60 Minutes: Reese Witherspoon Producing Movies
Reese Witherspoon is one of the most well-known actresses out there, having started in the business when she was 14. She became one of the most highest paid actresses in Hollywood just 10 years later and at 29, she won an Oscar for Best Actress. After that, she struggled with finding the roles she wanted and her career faltered.
So she did something unusual: she started making the movies herself. She produced Gone Girl and Wild, two of the most talked about films of the year. Both are getting Oscar attention. Charlie Rose talked to Reese Witherspoon on 60 Minutes about the changes in her life and career.
60 Minutes: Is Reese Witherspoon America’s Sweetheart?
Charlie Rose told her that a lot of people think of Reese Witherspoon as Southern, blond, friendly, and cute. Reese said she’d take all four of those. But the one that confuses her is the term “America’s sweetheart,” which Charlie Rose also called her. Reese said she felt like she’d done a range of roles, some of which were sweet, but all of which had a “ferocity of spirit.”
Reese Witherspoon is perhaps most famous for her role as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Four years later, in Walk the Line, she portrayed June Carter, a role which earned her every major award, including the Oscar. Yet, despite that, she was repeatedly offered roles as a wife or girlfriend or sidekick. This frustrated Reese Witherspoon.
She said she’s making changes in her life now and taking charge of it. A few years ago, she was approached to do an interview for 60 Minutes and she was too scared. She didn’t know what to say. So now, when she was approached, she thought it made good sense.
60 Minutes: Reese Witherspoon ‘Wild’ Movie
In the new film Wild, Reese Witherspoon plays a woman seeking to reclaim her life by hiking 1,100 miles alone on the Pacific Crest trail. It’s based on the bestselling memoir by Cheryl Strayed.
Reese said the movie is about grief and loss and self-harm and “how we have to choose to save ourselves.” The movie shows how Cheryl reacted to her beloved mother’s early death, becoming self-destructive, destroying her marriage, taking drugs, and living recklessly.
“I don’t think I’ve ever in my life had to do scenes that were so exposing and raw,” Reese Witherspoon said.
Reese said she used a lot of her own personal life experiences in the role, drawing on relationships in her life that didn’t work out. Reese’s own mother lost her mother when she was very young. So Reese relived her mother’s grief in preparing for the role.
60 Minutes: Reese Witherspoon Draws From Her Own Life for Wild
There’s a scene near the end of the movie where Reese’s character falls to her knees and she says, “I miss you. God, I miss you.” Reese said that line was drawn from her own mother’s grief. Reese started crying as she explained that her mother’s mother died when she was 20. Reese said when she was a little girl, her mother would cry and say she missed her mom. Reese held that grief in her body for years.
“When my mom saw the film, she said to me, ‘I know that you saw me. Because that’s my story.’ And she’s a beautiful, amazing woman. And she’s definitely become the woman that her mother wanted her to be,” Reese Witherspoon said. “And I’m named after my grandmother.”
Charlie Rose said there’s a tradition of strong women in the South. Reese Witherspoon responded, “There’s strong women, everywhere, Charlie. I go all over the world. And people say to me, ‘You don’t ever seem to play weak characters.’ I say, ‘I don’t know any weak women.'”
60 Minutes: Reese Witherspoon’s Mom
Reese Witherspoon grew up in Nashville. Her mother was a nurse and her father was a doctor. No one pushed her toward acting. They wanted her to go into medicine.
In order to be close to her mother, she’s renovating a new home in Nashville. While she was showing the home to Charlie Rose, her mom stopped by.
So Charlie asked Reese’s mom about the movie. She said that the movie tore her apart because it was her story.
60 Minutes: How Reese Witherspoon Got Into Acting
Reese Witherspoon started taking acting lessons at age 7. At 14, she went to an open audition for a major motion picture downtown. She stunned everyone when she won the starring role in Man in the Moon. She played a tomboy who falls in love for the first time in the movie.
Reese loved it, but her mom told her that she had to go to high school and get a real job. Instead of going to Hollywood, her parents insisted she go to a prep school nearby. She was an excellent student who loved reading. She said the school left a great impression on her. It was an all-girls school, which was helpful to her because she said she was “boy crazy.” She also said it had a great focus on feminism and helped her realize she could accomplish anything. And what she really wanted to be was an actress.
Reese Witherspoon was later accepted into Stanford, but she dropped out after a year and moved to Hollywood. That’s when she transitioned from child star to movie star. By age 23, she had married Ryan Phillippe and had started a family. By 29, she had an Oscar and a number of box office hits.
60 Minutes: Reese Witherspoon Divorce
After earning her Oscar, she had what she called a “tough year.” She got divorced the next year and spent a few years trying to feel better.
“You know, you can’t really be very creative when you feel like your brain is scrambled eggs,” she said.
She said she felt like she was “floundering” career-wise because she was making films she wasn’t passionate about, she was “just kind of working.”
60 Minutes: Reese Witherspoon The New Yorker Article
Reese Witherspoon read an article in The New Yorker about people who were no longer box office stars. Reese Witherspoon was one of them. She said she thought she was reading a profile on another actor. At the end, it said people who were “washed up.” Reese was shocked to see her own name there.
“It really hurt my feelings,” she said. “And my self-esteem. And made me feel like I contributed nothing and that you’re only as good as your last movie. Which is a pretty crummy feeling for an actor. But it’s also a great motivator.”
60 Minutes: Reese Witherspoon Starts Her Own Production Company
Three years ago, Reese Witherspoon decided to make her own movies. She and seasoned producer Bruna Papandrea put up the money to start their own production company, called Pacific Standard, which focuses on projects with interesting, complicated women in leading roles. They make all the phone calls to choose the director, the writer, and the material. Their first two decisions were Gone Girl, which has brought in nearly $350 million at the box office, and Wild, which has gotten strong reviews.
60 Minutes: Reese Witherspoon Pacific Standard
Both movies were based on books they optioned before publication. When Gone Girl and Wild were number 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List at the same time, people started being confused and wondering how they got that book. Reese said they did it because they read and read and read, even though they’re not a big powerhouse.
Pacific Standard has 16 television and movie projects in development right now, so their production company is off to a good start. “I’m at a point in my life where it’s like, I can make 20 more movies. But I want to make 20 more movies that matter to me. I just don’t want to just do anything,” Reese Witherspoon said.
Now, she feels in control and she feels her perspective matters for the first time. Charlie noted that if she succeeds, it might change Hollywood.
“I hope so. I think it’s time. I think it’s time that we start seeing women for how complex they really are. I want to see those movies,” she said.