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How Reese Witherspoon became one of Hollywood’s most powerful women




R.eese Witherspoon knows what it’s like to be underestimated. In 2012 her name appeared in an article in The New Yorker magazine. Witherspoon, it said, was one of a number of actors who “were big stars ten years ago”. The American had her breakthrough in 2001 with the comedy “Naturally Blond”, won an Oscar for the role of June Carter in the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line” in 2005 and moved from one flop to the next in the years that followed. At 36, it seemed, her career was over.

Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in

Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in “Naturally Blonde 2” with her lap dog in her handbag

Source: pa / dpa / Fox

In truth, she hadn’t really started yet. In addition to being an actress, Reese Witherspoon is now an entrepreneur and producer, and one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. Last week it was announced that the 45-year-old had sold her production company Hello Sunshine to a media company of the investment company Blackstone – according to media reports for 900 million dollars. They are well invested, after all, Witherspoon has proven with successful in-house productions that she has a flair for good stories. The focus is always on women who have long been ignored by Hollywood studio bosses and directors. Ironically, the so well-behaved Witherspoon understood that feminism packaged as good entertainment can conquer the mainstream. So she broke the power structure in Hollywood and promoted herself to the top. And that helped her:

1. She has big goals

Reese Witherspoon could have turned into a lot. Perhaps even the first woman to hold office as President of the United States, after all, this was the career aspiration she expressed in school class in third grade. She graduated with top marks and began studying at the elite Stanford University. The many role offers finally lured her to Hollywood, including the one for Tracy Flick in “Election”: a student eaten away by ambition who wants to win the election of Head Girl by all means possible – and manages to do so.

2. She doesn’t give up

If it had been up to the studio bosses, Reese Witherspoon would never have got the role of the pink-loving law student Elle Woods in the film “Naturally Blonde”. So the then 23-year-old, who had just had a child, gave everything. She went through multiple auditions and played the role of Elle Woods throughout, including a Southern California accent, in meetings with managers from the studio. That was convincing. The film grossed 145 million dollars worldwide and inspired a second part and a musical. Part three is due to appear in spring 2022.

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3. She’s a bookworm

Witherspoon is said to read between three to four books a week. This is how she finds material for films and series that she produces with Hello Sunshine. Up until now she has always met the taste of the masses. The thriller “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn became her company’s first major production success in 2014, and in 2015 she was nominated for an Oscar for the drama “Wild”, which is based on the biography of the dropout Cheryl Strayed and in which she plays the lead role. The more than two million Instagram followers of their digital Reese’s Bookclub also rely on the actress’ tips.

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Instagram / Reesesbookclub

4. It puts women at the center

When Witherspoon was looking for more challenging roles for female protagonists after her success with “Walk the Line”, she realized: There were hardly any roles like this in Hollywood. So she just created it herself. In 2012 she founded her first own production company and bought the rights to “Gone Girl” and “Wild”, both of which revolve around imperfect, complex female characters. The HBO series “Big Little Lies”, which is also based on a novel, even has several of them: Five girlfriends who get together to cover up a murder. An average of ten million people saw the second season. “I want to change the way women are portrayed in the media,” writes Witherspoon in an Instagram post.

5. She stands by her friends

Witherspoon has copied an important strategy from the “boys clubs” in the film industry: women should also help and support one another. In her productions, she not only relies on female stars, but also on female employees in all areas, from direction to camera or sound.

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Her personal network includes superstars such as Laura Dern, Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman. Incidentally, the latter also owns a production company, which in 2014 also expressed an interest in the filming of “Big Little Lies”. When Witherspoon found out about this, she didn’t think about outbidding the competitor – she suggested that Kidman work on the project together.




Reese Witherspoon with Nicole Kidman (left) and Shailene Woodley in

Reese Witherspoon with Nicole Kidman (left) and Shailene Woodley in “Big Little Lies”

Source: © Home Box Office, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

6. She is Tennessee’s best ambassador

Witherspoon has come a long way, but she has never left her homeland behind. She spends several months a year in her home in Nashville, the city of her birth in the southern US state of Tennessee, where her parents and siblings also live. Her favorite restaurant: “Hattie B’s”, which is the best place to order the local specialty, fried chicken. Which, by the way, As a real southern subsidiary, Witherspoon can also prepare very well himself.

7. She uses her humor in her career

Reese Witherspoon likes to play the good-humored “All American Girl”, but she never presented herself as particularly revealing or lascivious, always showing a sunny smile instead of cleavage and lots of legs. There was a lot of calculation behind this, as she told Vanity Fair magazine in 2019. “I always say: humor never goes limp. Your breasts, your bum, your face, it all hangs down at some point. But you can always be funny. “

8. She supports the #MeToo movement

At the age of 16, Witherspoon was sexually molested by a director. She didn’t talk about it until years later, when other women went public with allegations of abuse and rape against producer Harvey Weinstein. In 2018, Witherspoon and colleagues founded the Time’s Up initiative, which advocates more equality in the film industry and advises and financially supports victims of sexual violence in the workplace.

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9. She is as down-to-earth as possible

A glass of rosé after work, cuddling with Great Dane Minnie Pearl, living room dances with the kids: Reese Witherspoon’s Instagram account is hardly different from that of a warm-hearted southern mom – apart from the selfies with Jennifer Aniston or Laura Dern. The actress is maximally undivine and down-to-earth, which also describes the image of her fashion label Draper James well. This specializes in cheerful floral dresses at affordable prices.

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