Another accolade for Reese was announced today – she is the Wall Street Journal’s ‘Entertainment Innovator of the Year’! Reese features on the front cover of their November issue, with a gorgeous new photoshoot and a fantastic, inspiring new interview. The interview focuses on Reese’s recent foray into producing, and features quotes on Reese from her husband Jim, and Nicole Kidman. Find the interview below – it’s a great read – and see photos in our Gallery. The magazine hits news-stands on November 4th so be sure to pick up a copy. Congratulations on this new honour, Reese
How Reese Witherspoon is Changing Hollywood for Women
With projects ranging from her HBO series ‘Big Little Lies’ to her production franchise to her growing lifestyle brand, Witherspoon has become a force in female storytelling
THIS PAST MAY, Reese Witherspoon experienced the closest thing she’ll get to a college homecoming when she returned to Stanford University, where she studied English literature for a few semesters in the mid-1990s but never graduated. Students invited her to be the featured guest at the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s View From the Top speaker series and asked her about her multifaceted career as an Academy Award–winning actress, producer and entrepreneur. Afterward, she popped over to the dorms with her 18-year-old daughter, Ava, to surprise whomever lived in her old room. “I knocked on the door, and a girl was in there,” Witherspoon recalls. “She opens it and screams, ‘Oh, my God! My mom is going to freak out; she just loves you!’ ”
The trip down memory lane prompts Witherspoon, 41, to ponder what might have happened if she hadn’t left the university for Hollywood after freshman year. (She took a leave of absence in 1996 to star in Pleasantville and Election.) After a critically acclaimed debut at age 14 in 1991’s The Man in the Moon, why would an aspiring actress enroll at Stanford and move to Northern California in the first place? “I was never going to be an actor who lives in their car because their dream was so big. [If acting didn’t work] I would have gone from Stanford to medical school and become a surgeon. Right now, I’d probably be the premier surgeon and pediatric cardiologist at Vanderbilt University,” she says, pausing. “What? I’m just being honest. I’m ambitious, and I’m over hiding that.”
“Of all the nasty words I’ve heard that are used to describe women, the one that has the ugliest connotations is ambition,” says Laura Dern, Witherspoon’s friend and co-star in the 2014 film Wild and this year’s seven-part HBO series Big Little Lies. “I don’t know why that’s declared conniving for women, because I’m constantly inspired by Reese’s ambition. You have a dream? She makes it happen.”
In the past decade, Witherspoon, mother of three, top-earning actress, powerful producer and, most recently, fashion designer, has become a new face of feminist filmmaking. Last year, the New Orleans–born, Nashville-raised entrepreneur founded Hello Sunshine, dedicated to realizing stories about women. She had created her own production companies in the past, including Type A Films, founded in 2003 and later dissolved, and then Pacific Standard in 2012. But Hello Sunshine (which absorbed Pacific Standard) is poised to become a Hollywood juggernaut, spanning feature films, TV series and digital content. The Oscar-nominated movies Wild and Gone Girl , as well as Big Little Lies, which won eight Emmy Awards (including one for outstanding limited series), were all projects produced by Witherspoon from books she discovered and optioned. She’s the 21st-century version of silent film star Mary Pickford, known as the first America’s Sweetheart, who co-founded United Artists in 1919, at the age of 27, so she could distribute her own films, or Lucille Ball, the I Love Lucy star who became the first female head of a major studio when she bought out ex-husband Desi Arnaz from their Desilu Productions in 1962. However, whereas those pioneering women were looking for a seat at the table, Witherspoon is seeking a larger piece of the pie.
Reese attended Elle Magazine’s Women In Hollywood Celebration last night, to honour the most influential women in Hollywood. She introduced her friend and Wild & Big Little Lies co-star Laura Dern, who was one of the honourees of the night. In her introduction speech though, Reese spoke about the topical issue of the moment, and revealed that she experienced sexual assault at the hands of a director when she was just 16 years old. You can read Reese’s impassioned speech within this post. There is a short clip from her speech available online, and this post will be updated when a full one becomes available.
Reese wore a black dress from Calvin Klein Collection, with Louboutin shoes and Irene Neuwirth earrings. The first photos have been added to our Gallery, and we’ll have more for you soon
Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Women In Hollywood Celebration speech
“I didn’t sleep at all last night. This is going to be a real emotional rollercoaster because, before we get started honoring one of my very favorite people in the whole world, I just want to say, this has been a really hard week for women in Hollywood, for women all over the world, for men in a lot of situations and a lot of industries that are forced to remember and relive a lot of ugly truths.
I have my own experiences that have come back to me very vividly, and I found it really hard to sleep, hard to think, hard to communicate. A lot of the feelings I’ve been having about anxiety, about being honest, the guilt for not speaking up earlier or taking action. True disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and anger that I felt at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment. And I wish I could tell you that that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly, it wasn’t. I’ve had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault, and I don’t speak about them very often, but after hearing all the stories these past few days and hearing these brave women speak up tonight, the things that we’re kind of told to sweep under the rug and not talk about, it’s made me want to speak up and speak up loudly because I felt less alone this week than I’ve ever felt in my entire career.
And I’ve just spoken to so many actresses and writers, and particularly women who’ve had similar experiences, and many of them have bravely gone public with their stories. And that truth is very encouraging to me and to everyone out there in the world because you can only heal by telling the truth. Very smart, wise women have told me that in the past three days, and I feel very encouraged by this group of people tonight who have created a community of people who are champions now of a new attitude toward harassment in our industry and every industry that’s going to address the abuse of power in this business and every business and I feel really, really encouraged that there will be a new normal.
For the young women sitting in this room, life is going to be different for you because we have you, we have your back. And that makes me feel better because, gosh, it’s about time. I just also want to say as a course of action because sometimes people, they talk about things but I was really thinking last night, what can we do, what can do we do? And I just want to say, there’s a lot of people here who negotiate quite frequently with different companies and heads of companies, and I think maybe during your next negotiation, this is a really prudent time to ask important questions like, who are your top female executives? Do those women have green-light power? How many women are on the board of your company? How many women are in a key position of decision-making at your company? Asking questions like that, I found, it seems so obvious, but people don’t ask those questions.
If we can raise consciousness and really help create change, that’s what’s going to change this industry and change society. So I’m so sad that I have to talk about these issues, but it would be, I would be remiss not to.”
Reese appeared on UK daytime chat show Lorraine today, to promote Home Again. She chatted about her film, growing up, Legally Blonde, Wild, her producing work, and her upcoming TV show with Jennifer Aniston. Here’s the clip:
Reese earned another important accolade today – she was named on Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women list. Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list is a ranking that is put out every year looking at the 50 most powerful women in business. Four criteria are considered: the size and importance of the business, the direction of the business, the social and cultural relevance, and the trajectory of the woman’s career. Reese was not eligible for the main 50, but was featured as their special ‘number 51’ – read more below, and see the full list here:
Fortune’s Most Powerful Women
It’s MPW day. It’s a big day for us here at Fortune MPW HQ: The 2017 list of the Most Powerful Women in Business is out!
Racing into the top spot—for the third year in a row—is General Motors CEO Mary Barra. Rounding out the top 5: PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi (more on her later), Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
In all, the list includes seven newbies, one return, and 26 CEOs who, together, control a total market cap of $1.1 trillion. We have all the juicy details—including who’s off, who’s on, and who’s on our radar—below.
But before we get to that, it’s worth pointing out that this year marks Fortune’s 20th list, a testament to the importance we place on charting and celebrating these women’s careers. For more, I encourage you to read this editor’s letter, in which our fearless leader, Cliff Leaf, reflects on the history—and continuing necessity—of the ranking. As my co-editor on the list, Beth Kowitt, tells Cliff, covering the ever-evolving story of women in business is “complicated—and critically important, surprising, fascinating, and inspiring too.”
MORE FROM THE MPW ISSUE
• New women on the block. While the MPW list always includes women from a diverse range of businesses, this year’s newcomers have raised the bar: all seven hail from different industries. From energy (PG&E CEO Geisha Williams) to toys (Mattel CEO Margo Georgiadis) to retail (Ulta Beauty CEO Mary Dillion), they provide a peek into the diversity of global business today.
• MPWs in waiting. While these 10 women didn’t make the official list, they did catch our eye. We wouldn’t be surprised to see many of them grace the top 50 ranking in years to come…
• She’s No. 51, y’all. We have a tradition of naming a “bonus” MPW—No. 51—a distinction that goes to a woman who doesn’t technically fit our parameters when it comes to P&L and market cap, but who nevertheless captures the list’s powerful, business-savvy spirit. This year that spot goes to Hollywood multihyphenate Reese Witherspoon. For those keeping score at home, Witherspoon has launched a lifestyle startup as well as a multi-platform content company; and produced hits including Gone Girl, Wild, and Emmy fav Big Little Lies—all while still landing big, juicy acting roles for herself.
Reese graces the cover of the new October issue of US Glamour magazine, and inside she writes an article for the magazine about empowering women in Hollywood and promoting women’s rights. She touches on some of her female-driven projects including Wild and Big Little Lies, as well as A Wrinkle In Time, her children’s response to her producing work, and her goals with Hello Sunshine. It’s a really good read, and you can find the full article here. The article is accompanied by a fun and fantastic new photoshoot – find that, in HQ, in our Gallery!
The Hollywood Reporter have published a fantastic interview with Reese in which she talks in depth about her entire career – from the early days of advertising campaigns, to her 90’a movies Fear, Twilight, Election, moving onto Legally Blonde, Sweet Home Alabama and Vanity Fair, Oscars days of Walk The Line, her low patch of 2008-2012, then moving into producing Wild and Gone Girl, and the process of Big Little Lies. This is a must-listen!
‘Awards Chatter’ Podcast — Reese Witherspoon (‘Big Little Lies’)
‘America’s Sweetheart’ reflects on becoming an A-list superstar, hitting a terrible slump during which she was declared a ‘has-been’ and then reinventing herself as an actress/producer and Oprah-like champion of great books.
“I won the Oscar and I felt really confused about what to do next,” Reese Witherspoon confesses, in reference to her 2006 best actress victory for playing June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, as we sit down at the Formosa Recording Studio in Santa Monica to record an episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s ‘Awards Chatter’ podcast. “I had paralysis — Oscar-induced paralysis,” she adds, along with her trademark giggle. “You don’t know what to do!” For Witherspoon, who had been on Hollywood’s A-list since 2001’s Legally Blonde, it marked the beginning of several years of personal and professional frustration, during which some began to write her off. “Someone in The New Yorker said that I was ‘a has-been’ or my career was over, and I remember thinking — how old was I in 2012, like 36? — I was like, ‘Wow, that’s brutal!’ That really bugged me.” But what no one, including Witherspoon, could have known — or even imagined — at that time was that her best days still were ahead of her, and that by 2017, she not only would have re-established herself as one of the most popular and respected actresses in the business (picking up an Oscar nom for 2014’s Wild and an Emmy nom for 2017’s Big Little Lies), but also as an Oscar- and Emmy-nominated producer (for those same two projects) wielding influence in the literary community not unlike that of Oprah Winfrey.
Witherspoon was born in New Orleans to a father who served in the Air Force and a mother who was a delivery nurse. The family moved around, but ultimately settled in Nashville, where their precocious young “type A” daughter soon began taking acting lessons and appearing in advertisements and commercials, landing a local agent at the age of 12. At 14, during the summer before starting high school, she found her first starring role in a movie, Robert Mulligan’s 1991 film The Man in the Moon. Even before the film’s release, her screen test went viral, and she quickly became in-demand. Throughout high school, she would work during the summers. She then starred in 1996’s Freeway, turning in a performance that “got a lot of attention,” during a gap-year before enrolling at Stanford; but she then spent just seven months at Stanford before irresistible film offers led her to move to Los Angeles and focus full-time on her career.
As a young-adult actress, Witherspoon gave memorable performances in strong films like Gary Ross’ Pleasantville (1998), as a nineties girl who finds herself in the fifties, and Alexander Payne’s Election (1999), as an ambitious and calculating high school student who “became a political archetype.” Then, in 2001, she played Elle Woods, a material girl who pursues her ex all the way to Harvard Law School, in Robert Luketic’s Legally Blonde. The $11 million movie had a $20 million opening weekend and made her, at just 23, and already a mother of a 1-year-old, a huge star. “I loved that character” and “underdog story,” she reflects, while also remembering the baggage that came with its success. “That’s when paparazzi started for me,” she says. “That’s when I started getting chased by 10 or 15 people.”
Vogue.com interviewed Reese towards the end of last month, in the run-up to the finale of Big Little Lies; here is what they talked about:
Reese Witherspoon on Who She Initially Wanted to Play on Big Little Lies—and What She Thinks About Those Critics Who Dismiss the Show as Just Another Soap Opera
We only have a few days to go until the finale of HBO’s Big Little Lies airs—why, oh why are there only seven episodes?—but we can already anticipate the massive void we’ll be feeling once the show wraps up on Sunday. Thankfully, Reese Witherspoon is here to help us cope. As Madeline Martha Mackenzie, Witherspoon’s character has become a fan favorite for her type-A personality and wicked one liners (“I love my grudges; I tend to them like little pets,” she says in an early episode). We spoke on the phone with the star and executive producer of the hit TV show, and talked about who she initially thought she would play, whether or not Ed and Madeline have a good marriage, and what she thinks about those (mostly male) critics who dismiss the show as just another soap opera.
Some spoilers ahead for those who aren’t caught up.
What drew you to Liane Moriarty’s book? Why were you excited to bring it to the screen?
I thought the book was really well plotted. I loved all the characters, I thought they were really dynamic women and very truthful in their struggles and the way that they communicated with each other. I thought it was a unique opportunity to have five really talented, diverse women on screen together, which is something that doesn’t happen that often.
Did you always want to play Madeline, or did you ever consider playing any of the other roles?
I didn’t know who I was going to play. Nicole [Kidman] really wanted to play Celeste, but I don’t know, I thought for a minute I might have played Renata. But then I was in a meeting with David Kelley and Nicole and I said I didn’t know who I was going to play and they looked at me like I was crazy. They said, “You’re Madeline!” And I said, “I am? What do you mean?” And they were like, “You are very clearly Madeline.” And I thought, “Is this an insult? I don’t know.” But then I kind of started thinking how I would do this. I started talking to Nicole, she was very helpful when I was creating the character. We added a lot of stuff that wasn’t in the book.
I haven’t read the book, but I know that David E. Kelley rewrote a lot of Madeline for you. I know the affair with her play’s director, for example, wasn’t in the book. What was behind the decision to add that?
Well, we talked about it. I just felt like everybody sort of has a secret in the show. All five of us have a secret. We’re all hiding something from each other and I felt like Madeline needed something she was hiding as well; it added a new conflict for her to resolve. It was just something interesting to play instead of just being a busy body.
On that note, do you think Madeline and Ed have a good marriage?
I don’t think of it in terms of good and bad. I think they have an active marriage, they are working on their marriage. There are aspects that are really positive and there’s parts of it there are really difficult. I don’t know what “good” is, but there’s a lot of love there, for sure.
Reese took time out of her holiday in the Caribbean to chat to fans on Facebook live yesterday. She and co-star Laura Dern also did an interview on Instagram. They revealed that they are considering a second season of Big Little Lies…
Untitled TV Project with Jennifer Aniston
Luckiest Girl Alive
Tiny Beautiful Things
Barbie origins project
In A Dark, Dark Wood
Untitled Rob Long Project
The Thing About Jellyfish
All Is Not Forgotten
Three Little Words
Pale Blue Dot
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