asked as we stepped off the elevator.

Oh, honey.

McKay’s downtown apartment is like a scene out of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” with people packed in so tight, you have to go outside to change your mind.

Andrew Over, a VP at Regence BlueShield, found the place without an address: “Seriously, I heard the buzz outside.”

Those who had been “JJ’d,” and brought into his fabulous fold: Leslie Chihuly, Afshan Lakha, Betty Tong and Karin Mital, on their way to a Seattle Symphony performance; SIFF Executive Director Mary Baccarella; Mari Schrempf; and Mexican Consul Eduardo Baca Cuenca.

Butter London founder Sasha Muir reported that her line of Bevee bags were almost sold out for Christmas.

Artist Isa D’aleans has a show, “The Angels Series,” opening at the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery in New York this week.

Saul Spady of the Dick’s Drive-In family and Mary’s Place Executive Director Marty Hartman reported that their “No Child Sleeps Outside” campaign is within $50,000 of its $250,000 goal, which would allow them to open a crisis-response winter night shelter for 550 families (

In the kitchen was Jesse Jones, who left KING 5 for KIRO 7 not long ago, but won’t be on the air with his consumer reports for a few months: “The only difference is it will be bigger, and better,” he said of the move.

At one point, McKay got up on a chair and addressed the churning crowd: “The biggest gift I’ve ever had in my life is your friendship.”

So big, there’s not a room to fit them all. Lucky man.

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or