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Laura Jeanne Reese
Witherspoon (born March 22, 1976), known simply as Reese Witherspoon, is an
Academy Award-winning American actress.
Birth name Laura Jeanne
Born March 22, 1976
Height 5'2" (1.57 m)
Notable roles Vanessa
Lutz in Freeway (1996)
Annette Hargrove in
Cruel Intentions (1999)
Tracy Flick in Election
Elle Woods in Legally
June Carter Cash in
Walk The Line (2005)
Witherspoon was born in
New Orleans, Louisiana to John Witherspoon, a surgeon from Georgia who grew
up in Nashville, and Betty Reese, a nurse and college professor from Harriman,
Tennessee. She is a direct descendant of Scottish-born John Witherspoon, a
signer of the United States Declaration of Independence and sixth president of
Princeton University, who was also a Presbyterian minister. Because her father
worked for the US military in Wiesbaden, Germany, she lived there for four years
as a small child. After returning to the United States, Witherspoon, an army
brat spent much of her childhood and adolescence in Nashville, Tennessee, where,
she says in Interview magazine, "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. I grew up with a grandma--my father's mother--who was
incredibly intelligent but was limited by the bounds of society and propriety
... She was a voracious reader, and she encouraged me to read a lot as a child
..." a woman whose "depression" and "disconnect between her capabilities and her
lack of fulfillment and achievement" continue to motivate Witherspoon in life.
After graduating from the prestigious private all-girls' Harpeth Hall School in
Nashville, she attended Stanford University as a literature major. She lived in
Cedro Hall and once treated her entire dorm to dinner at a Mexican restaurant.
After completing a year of her studies, she left Stanford to pursue her acting
Witherspoon began her
career in local bikini shoots. Her first role was in a 1991 made-for-TV movie
called Wildflower, directed by Diane Keaton and starring Beau Bridges, William
McNamara, and Patricia Arquette. That same year, at age 15, Witherspoon attended
an open casting call for The Man in the Moon, intending to audition as a bit
player. She was instead cast in the lead role, immediately capturing the
attention of critics. She has since built up an impressive filmography, playing
both comedic and dramatic roles, including performances as Vanessa Lutz in
Freeway and Tracy Flick in Election. She was the voice of the animated character
Greta Wolfcastle in The Simpsons episode The Bart Wants What It Wants. She also
played Jill Green, Rachel Green's sister, in season six of "Friends."
She achieved fame and a
Golden Globe Best Actress nomination for her role as a fashion design major who
decided to become a law student to follow her ex-boyfriend in the 2001 film
Legally Blonde, and became a leading environmental lawyer in its sequel Legally
Blonde 2, for which she received a reported $15 million paycheck, making her one
of Hollywood's top-paid actresses.
She has garnered much
critical praise and awards for her turn as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line.
Carter Cash, who died in 2003, personally approved of Witherspoon to play her.
For this role, Witherspoon won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion
Picture Musical or Comedy, NYFCC, the FFCC, the SFFCC Award for Best Actress,
the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) for best actress in a lead role, the British
Academy's BAFTA for best actress in a lead role, the "Favorite Leading Lady" at
the 32nd Annual People's Choice Awards, and the Academy Award for Best Actress.
has been featured as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People. Her
article was written by friend and fellow costar in the Legally Blonde movies,
Witherspoon also runs a
production company, Type A Productions. Some believe the company is named after
her childhood nickname "Little Miss Type A," but she clarified the misconception
in Interview: "[P]eople think I named it after myself ... But it just isn't who
I am at all. It was actually an in-joke with my family because at 7 I understood
complicated medical terms, such as the difference between type A and type B
personalities. But I just wished I'd named the company Dogfood Films or Fork or
something. You carry that baggage all your life."
commented on her motivation to act. "Sometimes I think it's about
acknowledgment. I always felt like people didn't understand me what I was
capable of or what I could accomplish. I was driven to make people understand
that I was capable of more ... But for me part of the experience of acting is
that it is really moving--it's almost meditative, going into a different
character. You lose all self-consciousness and self-awareness for that brief
moment. It's really magical. Of course, it can also be drudgery if you can't
connect with the material or director."
Even thought she
appeared in many films, she has appeared nude only once, in the 1998 thriller
Witherspoon met actor
Ryan Phillippe at her 21st birthday party in March 1997, where, as she says, "I
don't know what came over me - maybe the seven Midori sours - but I told him, 'I
think you're my birthday present.' He thought it was so flattering, and now that
I think about it...how embarrassing!"  The pair got engaged in December 1998.
Soon after, the couple starred together in the box office hit Cruel Intentions.
They were married on a plantation in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 5,
1999. They have two children: daughter Ava Elizabeth, born September 9, 1999,
and son Deacon Reese, born October 23, 2003.
Witherspoon is known as
a very hands-on mother, and she and Phillippe claim to have never employed a
full-time nanny. A self-identified Southerner who has credited her family with
fomenting her imagination and love for storytelling and privacy, she told the
aforesaid magazines that her parental philosophy has roots in her upbringing.
"We weren't the kind of children that were shadowed. We didn't have nannies. We
didn't have housekeepers. This whole L.A. culture is so foreign to me, because
when I was growing up you wouldn't watch your children every moment. I'm always
confused when people bring their children over and then want to sit with them
while they play. I think part of the joy of being a child is privacy. Your
fantasies and dreams are so important to you at that moment."
On November 10, 2005
Witherspoon responded to critical news reports of her marriage counseling. "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,"
she said on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The next month, she said separately, "We are
all on the edge, emotionally or psychologically."
In September 2005,
Witherspoon and her children were celebrating daughter Ava's sixth birthday at
Disney's California Adventure theme park when they were approached by paparazzi
photographer Todd Wallace. After Witherspoon declined to pose for photos at
close range, police say Wallace became enraged and pushed a child out of the
way, while hitting another with his camera, in his efforts to photograph the
Wallace also allegedly
shoved two theme park employees when they attempted to restrain him, and cursed
at Witherspoon, causing several children to cry. As a result of the altercation,
Wallace was arrested and faced misdemeanor charges. However, before the case
went to trial, Wallace was found dead in his apartment in Brentwood. Police are
investigating the cause of death.
On June 21, 2006
Witherspoon sued the tabloid Star for running a "fictional" story on a third
pregnancy that claims she is hiding the news from producers of her upcoming
On October 30, 2006,
Witherspoon and Phillippe announced that they have decided to formally separate
after seven years of marriage.  On November 8, 2006, Witherspoon filed for
divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. In her petition she sought joint
legal custody of their two children and sole physical custody, with visitation
In December 2006,
Witherspoon moved from Hollywood to Charleston, South Carolina. According to New
York Post columnist Liz Smith, Witherspoon was thoroughly disgusted with both
marriage and her life in Hollywood and wanted to return to her Southern
roots. Witherspoon moved back to Charleston to be closer to her family
and has enrolled both of her children, Ava Elizabeth, seven, and Deacon, three;
in local public schools.
Year Title Role Other
2007 Penelope Annie
2005 Walk the Line June
Carter Cash BAFTA Award For Best Actress
Award for Best Actress
Screen Actors Guild
Golden Globe Winner
Broadcast Film Critics
National Society of
Film Critics Awards
Teen Choice Awards for
Choice Actress Drama/Action Adventure
2005 Just Like Heaven
2004 Vanity Fair Becky
2003 Legally Blonde 2:
Red, White and Blonde Elle Woods
2002 Sweet Home Alabama
2002 The Importance of
Being Earnest Cecily Teen Choice Awards Nominee (Choice Actress Comedy)
2001 The Trumpet of the
Swan Serena (voice)
2001 Legally Blonde
Elle Woods Golden Globe Nominee (Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or
MTV Movie Award for
Best Comedic Performance Winner
2000 American Psycho
2000 Little Nicky
1999 Election Tracy
Flick Golden Globe Nominee (Actress)
National Society of
Film Critics Awards Winner (Best Actress)
Award Nominee (Best Actress)
1999 Cruel Intentions
1999 Best Laid Plans
Jennifer Young Hollywood Award Winner (Breakthrough Performance - Female)
1998 Overnight Delivery
1998 Twilight Mel Ames
1996 Freeway Vanessa
Lutz Best Actress, Cognac Festival du Film Policier
1996 Fear Nicole
1995 S.F.W. Wendy
1993 Jack the Bear
Karen Morris Young Artist Award Winner (Best Youth Actress Co-star)
1993 A Far Off Place
1991 The Man in the
Moon Danielle 'Dani' Trant Young Artist Award Nominee (Best Young Actress)
for Million Dollar Baby
Academy Award for Best Actress
for Walk the Line
^ Marriage certificate
(#1999002007), name spelling = Jeanne
^ Interview with father,
birthplace = New Orleans
^ Ingrid Slschy (December, 2005).
That's Reese: stepping into the ring of fire. Retrieved on 2006-10-30.
^ Suzan Colon (November 1998).
The Nine About-to-Be Biggest Stars. Retrieved on 2006-10-30.
^ Reese Witherspoon on the
benefits of therapy. Retrieved on 2006-10-30.
^ IMDb News:Reese Witherspoon in
Paparazzi Attack. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on December 18, 2006.
^ WENN News. Witherspoon
Photographer Found Dead. Hollywood.com. Retrieved on December 18, 2006.
^ IMDb News:Body of Witherspoon
Paparazzo Identified. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on December 18,
^ Reuters (June 21, 2006). Reese
Witherspoon sues Star magazine. Retrieved on 2006-10-30.
^ Reese Witherspoon & Ryan
Phillippe Split (October 30, 2006). Retrieved on 2006-11-09.
^ AOL (November 8, 2006). Reese
Witherspoon Files for Divorce. Retrieved on 2006-11-09.
^ NY Post (Dec 21, 2006).
Southern Comfort. Retrieved on 2007-01-05.
^ Starpulse (Dec 21, 2006). Reese
Witherspoon & Kids Move to South Carolina. Retrieved on 2007-01-05.
^ People (Dec 21, 2006). Reese
Witherspoon heads back to South Carolina. Retrieved on 2007-01-05.
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