Reese Witherspoon

Hollywood Actress: Reese Witherspoon Biography and Profile.
Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon (born March 22, 1976), better known as Reese Witherspoon, is an American actress and film producer. Witherspoon landed her first feature role as the female lead in the film The Man in the Moon in 1991; later that year she made her television acting debut, in the cable movie Wildflower. In 1996, Witherspoon appeared in Freeway and followed that appearance with roles in three major 1998 films: Overnight Delivery, Pleasantville and Twilight. The following year, Witherspoon appeared in the critically acclaimed Election, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination.

2001 marked her career's turning point with the breakout role as Elle Woods in the box office hit Legally Blonde, and in 2002 she starred in Sweet Home Alabama, which became her biggest commercial film success to date. 2003 saw her return as lead actress and executive producer of Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde. In 2005, Witherspoon received worldwide attention and praise for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, which earned her an Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Witherspoon married actor and Cruel Intentions co-star Ryan Phillippe in 1999; they have two children, Ava and Deacon. The couple separated at the end of 2006 and divorced in October 2007. Witherspoon married her second husband, talent agent Jim Toth, in 2011. Witherspoon owns a production company, Type A Films, and she is actively involved in children's and women's advocacy organizations. She serves on the board of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) and was named Global Ambassador of Avon Products in 2007, serving as honorary chair of the charitable Avon Foundation. On December 1, 2010, Witherspoon received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early life and education
Witherspoon was born at the former Southern Baptist Hospital (now the Ochsner Baptist Medical Center) in New Orleans, Louisiana, where her parents were living while her father was a student at Tulane University medical school. Her father, John Draper Witherspoon, Sr., is a Georgia-born otolaryngologist who previously served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army reserves. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth "Betty" (née Reese), is from Harriman, Tennessee, has a Ph.D. in pediatric nursing and works as a professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University. Witherspoon's Scottish-born distant relative, John Witherspoon, signed the United States Declaration of Independence. Because Witherspoon's father worked for the U.S. military in Wiesbaden, West Germany, she lived there for four years as a child. After returning to the U.S., she spent her childhood in Nashville, Tennessee. Although she was born to Catholic parents, she was raised as an Episcopalian.

Witherspoon was selected as a fashion model for a florist's television advertisements at age seven, which motivated her to take acting lessons. At age eleven she took first place in the Ten-State Talent Fair. Witherspoon received good grades in school; she loved reading and considered herself "a big dork who read loads of books." On mentioning her love for books, she said, "I get crazy in a bookstore. It makes my heart beat hard because I want to buy everything." Witherspoon attended middle school at Harding Academy and graduated from the all-girls' Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tennessee, during which time she was a cheerleader. She attended Stanford University as an English literature major. After completing one year of studies, she left Stanford to pursue an acting career.

Witherspoon is proud of the "definitive Southern upbringing" she received, which, as she said, gave her "a sense of family and tradition" and taught her about "being conscientious about people's feelings, being polite, being responsible and never taking for granted what you have in your life." Witherspoon is described as a "multi-achiever" and was given the nickname "Little Type A" by her parents. On discussing her early achievements, she told Interview magazine, "I just don't see any of it as that remarkable. Maybe that's the attitude I choose to have to keep me sane and keep my feet on the ground. I grew up in an environment where women accomplished a lot. And if they weren't able to, it was because they were limited by society."

Acting career
Early work (1990–1998)
In 1990, Witherspoon attended an open casting call for The Man in the Moon with some friends, intending to audition as a bit player. She was instead cast in the lead role of Dani Trant, a 14-year-old country girl who falls in love for the first time with her 17-year-old neighbor. Her performance was regarded as "memorably touching" by Variety magazine, and critic Roger Ebert commented, "Her first kiss is one of the most perfect little scenes I've ever seen in a movie." For this role, Witherspoon was nominated for the Young Artist Award Best Young Actress. Later that year, she made her TV acting debut in the cable movie Wildflower, directed by Diane Keaton and starring Patricia Arquette. In 1992, Witherspoon appeared in the TV movie Desperate Choices: To Save My Child, portraying a critically ill young girl. In 1993, she played a young wife in the CBS miniseries Return to Lonesome Dove and got a starring role as the leading character Nonnie Parker, a South African girl who must cross 1,250 miles (2,000 km) of the Kalahari, in the teen-aimed Disney film A Far Off Place. In the same year, Witherspoon had a minor role in Jack the Bear, which garnered her the Young Artist Award for Best Youth Actress Co-star. The following year, Witherspoon acted in another leading role as Wendy Pfister in the 1994 film S.F.W., directed by Jefery Levy.

In 1996, Witherspoon was offered parts in two major movies. She appeared in the thriller Fear alongside Mark Wahlberg (whom she dated) and Alyssa Milano, playing the role of Nicole Walker, a teenage girl with a handsome boyfriend who turns out to be a violent psychopath. She was also the leading actress in the thriller and black comedy Freeway, starring alongside Kiefer Sutherland and Brooke Shields. Her character, Vanessa Lutz, is a poor girl living in Los Angeles, who, on the way to her grandmother's home in Stockton, encounters a freeway serial killer. The film received positive reviews from the press. Among them was the San Francisco Chronicle, with Mick LaSalle commenting, "Witherspoon, who does a shrill Texas accent, is dazzling, utterly believable in one extreme situation after the other."

Witherspoon's performance won her the Best Actress Award at the Cognac Police Film Festival and firmly established her as a rising star. The making of the movie also gave Witherspoon significant acting experience; as she said, "Once I overcame the hurdle of that movie – which scared me to death – I felt like I could try anything." Following completion of Freeway in 1997, Witherspoon took a break from acting in major movies for a year and began dating actor Ryan Phillippe. She returned to the screen in 1998 with major roles in three movies, Overnight Delivery, Pleasantville and Twilight. In Pleasantville, Witherspoon starred alongside Tobey Maguire in a tale about a pair of 1990s teenage siblings who are magically transported into the setting of a 1950s television series. She portrayed the sister Jennifer, who is mainly concerned about appearances, relationships and popularity. Witherspoon's performance received good reviews and garnered her the Young Hollywood Award for Best Female Breakthrough Performance. Director Gary Ross said he firmly believed Witherspoon was going to be an outstanding movie star.

Early critical success (1999–2000)
In 1999, Witherspoon starred alongside Alessandro Nivola in the drama thriller Best Laid Plans; she played Lissa, a woman who schemes with her lover Nick to escape a small, dead-end town. In this same year, she co-starred with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe in the drama film Cruel Intentions, a modern take on the 18th-century French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Her performance as Annette Hargrove was praised by the San Francisco Chronicle: "Witherspoon is especially good in the least flashy role, and even when called upon to make a series of cute devilish faces, she pulls it off." Coincidentally, she appeared in a music video by Marcy Playground for the film's soundtrack. In the same year, Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick starred in the film adaptation of the 1998 novel Election by Tom Perrotta. She portrayed Tracy Flick, a competitive and ambitious over-achiever who runs for student body president. She received vast critical acclaim for her performance and won the Best Actress Award from the National Society of Film Critics and the Online Film Critics Society, a first Golden Globe nomination and an Independent Spirit Award nomination. Witherspoon also received a rank on the list of 100 Greatest Film Performances of All Time by Premiere. Academy Award – winning director Alexander Payne praised her: "She's got that quality that men find attractive, while women would like to be her friend. But that's just the foundation. Nobody else is as funny or brings such charm to things. She can do anything." In spite of her successful performance, Witherspoon noted in an interview that she struggled to find work after completing the film, due to typecasting. When analyzing the reasons behind her difficulty to find work, Witherspoon commented "I think because the character I played was so extreme and sort of shrewish – people thought that was who I was, rather than me going in and creating a part. I would audition for things and I'd always be the second choice – studios never wanted to hire me and I wasn't losing the parts to big box office actresses but to ones who I guess people felt differently about."

In 2000, Witherspoon received a supporting role in American Psycho and made a cameo appearance in Little Nicky. She also appeared as a guest star in season six of Friends, playing the role of Jill Green, Rachel Green's sister. The next year, Witherspoon provided the voice of Serena in the animated film The Trumpet of the Swan, produced by Crest Animation Productions.

Worldwide recognition (2001–2004)
2001 marked a significant turning point in Witherspoon's career, when she starred in the feature film Legally Blonde. She portrayed Elle Woods, a fashion merchandising major who decides to become a law student in order to follow her ex-boyfriend to Harvard University. Speaking about Woods' character, Witherspoon said "When I read Legally Blonde, I was like, 'She's from Beverly Hills, she's rich, she's in a sorority. She has a great boyfriend. Oh yeah, she gets dumped. Who cares? I still hate her.' So we had to make sure she was the kind of person you just can't hate." Legally Blonde was a box office hit, grossing US$96 million domestically. Witherspoon's performance earned her praise from critics, as the press began referring to her as "the new Meg Ryan". Roger Ebert commented, "Witherspoon effortlessly animated this material with sunshine and quick wit", and Salon.com noted that "she delineates Elle's character beautifully". Meanwhile, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer concluded, "Witherspoon is a talented comedian who can perk up a scene just by marching in full of pep and drive and she powers this modest little comedy almost single-handedly." For her work, Witherspoon garnered her second Golden Globe Best Actress nomination and an MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance.

Following the success of Legally Blonde, Witherspoon starred in several roles. In 2002, Witherspoon provided the voice of the animated character Greta Wolfcastle in The Simpsons episode The Bart Wants What It Wants. In the same year, she portrayed Cecily in the comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, a movie adaptation of the play by Oscar Wilde; she received a Teen Choice Award nomination for her performance. Her next feature film in 2002 was Sweet Home Alabama, a movie directed by Andy Tennant. Witherspoon, alongside Josh Lucas and Patrick Dempsey, played Melanie Carmichael, a young fashion designer who intends to marry a New York politician but must return to Alabama to divorce her childhood sweetheart, from whom she has been separated for seven years. Witherspoon regarded this as a "personal role" in that the role reminded her of experiences she had when she moved from her hometown Nashville to Los Angeles. The movie became Witherspoon's biggest box office hit to date, earning over $35 million in the opening weekend and grossing over $127 million domestically in the US. Despite the commercial success, Sweet Home Alabama was given negative reviews by critics. It was called "a romantic comedy so rote, dull and predictable" by The Miami Herald, and the press widely agreed that Witherspoon was the only factor that helped the movie attract a large audience. When describing Witherspoon's role in the movie, The Christian Science Monitor concluded, "She is not the movie's main attraction, she is its only attraction."

In 2003, Witherspoon followed up the success of Legally Blonde by starring in the sequel Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde. Her character, Elle Woods, has become a Harvard-educated lawyer who is determined to protect animals from cosmetics-industry science tests. The sequel was not as financially successful as the first movie and it generated mostly critical reviews. USA Today considered the movie "plodding, unfunny and almost cringe-worthy", but also noted that "Reese Witherspoon still does a fine job portraying the fair-haired lovable brainiac, but her top-notch comic timing is wasted on the humorless dialogue." Meanwhile, Salon.com concluded that the sequel "calcifies everything that was enjoyable about the first movie". Despite being panned by critics, the sequel took over $39 million in its first five days in the U.S. box office charts and went on to gross $90 million in the US. Witherspoon received a $15 million paycheck for the role – a starting point to make her consistently one of Hollywood's highest paid actresses from 2002 onwards.

In 2004, Witherspoon starred in Vanity Fair, adapted from the 19th-century classic novel Vanity Fair and directed by Mira Nair. Witherspoon's character – Becky Sharp – is a woman whose impoverished childhood turns her into an ambitious person with a ruthless determination to find fortune and establish herself a position in society. Witherspoon was pregnant during the filmmaking of this movie and was therefore carefully costumed to conceal her pregnancy. This pregnancy was not a hindrance to her work, as Witherspoon believed the gestation had in fact helped her portrayal of Sharp's character: "I love the luminosity that pregnancy brings, I love the fleshiness, I love the ample bosom—it gave me much more to play with", she said. The film and Witherspoon's portrayal of Sharp received good reviews, as The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Nair's cast is splendid. Witherspoon does justice to the juicy role by giving the part more buoyancy than naughtiness." At the same time, The Charlotte Observer called her work "an excellent performance that's soft around the edges" and the Los Angeles Times concluded that Becky is "a part Reese Witherspoon was born to play".

Walk the Line and beyond (2005–present)
In late 2004, Witherspoon began working alongside Mark Ruffalo on the romantic comedy Just Like Heaven. Her character, Elizabeth Masterson, is an ambitious young doctor left in a coma by a serious car accident; her spirit returns to her old apartment where she later finds true love.

Earlier that year Witherspoon was chosen to portray June Carter Cash, the second wife of country music singer and songwriter Johnny Cash, in Walk the Line. She never had the chance to meet Carter Cash, as Witherspoon was filming Vanity Fair at the time Carter Cash died. Witherspoon performed her own vocals in the movie, and her songs had to be performed in front of a live audience. When she learned that she had to perform live, Witherspoon was so worried that she asked her lawyer to terminate the film contract. "That was the most challenging part of the role," she later recalled in an interview, "I'd never sung professionally." Subsequently, she had to spend six months learning how to sing for the role. Witherspoon's portrayal of Carter Cash was well received by critics, and Roger Ebert wrote that her performance added "boundless energy" to the movie. She won several awards for her performance, including the Golden Globe Award, the Screen Actors Guild, the BAFTA and the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Lead Role. Besides critical success in the movie industry, Witherspoon and her co-star in Walk the Line Joaquin Phoenix received a nomination for "collaborative video of the year" from the CMT Music Awards. Witherspoon expressed her passion for the movie: "I really like in this film that it is realistic and portrays sort of a real marriage, a real relationship where there are forbidden thoughts and fallibility. And it is about compassion in the long haul, not just the short easy solutions to problems." She also spoke about June Carter Cash, stating that she believed Carter Cash was a woman ahead of her time: "I think the really remarkable thing about her character is that she did all of these things that we sort of see as normal things in the 1950s when it wasn't really acceptable for a woman to be married and divorced twice and have two different children by two different husbands and travel around in a car full of very famous musicians all by herself. She didn't try to comply to social convention, so I think that makes her a very modern woman."

Witherspoon's first post-Oscar role came in the modern-day fairy tale Penelope, co-starring Christina Ricci. Witherspoon played the supporting role of Annie, the best friend of Penelope, a girl who has a curse in her family. The film was produced by Witherspoon's company Type A Films and premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. After the final release date of Penelope was delayed twice, the movie eventually had a February 2008 release.

Witherspoon was back in front of the camera again in November 2006, as shooting began for the political thriller Rendition. She starred alongside Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin, Peter Sarsgaard and Jake Gyllenhaal, playing Isabella El-Ibrahim, the pregnant wife of a bombing suspect. Rendition was released in October 2007 and marked Witherspoon's first appearance in theaters in two years, since the 2005 release of Walk the Line. The movie received mostly negative reviews and was generally considered a disappointment at the Toronto Film Festival. Witherspoon's performance was also criticized: "Reese Witherspoon is surprisingly lifeless", USA Today wrote, "She customarily injects energy and spirit into her parts, but here, her performance feels tamped down." In December 2007, Witherspoon began filming the holiday comedy Four Christmases, a story about a couple who have to spend their Christmas Day trying to visit all four of their divorced parents, and in which she stars alongside Vince Vaughn. The film was released in November 2008. Despite only receiving average reviews by critics, the movie became a box office success, earning more than 120 million US dollars domestically and US$157m worldwide. Witherspoon next provided the voice for Susan Murphy, the main character of the computer-animated 3-D feature film Monsters vs. Aliens, which had a March 27, 2009 release from DreamWorks Animation. In 2009, she also produced a spin-off film of Legally Blonde called Legally Blondes, featuring Camilla "Milly" Rosso and Rebecca "Becky" Rosso.

With the exception of this animated role, Witherspoon did not appear in a live action film for two years following the release of Four Christmases. Witherspoon told Entertainment Weekly that the "break" was unplanned, stating that, "I just didn’t read anything I liked...There are a lot of really, really, really big movies about robots and things- and there’s not a part for a 34-year-old woman in a robot movie." Witherspoon returned with three films in late 2010 and 2011, all centered around Witherspoon as a woman caught in a love triangle between two men.

The first was James L. Brooks's romantic comedy How Do You Know, which starred Witherspoon as a thirty-something former national softball player who struggles to choose between a philandering baseball star boyfriend (Owen Wilson) and a business executive being investigated for white collar crime (Paul Rudd). The movie was filmed over the summer and fall of 2009 in Philadelphia and Washington, DC, and released on December 17, 2010. The movie was both a critical and box office failure. Despite an over $100 million budget, the film earned only $7.6 million in its opening weekend, leading the Los Angeles Times to call it "one of the year's biggest flops". The movie earned mainly negative reviews from critics, scoring 35% on Rotten Tomatoes with 111 reviews as of late December 2010.

Next up for Witherspoon was a second movie based on a love triangle, the film adaptation of the 1930s circus drama Water for Elephants. Witherspoon began circus training in March 2010 for her role as Marlena, a glamorous performer stuck in a marriage to a volatile husband (Christoph Waltz) but intrigued by the circus's new veterinarian (Robert Pattinson). Filming for the movie took place between late May and early August in various locations in Tennessee, Georgia and California. It was released on April 22, 2011, and received mixed critical reviews, with many citing a lack of chemistry between Witherspoon and Pattinson.

In September 2010, Witherspoon began principal photography in Vancouver for the third film, This Means War, a 20th Century Fox spy comedy directed by McG, in which Witherspoon stars as a woman at the center of a battle between two best friends (played by Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) who are both in love with her. The film is scheduled to be released on February 17, 2012.

Nearly a year after completing work on This Means War, Witherspoon began filming Jeff Nichols's coming-of-age drama Mud in Arkansas in September 2011. Witherspoon will star as the former girlfriend of a fugitive, played by Matthew McConaughey, who enlists two teenage boys to help him escape capture and rekindle his romance with Witherspoon's character. It is slated for a 2013 release.

It has been announced that Witherspoon will produce (under the Type A banner) and star in both Pharm Girl, a film about a woman who takes on the pharmaceutical industry, and a Peggy Lee biopic to be directed by Nora Ephron. Witherspoon's name has also been attached to a number of other possible future films, including a Universal Pictures remake of the 1939 comedy Midnight, scripted by Michael Arndt, and the horror film Our Family Troubles, which she would produce through Type A with Jennifer Simpson, co-producer of Legally Blonde 2. Witherspoon is also rumoured to be taking on a role alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman in Paul Thomas Anderson's upcoming film based on the history of Scientology, tentatively titled The Master. Witherspoon received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on December 1, 2010 at 6262 Hollywood Blvd.

In October 2011, Reese Witherspoon and Jason Segel at least begun potentially make a movie called "Sex Tape" for Sony Pictures, if not make about a real sex tape.

Personal life
Witherspoon met American actor Ryan Phillippe at her 21st birthday party in March 1997. The couple became engaged in December 1998, and married in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 5, 1999, at Wide Awake Plantation. They have two children: a daughter named Ava Elizabeth, born September 9, 1999, and a son Deacon Reese, born October 23, 2003. In October 2006, Witherspoon and Phillippe announced that they had decided to separate formally after seven years of marriage. The following month, Witherspoon filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. In her petition she sought joint legal custody of their two children and sole physical custody, with full visitation rights for Phillippe. The couple had no prenuptial agreement and the couple would be entitled to half of all assets gained during the marriage under California law, with Witherspoon's being the more significant. Witherspoon requested that the court grant no spousal support for Phillippe, which he did not contest. On May 15, 2007, Phillippe filed for joint physical custody of the couple's children and made no motion to block Witherspoon from seeking support from him. Witherspoon and Phillippe's final divorce documents were granted by the Los Angeles Superior Court on October 5, 2007.

Throughout 2007, there was persistent speculation in the mass media about a romantic relationship between Witherspoon and her Rendition co-star Jake Gyllenhaal. After the finalization of Witherspoon's divorce in October 2007, Gyllenhaal and Witherspoon became more open with their relationship, particularly due to the release of paparazzi pictures that showed the couple vacationing together in Rome. In March 2008, Phillippe was the first to confirm the relationship in interviews conducted during the promotion of his latest film. The couple was reported to have split in December 2009.

In early February 2010, it was reported that Witherspoon had begun dating Jim Toth. Witherspoon and Toth announced their engagement on December 28, 2010, and married on March 26, 2011 in Ojai, California at Witherspoon's country estate.

Witherspoon was once romantically linked to fellow actor Chris O'Donnell.

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