‘Big Little Lies’ Feels Crazy Truthful to Reese Witherspoon
Yes, even Reese Witherspoon has felt judged as a parent. The actress, producer, newly-named Elizabeth Arden brand ambassador and mom of Ava, 17; Deacon, 13; and Tennessee, 4, is fascinated by just how opaque and unreadable kids can be and how hard moms and dads try to seem absolutely perfect.
“Have you ever gotten a call that your kid bit someone at school? I have. You feel awful. You feel like there is something wrong. It’s interesting how we stigmatize people,” she tells Yahoo Style.
She explores the disparaging, cutting and very juicy side of motherhood (and fatherhood) in Big Little Lies, which has exploded as this season’s must-see show. The HBO miniseries delves into the inner lives of a multitude of multidimensional women, showcasing a bully (Laura Dern), a cheater (Witherspoon), a domestic abuse victim (Nicole Kidman), and a single mom raising a child of rape (Shailene Woodley).
Witherspoon was instrumental in bringing Liane Moriarty’s bestseller to the screen. She, along with Kidman, produced it and the project resulted in a bidding war. That’s because while much of Hollywood was busy lamenting the dire lack of roles for women of a certain age, or any age, Witherspoon was busy creating them.
Her production house, Pacific Standard, is now a part of the content company Hello Sunshine, a joint venture with Peter Chernin and AT&T whose sole mission is to tell female-driven stories on TV, film, and digital platforms.
“It’s my entire life. It’s so fulfilling to me. It’s all been leading to this place where I took control of my career,” Witherspoon says. “It came out of a frustration, of seeing the kind of roles for women that were so flimsy. Buying books that have complex and real interior lives of women is my life’s work. I’m a storyteller, but I’m passionate that women have stories that need to be told.”
For years, she’s been diligently optioning, producing, and releasing projects with women at their core: 2014’s Gone Girl, starring Rosamund Pike as spectacularly manipulative Amy Dunne, generated $168 million domestically. The same year, Witherspoon and her friend Laura Dern earned Oscar nominations for the soul-searching saga Wild. In the pipeline is the date-rape thriller Luckiest Girl Alive.
Big Little Lies, meanwhile, is set in glitzy Monterey, Calif., but peel back the lush exteriors of waves, beaches, and pristine landscaping, and you’ll see the ugly underbelly of the posh town and its denizens — led by Witherspoon’s insufferable but also oddly tender grudge-bearer Madeline. The role fits her like a proverbial glove, but when Witherspoon read Moriarty’s book and realized it would make for delicious television, she didn’t know what part she’d play, just that she wanted in.
“You don’t know why people like a show. I responded to the truth, a real truthful look at how women feel about parenthood. Sometimes there’s maternal ambivalence. Women are not good or bad. I like that complexity of character,” she says. “I don’t think you ever know if things are going to work or not work. But there’s something interesting about five dynamic roles for women in which they talk about sex and marriage and relationships the way that women really talk about sex and marriage and relationships.”
The actresses, who star in HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” developed a tight friendship after playing “sort-of awful people” and then mother and daughter.
A mutual friend introduced Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern in front of a restaurant in the Brentwood Country Mart complex in Santa Monica, Calif. They were already aware of each other; it was 2011, and both were movie stars of many years. They had also each played antiheroines in back-to-back late-1990s Alexander Payne films to unforgettable effect: Ms. Dern as Ruth Stoops in “Citizen Ruth” and Ms. Witherspoon as Tracy Flick in “Election.” But it was merely a quick hello.
They reunited in 2014 to play mother and daughter in “Wild,” a film based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir that garnered them both Oscar nominations. A friendship blossomed quickly — playing family, as luck would have it, made them so. They now star (and spar) as rival Monterey power mothers in the new HBO mini-series “Big Little Lies,” of which Ms. Witherspoon is also an executive producer.
Speaking by telephone and email, Ms. Witherspoon and Ms. Dern talked about their fast-tracked friendship, multiple collaborations and conversations with their mothers (Ms. Dern’s is the actress Diane Ladd). This conversation has been edited and condensed.
REESE WITHERSPOON I was with Howell outside a restaurant. Howell Caldwell’s our friend who’s a first assistant director, who’d worked with Laura, and he’s this big, funny guy from Texas, and he’s like: “You gotta meet Laura Dern. You’re gonna love her, you’re gonna love her mom.” Her mom is, like, the quintessential Southern mom, and I have a real Southern mother, too. He said, “You guys are gonna be best friends.” And I remember thinking: “Could I be best friends with her? I don’t know.”
February 17, 2017 • Category: Pacific Standard, Role Rumors •
Comments Off on ‘Legion’s Noah Hawley Pacts Two Fox Searchlight Pics; Helming Reese Witherspoon In ‘Pale Blue Dot’
‘Legion’s Noah Hawley Pacts Two Fox Searchlight Pics; Helming Reese Witherspoon In ‘Pale Blue Dot’
Noah Hawley, who followed his Emmy-winning minseries Fargo by creating the FX drama Legion, has set a pair of films at Fox Searchlight. Top of the list is Pale Blue Dot, a sci-fi project that has Reese Witherspoon starring. Set up as a spec by Brian C Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi, Pale Blue Dot tells the story of a female astronaut who, upon returning to Earth from a mission in space, begins to slowly unravel and lose touch with reality. Witherspoon will produce with Bruna Papandrea.
Through his production company 26 Keys, Hawley is also developing with Searchlight Buried Bodies, the working title of a drama inspired by the Lake Pleasant Bodies Case from the mid-1970s. Attorneys Frank Armani and Francis Belge faced the ethical dilemma of upholding attorney-client privilege after their client, accused murderer Robert Garrow, revealed to them the location of the bodies of two additional missing girls. The lawyers verified the findings, but did not report them to police, even though one of the lawyers had a daughter who was a classmate of sisters of one of the murdered girls. The lawyers only divulged information after the killer escaped prison and threatened one of the attorneys. The pair was reviled by the families of the victims and ostracized by the community for their agonizing commitment to their oath. Hawley is repped by CAA.
The New York Times interviewed Nicole Kidman to promote Big Little Lies, and it features several mentions of Reese and the development and production of the show; here are the Reese-related snippets:
How Nicole Kidman Puts Women First in Hollywood
It makes sense that “Big Little Lies” became a series on HBO rather than a feature film at a major studio. As superhero and other tentpole movies dominate the release schedules of the major studios, even bona fide movie stars like Natalie Portman, Daniel Craig and Bradley Cooper are bringing their projects to places like HBO, Showtime, Amazon and Netflix.
“There’s not as much of a separation anymore,” Ms. Witherspoon said in a telephone interview. “There’s a bigger pool to work in, the talent base is much broader than it used to be, and it’s become sort of a blur — what is television, what is a movie?”
Just two and a half years elapsed between conception to finished project. In the spring of 2014, Bruna Pappandrea, Ms. Witherspoon’s former partner in her production company (Pacific Standard), who is also friends with Ms. Kidman, read a galley of “Big Little Lies,” thought it was great and called Ms. Witherspoon, who was in New Orleans shooting “Hot Pursuit.” Entranced by the book, Ms. Witherspoon got Ms. Kidman, an old friend, to read it, too.
Ms. Kidman said she was drawn in by the many moods of the book, by its strong female characters, and that “as much as it’s about women who are feuding, who are trying to destroy one another, it’s also about friendships.” (The character she plays, Celeste, seems to have a perfect life, including a hunky younger husband played by Alexander Skarsgard, but it’s a facade that begins to peel away as the series goes on.)
She called Ms. Witherspoon back. “I said, ‘I’m in if you’re in,’” Ms. Kidman recalled. “And she said, ‘I’m in. Now all we have to do is get it.’” That meant persuading the author, Ms. Moriarty, at home in Australia, to sell them the exclusive rights.
Ms. Kidman was on her way there for a vacation, and she and Ms. Moriarty met in a coffee shop in Sydney. Ms. Moriarty said she had not expected much from the meeting. “I’ve had other books optioned before, and other authors have said, ‘Never get too excited until the day they start shooting,’” she said by telephone. “And Nicole said, ‘If I option it, get excited because I don’t just option things for the sake of it.’”
Reese attended the red carpet premiere of Big Little Lies in LA yesterday! Reese bought her daughter Ava along for the event, and the twosome posed together on the red carpet … Reese was also snapped with her co-stars Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz. She looked gorgeous and elegant in a dress by Elie Saab, with jewellry from Tiffany’s and Christian Louboutin shoes – I love this shimmery look on her! The Gallery has been updated with over 300 HQ photos from the premiere and after-party, and this post will be updated tomorrow with articles & videos from the red carpet…
The Gallery has been updated with scans from Reese’s recent magazine covers/spreads, including Vanity Fair, Variety and Elle. In addition, she is on the cover of the new issue of People Style Watch – it’s just a basic page on her inside, but we have scans of that for you too.
January 31, 2017 • Category: Pacific Standard, Role Rumors •
Comments Off on Oddlot Teams With Bruna Papandrea & Reese Witherspoon On ‘The Thing About Jellyfish’
Oddlot Teams With Bruna Papandrea & Reese Witherspoon On ‘The Thing About Jellyfish’
OddLot Entertainment has acquired screen rights to the bestselling Ali Benjamin YA novel The Thing About Jellyfish. OddLot principal Gigi Pritzker will produce with Bruna Papandrea and Reese Witherspoon. Rachel Shane will be executive producer. The script will be written by Molly Smith Metzler, making her feature debut after writing on the shows Casual and Orange Is The New Black. She’s also a playwright whose credits include Elemeno Pea, Close Up Space, and Carve.
The book follows Suzy as she enters seventh grade. After her former best friend dies in a drowning accident, she is convinced the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting — things don’t just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory, even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Benjamin’s debut novel was a 2015 National Book Award finalist.
Papandrea and Witherspoon have produced films that include Gone Girl and Wild, as well as the upcoming HBO series Big Little Lies. OddLot co-produced and co-financed the Oscar-nominated Hell Or High Water, and debuted Landline at Sundance where it was acquired by Amazon. OddLot’s other films include Rabbit Hole, The Way, Way Back and Drive.
OddLot, a division of Madison Wells Media, also has the TV series Genius, about the world’s most brilliant innovators, with Ron Howard set to direct a pilot that has Geoffrey Rush playing Albert Einstein.
Metzler is repped by WME and Grandview, Benjamin by CAA, and Witherspoon by CAA and LBI Entertainment.
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