Reese Witherspoon’s Second Act: Big-Time Producer From Oscar-winning actress to Emmy-winning producer: After taking charge of her career, she makes deals with HBO and Apple.
A few months ago, Reese Witherspoon realized everything had changed.
HBO’s glossy, seven-episode drama, “Big Little Lies” — which Ms. Witherspoon starred in and helped produce — won eight Emmy Awards, including the one for best limited series. From the Microsoft Theater stage in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, to swelling applause, Ms. Witherspoon spoke of how important it was to bring “women to the front of their own stories and make them the heroes of their own stories.”
Not long after that night, she found herself in demand.
“It opened a lot of doors for me,” Ms. Witherspoon said in an interview this past week. “People wanted to be in business with me as a producer in the TV space. My mission was to create television for other women, for other female storytellers that are actresses, other directors and other writers. I think it just clicked in people’s minds.”
Since then, Ms. Witherspoon has transformed herself from an actress increasingly frustrated with the roles she was being offered into a producer with a slate of projects that puts her in the company of series creators like Dick Wolf, Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.
Last month, HBO ordered a second season of “Big Little Lies,” with Ms. Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, among the key companies behind the show. In addition, Apple has bought three Hello Sunshine projects as part of its push to compete with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu in streaming. That amounts to a third of Apple’s TV purchases to date.
One of the series — which is set to star Ms. Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston as hosts of a fictional morning news show — marks one of the most expensive deals in TV history: With a 20-episode commitment, Apple has pledged roughly $240 million to make it, according to two people familiar with the series. Ms. Witherspoon’s other two Apple projects will star Octavia Spencer and Kristen Wiig.
Apple’s top TV executives, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, said in a statement that Ms. Witherspoon had “an extraordinary knack for being a step ahead of the zeitgeist.”
The rise of Hello Sunshine — with projects centered on strong, complicated women — syncs up perfectly with the #timesup movement, which counts Ms. Witherspoon as a major player, and gives evidence that the risk-averse Hollywood establishment may have learned something from the blockbuster success of “Wonder Woman” last year.
“People are desperate for this kind of storytelling about the female heroes that have always been in the shadows and now are coming into the light,” Ms. Witherspoon said.
Reese is amongst a very star-studded line-up on the cover of this years Vanity Fair Hollywood issue, which has been released online today. Alongside her Big Little Lies co-star Nicole Kidman and A Wrinkle In Time co-star Oprah Winfrey, Reese is joined by Tom Hanks, Zendaya, Jessica Chastain, Claire Foy, Michael Shannon, Harrison Ford, Gal Gadot, Robert DeNiro, Michael B. Jordan and exiting Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter – what a line-up!! The issue consists of the fold-out cover photoshoot, and a small blurb on each star. Find the photos in our Gallery and Reese text snippet below:
The 2018 Vanity Fair Hollywood Portfolio: 12 Extraordinary Stars, One Momentous Year
A super-stellar lineup, including Oprah Winfrey, Robert De Niro, Nicole Kidman, and Reese Witherspoon—plus, one special cameo—took advantage of their downtime during the shoot of a historic V.F. cover.
In the quarter-century since Vanity Fair launched the Hollywood Issue, show business has changed in fundamental ways, as have magazines. But a star-studded, foldout cover remains a surefire thrill. This year’s portfolio goes inside the cover’s creation, which took place in L.A. and New York as Annie Leibovitz photographed 12 of film and TV’s most iconic actors—with a non-actor corralled for the shoot for his last V.F. hurrah.
The films and TV shows represented by the actors in this year’s Hollywood Portfolio—which for the first time offers a behind-the-scenes look at the shoot—took the #MeToo movement in stride, offering strong women in leading roles, as well as strong men supporting them. Here we have Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman summoning the women’s battle cry of Big Little Lies alongside Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, the indispensable sidekick to The Post heroine Katharine Graham. There’s also Claire Foy and Gal Gadot, embodiments of their formidable characters, the Queen and Wonder Woman, and one possible future female president in the mix. Movies have always thrived on relevance, and this year’s cover stars don’t hesitate to make a statement about the times we’re living in and the changes that need to happen.
REESE WITHERSPOON, actor, producer. 39 films, including A Wrinkle in Time (2018); one Academy Award.
Fresh from the starting gate, Reese Witherspoon radiated poignant yearning in The Man in the Moon. Only 15 at the time, Witherspoon was a natural on-screen, but a lot of naturals turn unnatural with time; not our Reese. Her special gift is for clear carbonated comedy, most memorably as Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods, whose bunny fluff conceals a snap-crackle-and-pop brain. Rom-coms aplenty followed, girded by dramatic triumphs: country madonna June Carter in Walk the Line and scary momster Madeline Martha Mackenzie in HBO’s smash mini-series Big Little Lies.
Reese Witherspoon-Zendaya Thriller ‘A White Lie’ Lands At TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures has secured worldwide distribution rights to the Zendaya-starring psychological thriller A White Lie, beating out six buyers in a competitive deal. Zendaya is producing the project with Reese Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter via their Hello Sunshine label.
Monica Beletsky penned the script, which is based on Karin Tanabe’s 2016 novel The Gilded Years. The film is inspired by the true story of African American Anita Hemmings who, passing as white, became the first Black woman to attend Vassar College, the country’s most exclusive school for women.
Hannah Minghella and Nicole Brown will oversee the project for TriStar .
Zendaya is repped by CAA, Monster Talent, and Skrzyniarz & Mallean. Hello Sunshine is repped by CAA and attorney Gretchen Rush. Tanabe is repped by Aevitas Creative Management. Beletsky is repped by CAA and Gang Tyre Ramer & Brown.
Meryl Streep to Star in ‘Big Little Lies’ Season 2 for HBO
HBO’s Big Little Lies is upping its star power for season two.
Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress Meryl Streep has boarded the premium cable network’s second season of the drama starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.
Streep will play Mary Louise Wright, the mother to the abusive Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgard), who (spoiler alert!) was revealed to have been the one who died during the Emmy-winning first season of the David E. Kelley drama based on the Liane Moriarty novel. (Skarsgard is said to be returning in some capacity for season two.)
Streep’s Mary Louise Wright is described as a woman who is concerned for the well-being of her grandchildren following her son Perry’s death. She arrives in Monterey searching for answers. (Fun fact: Kelley told THR in October that Streep — and Tom Hanks — were his dream casting goals for Big Little Lies.)
Big Little Lies took home eight Emmys and four Golden Globes and prompted the cabler to stretch beyond Moriarty’s book. Sources say season two, officially greenlit for seven episodes, will also feature the parents for Zoe Kravitz’s character, Bonnie. (Thus far, only Streep, Witherspoon and Kidman are confirmed to return as deals with the remainder of the cast are still being worked out. Sources note that the stars earned major salary bumps after Witherspoon’s sizable payday to star in and exec produce a morning show drama for Apple.)
Kelley is confirmed to return and has already penned all seven the scripts for season two, which is partially based on a story by Moriarty. HBO says season two will explore the “malignancy of lies, the durability of friendships, the fragility of marriage and, of course, the vicious ferocity of sound parenting. Relationships will fray, loyalties will erode … the potential for emotional and bodily injury shall loom.” Exec producers on season two include Kelley via his David E. Kelley Productions banner; Kidman and her Blossom Films shingle topper Per Saari, Witherspoon via Hello Sunshine, Bruna Papandrea, Andrea Arnold, Jean-Marc Vallée, Nathan Ross and Gregg Fienberg. Moriarty will produce. Arnold will direct all seven episodes and replaces Vallée behind the camera.
Streep, meanwhile, is a three-time Oscar winner (The Iron Lady, Sophie’s Choice and Kramer vs. Kramer). She earned her 21st Oscar nomination this week for her role in Steven Spielberg’s journalism film The Post. She previously earned an Emmy win for her leading role in HBO’s miniseries adaptation of Angels in America. Big Little Lies will be her largest TV role to date after Angels. She is also attached to star in J.J. Abrams TV series The Nix, which has been in the works since September 2016 and is rumored to have been set up at Amazon. Streep is repped by CAA and Gendler and Kelly.
Season two of Big Little Lies is expected to premiere in 2019 on HBO.
Reese attended the Producers Guild Awards in Beverly Hills last night, where she and her Big Little Lies producing partners were nominated for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama. Unfortunately they lost out to The Handmaids Tale team, but it’s still fantastic to see Reese being honoured as a producer in her own right from such an important guild. Reese also presented her A Wrinkle In Time director Ava DuVernay with the Visionary Award during the event:
Each year, the Visionary Award recognizes film, TV or new media producers for their unique or uplifting contributions to our culture through inspiring storytelling or performance. DuVernay is being recognized for her work in creating topical films and TV shows focusing on important social issues. They include the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning doc 13th about race and the prison system in America, and the critically acclaimed OWN drama series Queen Sugar.
Her upcoming Disney film A Wrinkle in Time makes her the first black woman to direct a film budgeted over $100 million. (Deadline)
Reese wore a sparkly brown beaded dress by Dolce & Gabbana with shoes by Chloe Gosselin for the event, and looked super chic on the red carpet. We have the first photos for you in our Gallery:
The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:
“Big Little Lies” (Season 1) (Producers: David E. Kelley, Jean-Marc Vallée, Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea, Nicole Kidman, Per Saari, Gregg Fienberg, Nathan Ross, and Barbara A. Hall)
“The Crown” (Season 2) (Producers: Peter Morgan, Stephen Daldry, Andy Harries, Philip Martin, Suzanne Mackie, Matthew Byam Shaw, Robert Fox, Andy Stebbing, and Martin Harrison)
“Game of Thrones” (Season 7) (Producers: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger, Bernadette Caulfield, Bryan Cogman, Chris Newman, Lisa McAtackney, and Greg Spence)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Season 1) (Producers: Bruce Miller, Warren Littlefield, Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears, Ilene Chaiken, Sheila Hockin, Eric Tuchman, Frank Siracusa, John Weber, Joseph Boccia, Elisabeth Moss, Kira Snyder, and Leila Gerstein)
“Stranger Things” (Season 2) (Producers: Iain Paterson, Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, The Duffer Brothers, Rand Geiger, and Justin Doble)
Kristen Wiig to Star in Reese Witherspoon-Produced Comedy Series for Apple
Kristen Wiig is set to star in a comedy ordered to series at Apple that boasts Reese Witherspoon among its executive producers, Variety has confirmed.
The 10-episode, half-hour comedy is inspired by Curtis Sittenfeld’s upcoming short story collection “You Think It, I’ll Say It.” It marks Wiig’s first regular television role since she left “Saturday Night Live” in 2012. She will also serve as an executive producer on the show.
Colleen McGuinness created the series and will serve as showrunner and executive producer. Witherspoon will executive produce via her Hello Sunshine banner along with Lauren Neustadter and Wiig. Sittenfeld will serve as a consulting producer. This also marks Apple’s first half-hour scripted comedy order.
Wiig has embarked on a successful film career since leaving “SNL,” including starring in, co-producing, and co-writing the box office hit comedy “Bridesmaids,” for which she earned an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. Her other recent film credits include “The Martian,” “Downsizing,” and “Ghostbusters.”
This marks the third project Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine have set up at Apple. She and Jennifer Aniston will also star in a currently untitled morning show drama for the streamer, and she will executive produce “Are You Sleeping,” co-produced by Chernin Entertainment with Octavia Spencer attached to star. She will also appear in a second season of the critically-acclaimed HBO series “Big Little Lies,” which she also executive produces.
In addition to the three Witherspoon projects, Apple is also prepping a reboot of “Amazing Stories” from executive producer Steven Spielberg, Ron Moore’s untitled space race drama, the drama “See” from Steven Knight and Francis Lawrence, and the docuseries “Home” from Matt Tyrnauer and Matthew Weaver.
Wiig is repped by UTA and Jackoway Tyerman. Witherspoon is repped by CAA, LBI Entertainment, and Hansen Jacobson. McGuinness is repped by WME and Hansen Jacobson.
Reese attended the Critics Choice Awards in Santa Monica last night, where Big Little Lies was nominated for several awards – and won most of them! Congratulations once again to Reese and her cast and crew for their well deserved wins. Reese posed on the red carpet with Laura Dern and Game Of Thrones star Emilia Clarke; inside the ceremony she was snapped with Octavia Spencer and her husband. Reese was cheering on Nicole Kidman, and the producers posed with their co-star Laura Dern and other cast & crew from the show during the ceremony and backstage – lots more fabulous Big Little Lies cast shots for us! Reese wore a black beaded dress by Prada, with Roger Vivier shoes, and Nikos Koulis jewellery.
We have the first HQ photos in our Gallery for you today, thanks to our friends Alexa and Sara:
Best Limited Series
American Vandal (Netflix) Big Little Lies (HBO)
Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
The Long Road Home (National Geographic)
Best Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series
Jessica Biel, The Sinner (USA)
Alana Boden, I Am Elizabeth Smart (Lifetime)
Carrie Coon, Fargo (FX) Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies (HBO)
Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies (HBO)
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series
Johnny Flynn, Genius (National Geographic)
Benito Martinez, American Crime (ABC)
Alfred Molina, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX) Alexander Skarsgård, Big Little Lies (HBO)
David Thewlis, Fargo (FX)
Stanley Tucci, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series
Judy Davis, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX) Laura Dern, Big Little Lies (HBO)
Jackie Hoffman, Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
Regina King, American Crime (ABC)
Michelle Pfeiffer, The Wizard of Lies (HBO)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Fargo (FX)
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