Reese Witherspoon biography
Born in Louisiana in 1976, Reese Witherspoon began pursuing acting career after graduating from Stanford University. Her early critical success included roles in film such as Best Laid Plans, Cruel Intentions and American Psycho, but it was her portrayal of Elle Woods in the box office hit Legally Blonde (2001) that marked a turning point in her career. Witherspoon went on to win an Academy Award in 2005 for her role in Walk the Line. Recent films include Water for Elephants, This Means War, Mud and Devil's Knot.
Early Life and Career
Reese Witherspoon was born Laura Jean Reese Witherspoon on March 22, 1976, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The daughter of a physician and a nurse, Witherspoon grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, where she was a debutante and attended Harpeth Hall, a private all-girls high school.
On a bit of a whim in 1991, Witherspoon answered a call for extras in her hometown newspaper. She wound up with the lead in her first feature film, The Man in the Moon (1991), at just 14 years old. Her first year out of high school, Witherspoon considered abandoning acting altogether to follow her parents into the medical field. But in 1996, her performance in the film Freeway earned her the Catalonian International Film Festival award for best actress. She deferred college for a year to focus on acting, then briefly studied English literature at Stanford University before deciding to return to work.
Witherspoon quickly established herself as a talented actress in films such as Pleasantville (1998), Election (1999) and Cruel Intentions (1999). While filming Cruel Intentions, she began exploring an off-set romance with co-star Ryan Phillippe, whom she had met previously at her 21st birthday party. The couple married in 1999, and welcomed two children soon after: daughter Ava Elizabeth (born 1999) and son Deacon (born 2003).
Role in 'Legally Blonde'
In 2001, Reese Witherspoon continued to soar when she starred in the surprise box-office hit Legally Blonde. Witherspoon played Elle Woods, a tow-headed sorority girl who follows her ex to Harvard Law School. The movie proved to be such a success that it spawned a sequel. Witherspoon starred in, and produced, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003) earning $15 million—15 times the amount that she was paid for the original. The franchise quickly established Witherspoon as a must-have commodity, and propelled her to the realm of A-list actors. She also became one of the most highly paid actresses in Hollywood, according to the Hollywood Reporter, regularly commanding $15 million to $20 million per film.
Continued Success and Personal Struggles
Reese Witherspoon further proved her acting mettle in 2005, when she appeared as country singer June Carter to Joaquin Phoenix's Johnny Cash in the biopic Walk the Line. The film proved to be both a critical and commercial success, with Witherspoon earning an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for her singing and acting in the film.
While experiencing professional success, Witherspoon was also experiencing serious challenges in her personal life. Reese and her husband, actor Ryan Phillippe, announced their separation in October 2006 and divorced the following year. Phillippe immediately went public about his emotions surrounding their split. "After the divorce, I was a physical wreck. I wanted to die," Phillippe told the British magazine Man About Town in November 2007. "I was ready to kill myself. I was not taking care of myself at all. I would wake up and cry and vomit."
In Recent Years
In 2007, Witherspoon began working on the film Rendition, also starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The stars began dating shortly afterward, but their romance didn't last long; the Hollywood "it" couple split in 2009. Witherspoon began dating Hollywood agent Jim Toth shortly after. During this time, Witherspoon also co-starred in the fantastical comedy Penelope (2008) with Christina Ricci, in addition to serving as a producer on the project. Later that same year, Witherspoon starred with Vince Vaughn in the family holiday comedy Four Christmases. A busy actress, Witherspoon worked on several big-name film projects, including the 2011 film Water for Elephants, in which she starred alongside heartthrob Robert Pattinson.
Also in 2011, Witherspoon tied the knot with Jim Toth. The couple welcomed son Tennessee James Toth the following year, on September 27, 2012. But being a new mother hasn't slowed Witherspoon down much. After starring in the romantic comedy This Means War (2012) with Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, and in the drama Mud (2012) with Matthew McConaughey, she began working on the true crime tale Devil's Knot (2013) alongside Colin Firth and Stephen Moyer.