Reese Witherspoon’s New Role: Power Broker The actress has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most influential literary tastemakers in the book-to-screen business
Reese Witherspoon was frustrated. It was 2011, and the screenplays coming across her desk had one bland female character after another. Defined as wives or girlfriends, they were nice, respectable and, for an actor interested in character work, boring. She was drawn much more to the protagonists of the novels and memoirs she curled up with at night.
“My husband said, ‘Honey, you read more books than anybody I know. Why don’t you just option some and turn them into movies?’ ” Ms. Witherspoon recalled in a recent interview in Santa Monica, Calif.
In short order, she teamed up with producer Bruna Papandrea, launched an independent production company called Pacific Standard, and went on the hunt for challenging female characters. The pair quickly demonstrated that they could sniff out best sellers. They scooped up their first two books—Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, “Wild,” and Gillian Flynn’s thriller, “Gone Girl”—before they were published. In July 2012, just five months after the company was launched, the books hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list at the same time—in the nonfiction and fiction categories, respectively. Together, the films earned three Oscar nominations and grossed more than half a billion dollars.
Since then, Ms. Witherspoon has emerged as one of the most influential literary tastemakers in Hollywood. Her regular book recommendations on Instagram send Amazon rankings soaring. At a time when book adaptations remain a crucial segment of the film industry, Pacific Standard is an increasingly important player in the book-to-screen business. She and her partner have also invited some authors to adapt their own books, in the hopes of bringing new writing voices to film and television.
Reese graces the cover of the upcoming February issue of US Harper’s Bazaar magazine! She looks stunning in a new photoshoot, and talks about her current career path and Draper James in the interview. I love the colours and styling of the photoshoot, it’s so pretty. Read the interview below, find the pictures in our Gallery, and watch the behind the scenes video further down this post.
The magazine hits US news-stands on January 19th.
From screen sweetheart to power producer to lifestyle entrepreneur, Reese Witherspoon brings Southern charm to every role.
Reese Witherspoon is sitting in a random office in a glorious location: Nashville’s grand Cheekwood Museum of Art. She’s been twirling all day in concoctions for this cover story—on horses, holding piglets and parasols, and battling oddly aggressive ladybugs. But the great charm of Witherspoon, of course, is that she can look like she’s having the most fun in the world.
And right now, it would seem that she is. After 25 years in films—a long reign as America’s sweetheart, an Oscar for Walk the Line, and a lull before her second nomination, for 2014’s Wild—and with her 40th birthday on the horizon, Witherspoon is not just a star but a force. With her tenacity and sonar-like acumen, she is deftly changing cinema.
“It’s almost like my brain is hardwired to collect information and do things,” Witherspoon says. “I used to do very little with it, and now I’m being more productive, which feels good.” Turns out, she handily notes, that if you spend 25 years making movies, “that’s the way that you learn how to make movies.” In the past four years Witherspoon optioned two books, Gone Girl and Wild, shepherding them through production (and in Wild, shepherding herself up the Pacific Crest Trail) and seeing both receive Oscar nominations.
While Witherspoon could have surfed on a wave of rom-coms until the end of her days, it was a combination of frustration and curiosity that forged her new path. “There was a point, around 2011, there were like five actresses that I admire very much and they all called me and said, ‘There’s this role of this girlfriend in this movie,’ which was kind of just a terrible movie. And we’re all kind of clamoring for this terrible part? We are so much better than this.” So Witherspoon went about changing things.
“I certainly can’t star in all these movies,” she says. “I want to get a female perspective on film that would make my daughter [Ava] understand what it means to be a woman in a different way.”
Witherspoon—who along with Ava, 16, and son Deacon, 12 (with ex-husband Ryan Phillippe), has a three-year-old son, Tennessee James, with her husband, talent agent Jim Toth—credits Toth for her renewed cinematic mojo. “He said, ‘You should produce movies. You read more books than anybody I know. You should just buy some of them and turn them into films.’ ”
A couple of weeks ago Reese attended a conference in Nashville to teach teenage girls about the importance of managing their money and planning their futures. The conference was sponsored by Draper James. Read more about the event in the posts below, and see some pictures in our Gallery:
Reese Witherspoon hosts ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Funds’ event
One of Hollywood’s most powerful women joined some of Nashville’s on Tuesday night, all to mentor the city’s next generation of female business leaders.
Five hundred girls from Metro Nashville Public Schools and their women mentors and moms gathered at the Music City Center to learn the tools of financial responsibility.
Harpeth Hall graduate Reese Witherspoon, her new 12 South boutique, Draper James, and First Tennessee Bank sponsored the free conference.
“When it came up that it was the YWCA, I was so excited,” Witherspoon said. “We used to go there when I was a little girl and take Jazzercise classes with my mom, and my grandma took bridge classes there. It’s always been an incredible place of resource for women in this city.”
Reese was featured in the October/November issue of Garden & Gun magazine, talking about Draper James. Below is the interview, and if anyone can provide us with scans from the issue then please get in touch!
Talking Shop With Reese Witherspoon
The Oscar-winning actress on grace, grandmothers, and breaking ground on her Nashville store
Self-determined since childhood, Nashville-raised actor and producer Reese Witherspoon has always been a get-it-done kind of woman. And so it was with Draper James, her budding fashion and lifestyle brand, which she developed because she “couldn’t find the sort of items I wanted anywhere else.” Named after her grandparents, Draper James celebrates what Witherspoon sees as a renaissance in Southern style, featuring playful dresses and jewelry alongside engraved julep cups and embroidered linens. This fall, she plans to open Draper James’s first store, in Nashville, realizing her dream of building a new tradition in the town she credits with building her.
Tell me about the genesis of Draper James.
I started this for many reasons. First, because I was being approached by Northeastern brands to represent them and I thought, I don’t know anything about the Northeast. I don’t even go there very often. [Laughs.] Then, two years ago I was shooting a movie in Atlanta, and I noticed this boom of cultural growth in the South: in food, music, art, fashion. I saw something similar in New Orleans and other places. I feel like a lot of people who left the South are moving back and bringing with them everything they’ve learned from living elsewhere.
You source and develop much of your line in the South. Your denim is sewn in Blue Ridge, Georgia; your linen pillows in Savannah.
Southerners have such pride in their work. I was tapping into a community that already existed. I started the company myself and funded it myself so I wouldn’t have to do what someone else wanted. My goal was to create a retail experience that spoke to Southern people. I feel like Southerners have their own unique sense of style, and I wanted to be a part of telling the story of what it means to be a contemporary Southern woman.
You’ve always been a bit of an ambassador on that front.
My mother always said, “If you want to get something done, ask a Southern woman to do it.” It’s so true. No matter what you need, within twenty-four hours it has gotten done. The last movie I shot in Georgia, I couldn’t find summer camps for my kids. And I asked one friend, the phone tree happened, and before the day was over I not only had a camp but also women volunteering to drive and pick up the kids. It’s incredible how Southern women take care of each other.
A couple of weeks ago Reese attended the launch of Tiffany & Co.’s new Masterpieces collection in Singapore. Photos were added to the Gallery at the time, and within this post you can find lots of interviews from the event.
One minute with Reese Witherspoon on Tiffany’s blue carpet
Capitol Theatre was awashed in blue last night, 15 October 2015 as Tiffany & Co. celebrated the launch of their new Masterpieces collection with a posh gala dinner. On the specially-created “blue carpet,” VIP guests and celebrities alike walked the press line to enter the theatre where they had the opportunity to see the new collection, created by design director Francesca Amfitheatrof in all its glory.
Of course the excitement of the night was the appearance of actress and brand-fan Reese Witherspoon, who flew to Singapore especially to attend this event. Witherspoon has already been seen wearing the Masterpieces collection in an appearance at this year’s Met Gala which she attended alongside Amfitheatrof.
We managed to catch one minute (literally) with Witherspoon and Amfitheatrof to talk about the new Tiffany’s collection.
LifestyleAsia (LSA): When you’re getting ready for the red (or in this case, blue) carpet, do you prefer statement or more subtle jewellery?
Reese Witherspoon (RW): Well it sort of depends on what I’m wearing. If I am wearing something more romantic, I like jewellery that is more simple, more classic. But when I wear something sleek, more contemporary then I want something more romantic. It really depends — I like to mix it up.
Reese covers the December issue of US Glamour magazine, as one of their Women Of The Year. The cover, photoshoot and interview are now available for us all – read the interview below, and see the photos in our Gallery. We’ll have scans for you asap.
Reese and the other honorees (Caitlyn Jenner, Victoria Beckham, Misty Copeland, Elizabeth Holmes, Cecile Richards, the women of Charleston, and the U.S. women’s national soccer team (TheWrap.com)) will be honoured at an awards ceremony in New York City on November 9th.
Reese Witherspoon on How She’s Shaking Up Hollywood, and Why She Feels Like Gloria Steinem Told Her to Do Legally Blonde
Reese Witherspoon is a Woman of the Year because… “She’s making movies, telling stories, giving women opportunities—all because she wants her daughter to have an example of what it’s like to be a responsible human.”
—comedian and 2011 Woman of the Year Chelsea Handler
Just a few years ago, Reese Witherspoon was pitching a new movie to seven studio heads and requested an extra 30 minutes with each executive to ask one question: What do you have in the works for women? “Only one studio was developing something for a woman in the lead,” Witherspoon, 39, recalls. “They said, ‘We’re happy if you bring us something, but it’s not a part of our development.’ ” Stunned, Witherspoon started obsessing over the deficit—bringing it up at dinner parties and business meetings, to a chorus of women saying, “We know!” Yeah, I’ll bring you something, she decided.
So in 2012, Witherspoon cofounded a production company, Pacific Standard, with producer Bruna Papandrea; the duo began buying up books and scripts with female protagonists to turn into films and TV series. And by 2015, Witherspoon found out just how winning her company’s by-and-about-women formula could be. Wild and Gone Girl, its first two films, featured women not as sidekicks or arm candy but as leading ladies who go through unique personal journeys. Stars Rosamund Pike, Laura Dern, and, yes, Witherspoon herself were all nominated for Oscars—and the films banked more than $400 million worldwide at the box office. With her producing and acting credits, Witherspoon landed on Forbes’ list of highest-paid actresses and on Time’s 100 Most Influential People list. Now she’s breaking into a full-on sprint toward equality: Pacific Standard has 32 projects in the works that put women front and center. “Reese gave me the opportunity with Hot Pursuit where I was producing, where I was a main character, where I got to play a strong, Latina woman,” says Sofía Vergara. “It’s amazing, Reese is such a tiny little thing, but she’s such a strong woman—she knows what she wants, and she gets what she wants.”
With her producing business booming, Witherspoon felt she could take on another new challenge this year: a fashion brand. She launched Draper James, a Southern-inspired clothing and home line, with a flagship store in Nashville. Lest you think she’s superhuman, though, she hasn’t taken an acting gig in over a year, so she could spend time with her husband, Jim Toth, and three kids, Ava, 16, Deacon, 12, and Tennessee, 3. (And yes, they are the cutest.)
Reese Witherspoon on Her Production Company: “We Support New Female Voices in Film”
With such hits as ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Wild,’ the actress and partner Bruna Papandrea’s Pacific Standard is breaking down the boys’ club barrier.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Reese Witherspoon is known for her lovable comedic characters in Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama and her critically acclaimed work in last year’s Wild and 2005’s Walk the Line, which earned her a best actress Oscar. But it’s her work behind the scenes as a producer through her Pacific Standard banner, which she and Bruna Papandrea founded in 2012, that has made her a true industry force. “One of the best parts of our job is we’re buying books and helping authors navigate the process of getting a book all the way to the screen,” says Witherspoon, 39, who will receive the 29th American Cinematheque Award on Oct. 30.
After the successes of Gone Girl and Wild, are publishers flocking to you at Pacific Standard?
When we bought Gone Girl, we could barely get anyone to read it. But there’s been such an incredible response to our company and what we’re trying to accomplish. Cheryl Strayed went from selling 1.5 million [copies of Wild] before the film was announced to selling 6 million books in two years. That’s huge for an author.
Did you and Bruna know you would work well together right away?
I really wanted a partner, not an employee. It’s a self-funded company, and we purposely chose not to be at one studio because we wanted to be able to take material everywhere. I met with her, and I’m sure she didn’t have any idea if I wanted to just develop material for myself or if I had real perspective about other stories or business acumen. Then I sent her Wild, and she said it was amazing and wanted to start this company. The next project we got within a month was Gone Girl.
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