Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and ‘Big Little Lies’ Stars Detail Show’s ‘Tricky’ Journey
A version of this story on “Big Little Lies” first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
Four lead women in “Big Little Lies,” the HBO miniseries based on Liane Moriarty‘s book, all landed Emmy nominations, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon in the lead category and Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley in supporting. (Zoë Kravitz, the last of the main actresses, was left out.)
Dern, Woodley and actors/executive producers Kidman and Witherspoon described the rare experience of making the miniseries, which starts with a murder investigation and then slowly unveils victim, murderer and motive over 10 episodes. Alexander Skarsgard, who plays Kidman’s emotionally and physically abusive husband, was also nominated — but these conversation were about the women at the center of the miniseries.
REESE WITHERSPOON I found the manuscript and sent it to Nicole, and we decided to do the project together. She met with Liane Moriarty first and got the rights, and then we got David Kelly. And then Jean-Marc Vallee came on.
NICOLE KIDMAN For me, it was the complication of the women, and the strength of their stories, and the fact that it focused on the female relationships and was told primarily through the female point of view. That’s why the book was so appealing. And it seemed to warrant being told, because amidst the entertainment of it, underneath were issues that were incredibly topical and relevant and real.
WITHERSPOON We had to decide, Is it a miniseries or a movie? And we decided it would be better to do this for television. If we had done it as a two-hour movie, it might have been about two of the women, not all five.
KIDMAN I think it would be strange if Reese and I produced something that was all men. Don’t we have enough of those? So it was very important for us to throw our weight behind finding these great female roles, and calling our friends and people we admire. That was the glorious part of it.Continue reading this entry »
David E. Kelley on Big Little Lies season 2: ‘We’re kicking it around’
In just seven episodes, Big Little Lies unspooled a tense murder mystery and provided whip-smart commentary on the daily absurdities of family life. “It’s always tricky blending tones,” says showrunner David E. Kelley. “You don’t want those comedic beats to steal the thunder of your dramatic through lines, and you don’t want the severity of the dramatic points to snuff out the fun.”
Fortunately, it worked: The show earned 16 Emmy nominations, including Best Limited Series and a Best Writing for a Limited Series nod for Kelley. He credits Big Little Lies’ successful tightrope walk to his colleagues, all Emmy-nominated for their roles in the project themselves: director Jean-Marc Vallée (Wild) along with stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, who pulled double duty as producers.
EW chatted with Kelley about the show’s “surprise” success, what the skilled cadre of actors — also including Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Zoë Kravitz — brought to their roles, and whether he thinks the limited series might get the second season some fans are craving.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Now that we’re a few months out from Big Little Lies, what kind of responses have you received? Has anything surprised you?
DAVID E. KELLEY: It’s all been a surprise. You never know how these things will turn out. You sit down and you write them because you like them, and you congregate a cast and a crew that also responds to the material, and you make it to the best of your ability, and then you throw it out there, and you kinda cross your fingers and duck.
The first reward that you get is if we all like it and believe in what we made, so we had that. But in terms of the reaction to it, it’s just a big guess. So it was a surprise that it caught on with such a frenzy, but as surprises go, one of the better ones.
What are some of the scenes that you’re proudest of?
The ones that were the most difficult to write and the most disturbing to me were obviously the ones involving Celeste and the violence and domestic abuse. That was just tough stuff to wade into. It was really, I know, equally difficult — probably more so — for Nicole to play, and for Jean-Marc to direct. But there was some gratification when I saw it on the screen to see how well they had executed it. It was very powerful. We ended up being pretty proud of the depiction of it.
Let’s see… the finale. I loved the juxtaposition of suspense and music and love and murder. That was a big challenge to pull all that off in 60 minutes. I sat back and marveled at how well Jean-Marc balanced all those story lines and blended those tones.Continue reading this entry »
‘SNL’ Makeup Pro on Finding the Right Shade of Orange Foundation for Alec Baldwin’s Trump
“Alec will come in on some days and say he wants full orange, so it always changes,” says Louie Zakarian as more Emmy-nominated costume designers, hairstylists and beauty gurus divulge the secrets of their trade.
Big Little Lies
HBO | Costumes
For Big Little Lies’ women of Monterey, California, their clothes have a character-defining distinction. Costume designer Alix Friedberg gave each their own style and color palette, as she details: “Madeline’s [Reese Witherspoon, center] colorful, perfect exterior hides a woman desperate not to reveal she is falling apart. Celeste [Nicole Kidman, right] is effortless and stylish in a more classic way. Jane [Shailene Woodley, left] is all about her effort with raising her son, leaving very little time or energy for vanity.”
Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James Line Is Releasing a Dress Just for PeopleStyle Readers
Reese Witherspoon’s clothing line, Draper James, is one of our absolute faves, y’all!
The star, 41, has brought her signature southern-inspired style mainstream with her line of dresses, totes, skirts and more that can be worn everywhere, from a backyard BBQ to a day at the office.
“When you look good, you feel good,” Witherspoon says of her upbeat style. “It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed…. If you’re pulled together, you’re definitely going to fit in with any crowd.”
With that in mind, her brand teamed up with PeopleStyle to release a pretty little number exclusively to our readers: The Lace Rosslyn Dress, which is available for $295 at draperjames.com/peoplestyle.
The white floral lace frock features navy trim and details as well as voluminous bell sleeves. Plus, it is as chic as it is versatile. Not only does it look great on its own — it’s fitted, but not too tight, trust us! — but you can add cute extras to make it perfect for any occasion: Wear it with booties and a denim jacket for brunch, a leather jacket and heels for a girls’ night out, or a flat or kitten heel for work.
The style is available in size 0 through 14. Scoop it up before it’s gone!
Nicole Kidman, Ava DuVernay and Reese Witherspoon to Host Variety’s Television Nominees Celebration
Variety has announced the host committee for the annual Variety & Women in Film Television Nominees Celebration, which will take place Friday, Sept. 15 at Gracias Madre in West Hollywood.
The cast of “Big Little Lies” will make a big showing at the event, with Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, and Nicole Kidman all part of the committee. Emmy-nominated actresses Thandie Newton of “Westworld” and Claire Foy of “The Crown” will also make appearances, as well as Ava DuVernay, who received three Emmy nominations this year, and network and streaming executives like Mike Hopkins, CEO of Hulu and Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer at Netflix. Lena Waithe, who became the first black woman to be nominated for outstanding writing for a comedy series this year for “Master of None,” will also attend.
“We are excited to be partnering once again with Women In Film on our annual party that celebrates all the inspiring work female actors, executives, directors and writers have accomplished this year in television,” said Debra Birnbaum, executive editor of television at Variety. “This has truly been a groundbreaking year, as reflected by the Emmy nominations.”
“It has been an exciting season for female-centered television — in front of and behind the camera — with three women nominated for directing drama series,” added Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of Women in Film. “We are thrilled to be partnered with Variety once again to honor all of the female nominees as we continue to work toward achieving gender-parity in Hollywood.”
The full host committee can be found below:Continue reading this entry »
Reese held a Facebook live chat following a screening of her new movie Home Again yesterday – she chatted about her co-stars and character:
— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) August 17, 2017
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.
Listen to the podcast here
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.”Continue reading this entry »
Home Again: Reese Witherspoon explains the state of the modern rom-com
Reese Witherspoon isn’t quite sure how to categorize her next big-screen venture. “It’s about that very particular post-divorce time, and the insecurity and guilt that comes with it — so it isn’t really a romantic comedy,” she says. But first-time writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer (daughter of director Nancy Meyers) may have it sussed: “It’s a modern rom-com,” she says. “I noticed women were feeling comfortable getting divorced earlier in life, and I wanted to explore that trend.”
Witherspoon plays Alice, a 40-year-old mother of two who moves home to L.A. after her marriage falls apart. Somehow she finds herself boarding three aspiring filmmaker brothers in her guesthouse. “Together the three of them make the perfect man,” laughs Meyers-Shyer. Alice adapts nicely to live-in child care, tech support, and a relationship with the brother in his late 20s (Pico Alexander). “It’s kind of beautiful to see a May-December romance the other way around,” Witherspoon says. “It’s good to put that out there and challenge social arrays.”
The older-woman-younger-man romance isn’t the only love story in the movie. With the daughter of two Hollywood heavyweight moviemakers at the helm (father Charles Shyer produced and got an Oscar nomination for writing Private Benjamin and is also the writer-director of the Father of the Bride movies), Home Again is in part an ode to the filmmaking industry. “There’s a great love of cinema present in the film,” says Witherspoon. “Hallie is very respectful of the real craftsmanship and the sincerity of people’s artistry.” For Meyers-Shyer’s part, injecting the warm, sumptuous glow of old Hollywood was entirely intentional. “That’s exactly the quality I wanted the movie to have,” says the first-time director who grew up on movie sets watching her parents at work and learning that the position in the director’s seat was earned not awarded. “I wanted it to feel like a place you wanted to be. Hollywood is really the heart of Los Angeles and it’s based around an art form. There’s that bright reality TV thing that people picture when they think of L.A. now, so I was trying to do my part in showing L.A. as a sort of oasis and bringing back that idea of going west to follow your dreams.”
That dreamlike, candle-lit essence trickles over into the movie’s plot at times and yet, the most unlikely element of the story — a middle-aged mom taking in three jobless strangers — was actually born from reality. “When a friend of mine was growing up in L.A. her mother took in these three guys,” says Meyers-Shyer. “I love it when people tell me, ‘Oh I wish that that could actually happen; it seems like wish fulfillment,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, actually it did happen to somebody I know.’ I just thought it was very interesting and bohemian and it would fit in nicely with the character I had created.”
Still, following the true rom-com tried-and-tested formula, there had to be a male lead with enough charm to melt the best of intentions. “Casting Pico Alexander’s part was really tough,” says the writer-director. “It’s a part of a young movie star and I really wanted someone who embodied old-school Hollywood for that character. While I was writing it I pictured a young Jack Nicholson — those are some very hard shoes to fill, but Pico sent in a self tape and he just leapt off the screen.”
Nonetheless, despite the dewy backdrop and the attractive male suitor, the romantic fling isn’t the crux of the story. “That’s what makes it a modern romantic comedy,” says Witherspoon, finally giving in to that label. “It’s not about a woman finding love; it’s about a woman finding the best version of herself — and that’s very modern.”
Home Again opens Sept. 8.