By Stephen M. Silverman
September 04, 2002 11:00 AM

It pays to be blonde — $15 million, in fact.

That’s the paycheck MGM will hand over to Reese Witherspoon to reprise her role as the determined, if shallow Beverly Hills sorority girl turned Harvard-schooled legal eagle in “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde,” Variety reports.

The studio is so intent to get moving on the project — a sequel to last year’s hit, “Legally Blonde” — that it has set a November start date despite not yet having a director on board, says the trade paper. The finished product is due for release next July.

Not that it’s all movie biz for Witherspoon, 26, despite scoring her biggest salary to date. “Sometimes I feel like the youngest mom in L.A.,” she admitted to PEOPLE earlier this year. (She has a 2-year-old daughter, Ava, with her 27-year-old husband, “Gosford Park” actor Ryan Phillippe, whom she married at the tender age of 23.)

“I really enjoy being a wife, and I really enjoy being a mom,” she told the magazine. “But it’s a lot more challenging than I thought it would be.”

Meanwhile, the professional challenges aren’t over yet. Variety reports that Witherspoon also will serve as a producer on “Legally Blonde 2” and is currently trying to adapt the film’s character, Elle Woods, and her adventures into a half-hour midseason comedy for ABC.

Later this month, Witherspoon will be seen in the romantic comedy “Sweet Home Alabama,” in which her character seeks a divorce from her backwoods Southern first husband so she can wed New York’s most eligible bachelor.