Reese and her Big Little Lies crew attended a press conference for their new show at the Television Critics Association’s Press Tour in California yesterday. Reese was joined by co-stars Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, and Zoe Kravitz, director Jean-Marc Vallee, and co-producers Bruna Papandrea, David E. Kelly and Per Saari. The group spoke about the lack of quality roles for women in TV/film, and motherhood – read all the quotes in the articles below. Reese wore a smart orange dress from Draper James, with shoes by Christian Louboutin and Jennifer Meyer jewellery. Find lots of HQ photos from the event in our Gallery:
• HBO Winter TCA Press Tour x46
Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman on Changing Hollywood: ‘We Have to Start Seeing Women on Film as They Really Are’
“For 25 years, I’ve been the only woman on set so I had no one to talk to,” Reese Witherspoon said, as she sat with her many female co-stars of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Saturday.
“They call it the Smurfette syndrome,” the Oscar-winner joked of being the sole woman surrounded by many men. Then she quipped: “Who gave birth to all these Smurfs?”
Thanks to “Big Little Lies,” Witherspoon doesn’t have to worry about the “Smurfette syndrome.” But that’s only because she took action and shepherded the project herself, alongside her former producing partner Bruna Papandrea and co-star Nicole Kidman.
Based on Liane Moriarty’s 2014 novel of the same name, Witherspoon and Kidman — who both serve as executive producers and star in the seven-part limited series — optioned the book rights through their separate production companies. The A-list duo became invested in the story because of its opportunity to put many diverse women on the screen.
“I think what was great about reading the novel for the first time is that I saw myself in different stages of motherhood all through my life. I was a mom at 22, I was a mom at 40… I’ve been divorced, I’ve been re-married.” Witherspoon said, speaking of the varying characters, played be herself, Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Laura Dern. “They showed every spectrum and color of a woman’s life. I thought it was incredible to have so many parts for women in one piece of material.”
“I’m passionate because things have to change,” Witherspoon said at the press event in Pasadena, Calif. “We have to start seeing women on film as they really are… We need to see real women’s experiences… The constant incredible talent of women playing wives and girlfriends, I had enough.”
Kidman said that when she read the book, she related to the female characters, though the comic drama adapted by David E. Kelley centers on a larger-than-life premise: three mothers of kindergartners whose apparently perfect lives unravel to the point of murder.
“This piece is about women helping each other and women supporting each other, which was very important to Reese and I,” Kidman noted. “I love that it’s about women coming together and making something happening very quickly, with friendship being the core of it.”
Kidman added, “We were excited to show the lives of these women in a very authentic way, and yet, entertaining.”
When asked how she spots projects that she wants to produce, Witherspoon responded, “I think the constant question for me is, how am I discovering something about a woman on film that I’ve never seen before? With this piece, I feel like it was such a unique opportunity to have women at every age, every color talking about motherhood. That is the common denominator. Motherhood is the great equalizer. Parenthood is a great equalizer.”
Kravitz also said that she was excited to play a mother — something that’s a stretch from real life for the actress.
“I hadn’t played a mother yet. And I’m not a mother yet, so it felt like new and beautifully interesting territory,” Kravitz said.
Both Witherspoon, 40, and Kidman, 49, complimented their co-stars Kravitz, 28, and Woodley, 25, with Witherspoon admitting that she was delightedly shocked that the budding actresses wanted to join the project.
“It’s a unique opportunity working with these two beautiful and amazing and incredibly talent young women,” Witherspoon said. “I couldn’t believe you signed on. We were really excited.”
The cast shared that director Jean-Marc Vallée, who’s at the helm all seven episodes, played a huge part in bringing the cast together. Witherspoon said he was less interested in rehearsal and more interested in getting everyone together for dinner — and yes, wine.
“We see each other as humans,” Witherspoon explained of the benefit of getting to know her co-stars outside of work. “We are on this journey as women. ”
Kidman echoed Witherspoon’s sentiment of women supporting other women on set.
“I’m at the stage in my life when I want to work with people that I really like,” Kidman said. “This is the perfect combination.”
“It’s so refreshing to spend time with all of these women,” Witherspoon added, giving a nod to her cast for the “collective performance,” going as far to say, “I really feel more strongly than anything I’ve ever done, and this is the greatest ensemble experience I’ve ever had.”
Witherspoon hopes that her stellar experience on the HBO series translates off screen into the high-powered offices in Hollywood. Stressing the importance of creating deeper and realistic roles for women, she said, “These are the kinds of things the shift consciousness.”
Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman tell ‘Big Little Lies’ on HBO
Five actresses are telling Big Little Lies.
HBO’s miniseries adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s bestselling novel, a murder mystery wrapped up in a story about five women, all moms of first-graders, is due Feb. 19. Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, both executive producers, star in the project, along with Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz.
When she read the novel, “I saw myself in various stages of motherhood all through my life,” Witherspoon, who optioned the project, told TV critics Saturday. “There were so many aspects of it that were so relateable” in telling a story about women’s lives. “It wasn’t about (the women) being good or bad,” she says.
After doing films where she was a rare female lead, “It was so refreshing to spend time with so many women; this is the greatest ensemble experience I’ve ever had.”
Adds Kidman: “It’s very rare to find five roles for women” that are all multi-dimensional.
The women don’t always get along, and neither do their husbands. Witherspoon describes her Madeline Mackenzie as a “bossy know-it-all” who’s “concealing” something. Woodley is a newcomer to town, and an outcast. Dern plays a villain.
But “as much as there’s conflicts between us when you see the full seven hours it’s about women supporting each other,” says Kidman.
Nicole Kidman stars as Celeste Wright in HBO’s ‘Big
Nicole Kidman stars as Celeste Wright in HBO’s ‘Big LIttle Lies.’ (Photo: HBO)
A wrinkle: The series, which transfers the action to Monterey, Calif., from the book’s setting in Australia, opens with a murder at a social gala, but both the victim and the culprit aren’t revealed until the end.
David E. Kelley, who wrote the adaption, says the project is similar to his earlier work on Ally McBeal and other shows through its mix of comedy and drama. But the biggest challenges were “living up to the book, living up to the complications of all the characters, and making cuts to the story line for television.”
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman Open Up About the Woes of Motherhood in ‘Big Little Lies’
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman team up for HBO’s star-studded miniseries, Big Little Lies, and for the pair, the project was a dream.
Based on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling 2014 novel of the same name, Big Little Lies centers on a group of women — all in different stages of motherhood — in Monterey, California, whose seemingly perfect lives begin to unravel to the point of murder.
Witherspoon and Kidman play two of the women, Madeline Mackenzie and Celeste Wright, respectively, and also serve as executive producers on the seven-part miniseries. Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, Alexander Skarsgard and Adam Scott also star.
“What was great about reading the novel for the first time was that I saw the different stages of motherhood all through my life. I was a mom when I was 22, like Jane [Woodley’s character], and I was a mom when I was 40, like Maddie. I’ve been divorced. I’ve been remarried. There were so many aspects of it that were so relatable,” Witherspoon, 40, told reporters during HBO’s Television Critics Association press day on Saturday.
“I was lucky because when I read the book, I really related to all the women in the book and I’ve met many women who’ve felt the same way,” added Kidman, 49. “When you see the series, I wouldn’t call them helicopter mothers — some of them are very attentive. There is such an array of emotions in the piece and that’s what we excited to show the lives of these women in a very authentic way and yet entertaining.”
An extended trailer for the limited series gave a glimpse into the gorgeous look of the world, much of which was enhanced by the enviable fashion inhabited by the characters and the direction of Jean-Marc Vallee.
“There was a way in which we wanted to present her because she has some barriers, which she has put up for protection because of things that are going on in her life yet she wants to be presentable,” Kidman said of her character Celeste’s unique style.
Witherspoon spoke about why she was specifically drawn to the complicated universe of Big Little Lies.
“The constant question for me is how am I discovering something about women on film that I haven’t seen before and how am I creating something that hasn’t been done before,” she said. “I feel like it was such a unique opportunity to have women at every age, every color talking about motherhood. That is the common denominator. Parenthood is a great equalizer.”
She also reflected on her perspective on playing a mother at 40, admitting that her outlook on parenting now has changed drastically since giving birth to her daughter, Ava, at 23 years old.
“When [you’re a young mother], you’re like, ‘Oh, they’re going to be fine!’ As you get older, it’s ‘Am I taking them to the ballet?'” Witherspoon said. “When you get past survival, I think that’s what’s so interesting about the piece and motherhood. It’s about what you think you’re creating for your children, when it’s really just an artifice.”
“My daughter Sunday said to me this morning that I was overprotective,” Kidman quipped.
Kidman spoke at length — and glowingly — about working behind the scenes with Witherspoon.
“We’re very, very close friends. we’re able to talk about everything. A lot of the conversation is personal and then it’s about work,” she shared. “I love that it’s about women making something happen with friendship at the core of it. [I’m] at a stage in my career where I want to be with people that I really like. This was the perfect combination.”
Witherspoon also opened up about why she was actively pursuing women’s stories through her production company, Pacific Standard.
“We have to see them as they are. We have to see real women’s experiences,” Witherspoon said, adding that she was tired of seeing talented actresses play the role of wife and girlfriend. “I just had enough. These are the kinds of things that shift consciousness.”
Reese Witherspoon Made ‘Big Little Lies’ Because She Had Enough of Hollywood Reducing Women to ‘Wives and Girlfriends’
“Big Little Lies” is about, on its surface, women who go to war with each other. But if you look deeper, you’ll see a meaningful bond between friends, insightful conversations about who we are and what we want, as well as — perhaps above all else — women fighting back, together.
“As much as there is conflict, this piece is about women supporting each other,” Nicole Kidman said.
“I love that it’s about women coming together and making something happen very quickly,” Reese Witherspoon added.
Starring Kidman, Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, and Zoe Kravitz (all of whom were on hand Sunday), the HBO adaptation of “Big Little Lies” is told from the perspective of three mothers: Jane (Woodley), a newcomer to Monterrey who moved there to provide a better life for her son, Madeline (Witherspoon), a take-charge, part-time worker, full-time mom who befriends Jane on the first day school, and Celeste (Kidman), a devoted mother (with a secret personal life) and long-time friend of Madeline.
Yet even with three protagonists, the story is shared in flashback after a local murder puts the community’s passive aggressive disputes under police scrutiny. Who did it? Who died? The mystery goes on, as these women guide us through rising conflict.
“There are five great roles here [for women],” Kidman said. “It’s very, very rare.”
And that’s part of the reason Witherspoon got behind the project as a producer. Snagging Kidman first and then reaching out to Woodley, Kravitz, and Dern, Witherspoon was excited about the project for artistic and personal reasons.
“I was excited to come to women with parts that I’m excited about,” Witherspoon said. “All these talented women playing wives and girlfriends, I just had enough.”
Witherspoon enthusiastically and specifically targetted her “Wild” director, Jean-Marc Vallee, to steer the project. After initially hiring him to helm the first two episodes, both Kidman and Witherspoon “attacked him, begged him” to direct the rest of the limited series. And he did.
“To have someone step in to try to mimic his style and voice, it wouldn’t have worked,” Kidman said.
“He’s there with you,” Witherspoon said. “He’s not separate. He’s part of the performance. He doesn’t see race or gender. He’s the most compassionate human.”
Vallee encouraged the group to spend time together off camera to get to know each other better before shooting began.
“[Now] we’re very, very close friends, and we’re able to talk about anything,” Witherspoon said. “A lot of the conversation has been personal, and then we’d go to work. […] So when you get to the scene on the day, there’s an understanding that’s much deeper than character.
This kind of experience was unique to Witherspoon for more than just the friendships she forged.
“For 25 years, I’ve been the only woman on set,” Witherspoon said. “They call it the Smurfette Syndrome: There’s 100 [male] smurfs around and only one woman. […] Here, I’d call Nicole and Laura, and we nurtured each other’s performances. It’s really a collective performance for all of us.”
Witherspoon has been a long-time activist and philanthropist. She’s the honorary chairperson of the Avon Foundation, which supports breast cancer research and domestic violence prevention, and she’s been growing more and more active as a producer (“Gone Girl,” “Wild,” and five other announced projects) in an effort to create better roles for women.
“I’m passionate because things have to change,” Witherspoon said. “We have to see women as they really are, and not just in movies with a tiny budget. […] We need to see these things because we as human beings learn from art, and what can we do if we never see that reflected?”
“Big Little Lies” premieres February 19 on HBO.
Reese Witherspoon on Hollywood’s limiting roles for women: ‘Things have to change’
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman are hoping their upcoming HBO limited series “Big Little Lies” is one small step toward big changes in Hollywood.
“The real amazing part was really digging deep into the lives of women,” Witherspoon told reporters Saturday during a panel for the show at the Television Critics Association press tour. “It wasn’t about [the characters] being good or bad, [the script] showed every spectrum and every color of women’s lives.”
The two Academy Award winning actresses are executive producers on the new show, alongside Jean-Marc Vallée (“Wild”) and David E. Kelley (“Ally McBeal”) and Bruna Papandrea (“Gone Girl”).
The project, based on the Liane Moriarty novel of the same name, centers on a group of mothers in Monterey, California whose pasts and presents intersect, with a side of murder mystery.
Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz also star.
Kidman said the story was one of “women supporting each other,” which was important to her and Witherspoon as producers.
“I’m passionate [about producing] because things have to change,” Witherspoon said. “We have to start seeing women as they really are on film.”
She added: “We need to see things because we as human beings learn from art and what can you do if you never see it reflected? I feel like women of incredible talent [are constantly] playing wives and girlfriends … I’ve just had enough.”
A 2015 report from USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative found that women played less than a third of speaking roles in the top films from 2007-14.
As a producer, Kidman added, it was a thrill to be able to approach fellow actresses with great, multi-dimensional roles.
“It’s very rare to find five roles in one piece that we’d all jump at the chance to play,” Kidman said.
“Big Little Lies” premieres February 19 on HBO.
Reese Witherspoon Chokes up While Talking About Sexism in Hollywood
Reese Witherspoon was a teenager when she first started working in Hollywood and only 30 when she won her Oscar for Walk the Line, but over two decades into her career, the actress has gained another reputation: keen-eyed producer. Specifically, Witherspoon has focused on prestige, literary adaptations with meaty roles for women like Wild and Gone Girl. Her upcoming limited series on HBO, Big Little Lies, is no exception. With five main parts for women—the show based on the Liane Moriarty novel of the same name—allowed Witherspoon to surround herself with talented actresses and right what she perceives as a long-simmering Hollywood wrong.
Speaking at the Televisions Critics Association Winter Press Tour, Witherspoon at first joked about the female-friendly cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Zoë Kravitz. “For 25 years I’ve been the only woman on set—they call it the Smurfette Syndrome. She’s the only woman around—who gave birth to all those Smurfs anyway?—so I had no women to talk to,” she said of the pleasure of working with other women on Big Little Lies. Director Jean-Marc Vallee (Wild) encouraged Witherspoon and her co-stars to share dinners and “wine” instead of more traditional rehearsal projects in order to create a real intimacy on-set.
But after Smurf jokes and dinner party stories, Witherspoon got a bit more series. Answering a question about why female-focused stories are such a priority for her, she answered:
“I’m passionate because things have to change. We have to start seeing women as they really are in film. And not just in a movie theater with a tiny budget. We need to see real women’s experience whether it involves domestic violence, whether is involves sexual assault whether it involves motherhood or romance or infidelity or divorce.
We need to see these things because we as human beings we learn from art and what can you do if you never see it reflected? I feel like I constantly see women of incredible talent playing wives and girlfriends in thankless parts, I just had enough.
It’s a unique pleasure to be able to come to other women with a piece of material I feel deeply proud of and excited to see their performance. These are the kinds of things that shift consciousness.”
Kidman agreed saying that it was “rare to find five roles in a piece that we would all jump to play.” Witherspoon said watching performances from Kidman and the rest choked her up and let her emotions slightly overtake her on the TCA stage. Not just because they were so good, she explains, but because this opportunity is so rare. Big Little Lies premieres February 19 on HBO.
Nicole Kidman on Reese / Reese on the show’s characters
‘We’re very, very close friends. We’re able to talk about everything…I love that it’s about women making something happen with friendship at the core of it,’ Kidman said.
Kidman added: ‘I was lucky because when I read the book, I really related to all the women in the book and I’ve met many women who’ve felt the same way.
‘I wouldn’t call them helicopter mothers – some of them are very attentive.
‘There is such an array of emotions in the piece and that’s what we excited to show the lives of these women in a very authentic way and yet entertaining.’
‘It was so refreshing to spend time with so many women; this is the greatest ensemble experience I’ve ever had,’ the Wild star divulged.
Reese continued: ‘I’m passionate because things have to change. We have to start seeing women as they really are in film. And not just in a movie theater with a tiny budget.
‘We need to see real women’s experience whether it involves domestic violence, whether is involves sexual assault whether it involves motherhood or romance or infidelity or divorce…These are the kinds of things that shift consciousness.’
Witherspoon said that her character Madeline Mackenzie is a ‘bossy know-it-all,’ and Woodley’s character Jane Chapman is a newcomer to town.
Why Reese Witherspoon Believes Big Little Lies Is Important for Women in Hollywood
Not only does Big Little Lies mark Reese Witherspoon’s first significant foray into television, but the actress sees the limited series adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s best-selling book as an important part of a necessary paradigm shift regarding the sort of roles offered to women in Hollywood.
“I’m passionate because things have to change. We have to start seeing women as they really are on film. We have to. And not just in movie theaters on a tiny budget,” she told reporters during the show’s panel at the 2017 Winter TCA Press Tour. “We need to see real women’s experience, whether it involves domestic violence, whether it involves sexual assault, whether it involved motherhood of romance or infidelity or divorce. We need to see these things because we as human beings, we learn from art and what can you do if you never see it reflected?”
The actress, who’d grown weary of what she referred to the “Smurfette Syndrome” on the sets of her films (think one woman among many, many men), felt very strongly about bringing the series’ quintet of complicated female roles to life. “I feel like the constant women of incredible talent playing wives and girlfriends with thankless parts, I just had enough,” she said. “It’s a unique privilege to be able to come to other women with a piece of material I feel deeply proud of and excited to see their performances. These are the kinds of things that shift consciousness.”
Big Little Lies centers on three mothers (Witherspoon, fellow executive producer Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley) of kindergartners whose seemingly perfect lives unravel to the point of murder. Zoë Kravitz and Laura Dern round out the quintet, with Adam Scott and Alexander Skarsgård on board as well.
For fans of the book, before you begin worrying about all the ways the adaptation will stray from the source material, David E. Kelley (who wrote all seven episodes) is here to calm your fears. “The easy part was I could stay faithful to the story. I love the book, I was really drawn to the characters,” the prolific TV producer admitted. “What was challenging was probably living up to the book, living up to the complications that were there in those characters. And also having to make cuts…But it was a pretty smooth process and a fun process, overall, and I give credit to Liane. She wrote a fun piece.”
Big Little Lies premieres Sunday, Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Reese Witherspoon & Nicole Kidman Say HBO’s ‘Big Little Lies’ Speaks Truth – TCA
Reese Witherspoon, star and exec producer of HBO’s Big Little Lies, told a TCA audience today that she’s sick of seeing “women with talent playing wives and girlfriends.” Little wonder, then, that the darkly comic novel written Liane Moriarty had such appeal: The book’s women certainly star in their own lives, even when things go very, very bad.
Said costar and fellow EP Nicole Kidman, “This piece for me was the story of women that I know, and it was a way which we could go to other women with five great roles that were complicated and deserve to be told. It’s very rare to find five roles in one piece that we’d all jump at a chance to play.”
The darkly comic drama Big Little Lives follows a group of California women – mothers of first-graders at the same school – who become linked to a murder.
Said Witherspoon, “It’s a unique privilege to be able to come to other women with a piece of material that I feel deeply proud of and excited for. These are the kinds of things that shift consciousness.”
David E. Kelley, who adapted the book for TV, called the process “both easy and challenging.”
“The easy part was that I could stay faithful to the story,” Kelley said. “I loved the book and the characters. The architecture was there and the character development was there, the world was there. What was challenging was living up to the book and the complications of some of those characters.”
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, Big Little Lies also stars Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgard, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, Zoe Kravitz, James Tupper and Kathryn Newton.
The seven-episode drama debuts February 19 on HBO.
‘Big Little Lies’ an Important Step for Women, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman Say
HBO’s Big Little Lies miniseries marks an important step for women, stars and executive producers Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman told reporters Saturday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.
Based on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling book of the same name, Witherspoon and her producing partner Bruna Papandrea, optioned the book and quickly brought Kidman in for what at the time was planned as a feature film. Ultimately, the project was taken out to premium cable and streaming outlets before landing at HBO.
The novel and subsequent series centers on three mothers (played by Witherspoon, Kidman and Shailene Woodley) to kindergartners whose seemingly perfect lives unravel to a murder-mystery that takes place during a disastrous parents’ night at an elementary school fundraiser.
“Reading the novel for the first time, I saw myself at different stages of motherhood through my life,” Witherspoon said, noting that like Woodley’s Jane, she too was a mother at 22, and like her character Madeline, got divorced and remarried at 40. “It explores so many aspects that are relatable to the lives of women; it wasn’t about them being good or bad — they showed every spectrum and every color of women’s lives. It presented a unique opportunity to have so many incredible parts for women in one piece of material.”
Papandrea noted that she and Witherspoon are constantly looking for projects with multiple voices for women and, given how rare kind of material is, said it was like “nirvana” when they read early proofs for Big Little Lies. “Our mandate was to put women at the center of stories,” she said.
“For 25 years, I’ve been the only woman on set,” Witherspoon said. “They call it Smurfette Syndrome [as in] she’s the only woman around — who gave birth to all those Smurfs anyway? — so I had no one to talk to. … we have to start seeing women how they actually are on film — we need to see real women’s experience — whether that involves domestic violence, sexual assault, romance, infidelity or divorce. We as human beings learn from art.”
The prolific actress and producer noted that she “had enough” of seeing talented women “playing wives and girlfriends in thankless roles” and that she is at a place in her career where she has the “unique privilege” to come together with other women to work on material like Big Little Lies.
Summed up Kidman of the seven-hour miniseries which co-stars Zoe Kravitz and Laura Dern as fellow parents in the Monterey community: “It’s rare to find roles for five women in one piece … that we’d all jump at the chance to play.”
Big Little Lies bows Feb.19 on HBO.