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Reese Witherspoon

Birthday
22 Mar 1976 (Age 42)

Reese Witherspoon Biography

Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, better known as Reese Witherspoon, is an American actress and film producer, who has established herself as a one of Hollywood's top actresses in the years. In 1998, she appeared in three major movies: 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 the lead actress and executive producer of Legally Blonde 2.

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, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for the Best Actress.

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 owns a production company named Type A Films. 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.

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 the Tulane University medical school. Her father, John Witherspoon, is a Georgia-born otolaryngologist who previously served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army reserves.

Her mother, 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 has claimed to be a descendant of Scottish-born John Witherspoon, the sixth president of Princeton University and a signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence. This genealogical claim, however, has never been verified.

Because Witherspoon's father worked for the U.S. military in Wiesbaden, Germany, she lived there for four years as a small child. After returning to the U.S., she settled and spent her childhood in Nashville, Tennessee, where she was raised as an Episcopalian.

Witherspoon was selected as a 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."

Witherspoon attended middle school at Harding Academy and graduated from the prestigious 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.

Acting Career

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 neighbour. 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 mini series Return to Lonesome Dove, and got a starring role as the leading character Nonnie Parker, a South African girl who must cross 1250 miles (2000 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.

Early Critical Success

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.

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 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. Legally Blonde was a box office hit, grossing US$96 million worldwide.

Witherspoon's performance earned her praise from critics. 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 a 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 internationally. 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." 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 internationally.

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 film-making 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

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.

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. The final release date of Penelope was delayed twice, and the movie was then set for 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. 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 100 million US dollars worldwide.

Later in 2008, Witherspoon was set to star in a Universal Pictures remake of the 1939 comedy Midnight, scripted by Michael Arndt. In 2009, Witherspoon took to the horror genre for the first time as a star of Our Family Troubles, which she produced under the Type A banner, partnering with Jennifer Simpson, co-producer of Legally Blonde 2.

She also provided the voice for Susan Murphy, the main character of the computer-animated 3-D feature film Monsters vs. Aliens, which was scheduled for a March 27, 2009 release from DreamWorks Animation. Her other projects also included voicing in The Bear and the Bow, a computer-animated 3-D film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures; the film was scheduled for a release in Christmas 2011.

Personal Life
 
Marriage


Witherspoon met American actor Ryan Phillippe at her 21st birthday party in March 1997, where she introduced herself to him saying "I think you're my birthday present." The couple became engaged in December 1998, and got married in Charleston, South Carolina on June 5, 1999 at Wide Awake Plantation, following the release of the box office hit Cruel Intentions.

They have two children: a daughter named Ava Elizabeth, born September 9, 1999, and a son Deacon Reese, born October 23, 2003. To be able to look after the children, the couple alternated shooting schedules for their films.

By 2005, in response to news reports of Witherspoon and Phillippe receiving marriage counseling, Witherspoon stated, "We've done that in the past, and it's always struck me as odd that people grabbed onto that story and made it sound so negative." In December 2005, she said on The Oprah Winfrey Show, "In what capacity is working on yourself or your marriage a bad thing? What marriage isn't a journey? ... Nobody's perfect ... We all have our own set of problems."

That same month, Witherspoon also said in an interview, "I think if anybody rests on the idea that they are perfect or their life is perfect or their relationship is perfect and is so troubled about destroying the facade as opposed to getting to what's real, that is troublesome."

Separation And Divorce

In October 2006, Witherspoon and Phillippe announced that they decided to formally separate 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.

In September 2007, Witherspoon spoke openly about the separation for the first time when she told Elle magazine that it was "a difficult and frightening experience" for her. Witherspoon and Phillippe's final divorce documents were granted by the Los Angeles Superior Court on October 5, 2007, ending their marriage.

Throughout 2007, there was persistent speculation in the mass media about a romantic relationship between Witherspoon and her Rendition co-star Jake Gyllenhaal. The pair denied the rumours while promoting Rendition in the fall of 2007. However, 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.
 

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