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Spotlight On: Reese Witherspoon

May 06, 2015

Reese was introduced to the entertainment industry at a very early age. At age 7, she began modeling. This led to appearances on several local television commercials. At age 11, she placed … first in a Ten-State Talent Fair.

In 1990, she landed her first major acting role in Robert Mulligan's The Man in the Moon. Her role as a 14-year old tomboy earned her rave reviews. Roles in bigger films such as Jack the Bear and A Far Off Place followed shortly after.

Following high school graduation in 1994 from Harpeth Hall, a Nashville all girls school, Reese decided to put her acting career on hold and attend Stanford University where she would major in English literature. However, her collegiate plans were shortly dashed when she accepted roles to star in two major motion pictures: Fear alongside Mark Wahlberg and Freeway with Kiefer Sutherland. Although neither film was a huge box-office success, they did help to establish Reese as a rising starlet in Hollywood and open the door for bigger and better film roles. Those bigger roles came in movies such as Pleasantville, Election and Cruel Intentions.

Her breakthrough role came as Elle Woods in the 2001 comedy Legally Blonde. The movie was huge box-office smash and established Reese as one of the top female draws in Hollywood. The next year, she scored a follow-up hit with Sweet Home Alabama which went on to gross over $100 million dollars at the box office. In 2006, she took home the best actress Oscar for her role as June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Reese continued to star in more romantic comedies such as Four Christmases and How Do You Know. In December 2010, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Witherspoon's subsequent films signaled a departure from the love-triangle theme. In September 2011, nearly a year after beginning work on This Means War, she filmed a small role in Jeff Nichols's coming-of-age drama Mud in Arkansas, playing Juniper, the former girlfriend of a fugitive (Matthew McConaughey), who enlists two local boys to help him evade capture and rekindle his romance with her.[1]][2] Mud premiered in May 2012 in competition for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, but did not win.[3][4] Following its American debut at the Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2013,[5] the film had a limited release in select North American theaters on April 26, 2013.[6][7]

Witherspoon's next film to be released was Atom Egoyan's Devil's Knot, an adaptation of the true crime book of the same name, which examines the controversial case of the West Memphis Three. Like Mud, the story is set in Arkansas. Witherspoon played Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of three young murder victims. In an interview subsequent to her casting in the film, Egoyan noted that although the role requires "an emotionally loaded journey", he "met with Reese, and... talked at length about the project, and she's eager to take on the challenge".[8] The movie was shot in Georgia in June and July 2012.[9][10][11] Witherspoon was pregnant with her third child during filming.[12][13] The film's world premiere was held on September 8, 2013 at the Toronto International Film Festival.[14][15] It was then released in selected American theaters on May 9, 2014.[16]

In April 2013, Witherspoon began production in Atlanta on Canadian director Philippe Falardeau's upcoming The Good Lie. The film, which is based on real-life events, features Witherspoon as a brash American woman assigned to help four young Sudanese refugees (known as Lost Boys of Sudan) who win a lottery for relocation to the United States.[17][18] It was released on October 3, 2014.[19]
Witherspoon shot a small role in Inherent Vice (2014), an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel, in Pasadena, California in summer 2013.[20][21] Through her company Pacific Standard, Witherspoon served as a producer on the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl,[22] though she did not appear in the film.[23][24] Indeed, Witherspoon and her producing partner "had little to do with the production of Gone Girl",[25] leaving it to director David Fincher while focusing their efforts on another adaptation produced via Pacific Standard, that of Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild, which began production in fall 2013 on the same day as Gone Girl.[26] Witherspoon starred in the project, portraying Strayed herself on her 1,000-mile (1,600 km) hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.[27] Wild was released in December 2014 to critical acclaim;[28] Michael Phillips of Chicago Tribune wrote in his review, "Witherspoon does the least acting of her career, and it works. Calmly yet restlessly, she brings to life Strayed's longings, her states of grief and desire and her wary optimism."[29] Wild was promoted as Witherspoon's primary "comeback" vehicle following her previous career slump.[30]

1. "Everything We Know About Reese Witherspoon's Film 'Mud,' Filming in Arkansas". InArkansas. September 28, 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
2. Jump up ^ McNary, Dave (September 26, 2011). "'Mud' banks trio of thesps". Variety. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
3. Jump up ^ Phillips, Michael (April 19, 2012). "Cannes sets 2012 fest lineup". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
4. Leffler, Rebecca (May 26, 2012). "Cannes 2012: Jeff Nichols' 'Mud' Slides Into Competition with Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
5. Fox, Jesse David (January 16, 2013). "Mud Trailer: Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon Have a Southern-Accent-Off". Vulture. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
6. Jump up ^ Tapley, Kristopher (January 16, 2013). "'Mud' trailer with Matthew McConaughey reignites the fuse in advance of Sundance bow". Hitflix. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
7. Macdonald, Gayle (December 16, 2011). "Egoyan signs Reese Witherspoon for new film". Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved December 30, 2011.
8. Jump up ^ McClintock, Pamela (May 16, 2012). "Cannes 2012: Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon's West Memphis Three Pic Gets Financing (Exclusive)". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
9. Jump up ^ Gicas, Peter (June 26, 2012). "Pregnant Reese Witherspoon Spotted Shooting New Movie". eOnline. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
10. Jump up ^ Brett, Jennifer (July 5, 2012). "Reese Witherspoon movie filming in Cartersville". Access Atlanta. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
11. Johnson, Zach (June 26, 2012). "Pregnant Reese Witherspoon Begins Shooting Devil's Knot in Atlanta". Us Weekly. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
12. Zwecker, Bill (June 23, 2012). "Reese Witherspoon talks of prom dresses, pregnancy and new film". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
13. Barnard, Linda (July 23, 2013). "TIFF: WikiLeaks movie The Fifth Estate to open film festival". Toronto Star. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
14. Atkinson, Nathalie (September 8, 2013). "TIFF 2013: All the night moves with Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon and Jesse Eisenberg on the red carpet (but no George Clooney, sorry)". National Post. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
15. Labrecque, Jeff (February 10, 2014). "West Memphis Three drama 'Devil's Knot' with Reese Witherspoon sets release date -- EXCLUSIVE". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
16. Yamato, Jen (April 3, 2013). "Corey Stoll, Sarah Baker, Sudanese Lost Boys Cast In ‘The Good Lie’". Deadline. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
17. Keene, Allison (April 5, 2013). "ATLwood: Reese Witherspoon back in town for "The Good Lie"". Creative Loafing Atlanta. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
18. Lang, Brent (May 27, 2014). "Reese Witherspoon Drama ‘The Good Lie’ Shifts to October Release". Variety. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
19. "First Look At Joaquin Phoenix On The Set Of 'Inherent Vice'". indiewire.com. June 4, 2013. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
20. "Reese Witherspoon Eyes Reteam With Joaquin Phoenix in ‘Inherent Vice’". Variety. May 15, 2013. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
21. Duncan, Dustin (September 17, 2013). "‘Gone Girl’ filming at Giant City State Park". The Southern. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
22. Kit, Borys (January 22, 2013). "David Fincher in Talks to Direct 'Gone Girl'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
23.  Strecker, Erin (October 15, 2013). "'Gone Girl' gets release date". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
24.  Riley, Jenelle (October 7, 2014). "Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea Push for Female-Driven Material With Pacific Standard". Variety. Retrieved December 31, 2014.
25.  "Reese Witherspoon buys movie rights to Cheryl Strayed's memoir". Oregon Live. March 8, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
26.  McNary, Dave (October 11, 2013). "Reese Witherspoon’s ‘Wild’ Adds Michiel Huisman, W. Earl Brown". Variety. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
27.  "Wild (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
28.  Phillips, Michael (December 4, 2014). "Review: 'Wild'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
29.  Mendelson, Scott (September 9, 2014). "Can Reese Witherspoon Have Her Own 'McConaissance?'". Forbes. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
30.  Robey, Tim (December 29, 2014). "Wild is Reese Witherspoon's major comeback". The Telegraph. Retrieved January 1, 2015.