The Untold Truth Of Reese Witherspoon

Over the course of a Hollywood career spanning four decades and counting, fans of Reese Witherspoon have watched her transform from promising young starlet to box-office powerhouse to Oscar-winning thespian to Hollywood mogul, all while exuding the down-home Southern charm that has become her hallmark.  

As an actor, she can count such movies as "Cruel Intentions," "Legally Blonde," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Walk the Line," and "Wild" among her many hits. Branching out into producing, she can also take credit for such films as "Gone Girl" and 2022's "Where the Crawdads Sing," along with such hit TV productions as "Big Little Lies," "Little Fires Everywhere," and "The Morning Show" (all three of which, not coincidentally, she also served as star). She's also the mother of two children, whom she shares with ex-husband Ryan Phillippe, while running a multi-pronged media empire that encompasses film, television, books and even NFTs.

She's been in the public eye since the early 1990s, yet there's so much more to this multi-faceted performer and media mogul that meets the eye. To find out more, keep on reading to discover the untold truth of Reese Witherspoon.

She grew up in Germany

Reese Witherspoon was born in New Orleans in 1976, noted Biography, but didn't actually stick around the Big Easy for long. As We Salute pointed out, her father, John Witherspoon, was a doctor who served in the U.S. Army reserves, and wound up being stationed in Germany. As a result, Witherspoon spent the first few years of her life living there. The experience is apparently one that stayed with her. In a 2015 tweet, she confirmed, "We lived in Germany for 4 years! We loved it!"

After those four years, the Witherspoons returned stateside and settled in Nashville, the city in which she spent her formative years. Even though she's called Hollywood home for decades, she still maintains roots in Music City; in fact, not only do she and husband Jim Toth own a historic mansion there, the couple is also part of the ownership group behind Nashville SC, the city's Major League Soccer franchise. "As a Tennessee native, it is thrilling to see how much growth and development has come to our home state,” she said in a statement, as reported by Associated Press. "The opportunity to go as a family and watch a world-class team compete has been such an incredible experience.”

She made her movie debut when she was just 14

According to Reese Witherspoon's extensive list of screen credits on IMDb, she made her movie debut in the 1991 feature "The Man in the Moon." Unlike most actors' early screen appearances, this was no bit part but a starring role — at the tender age of 14, no less. Speaking with Jane in 1998, Witherspoon revealed how she came to star in a Hollywood movie before she was able to drive. As she explained, she was living in Nashville when she went to a casting call seeking extras for a movie. Hearing nothing, she assumed her audition had been a bust. "A month later, they sent me the script — they wanted me for a major part," Witherspoon recalled. "I was in shock." 

More than two decades later, Witherspoon opened up even more about her entry into Hollywood in a video she shared on Instagram. According to her recollection, she had put "The Man in the Moon" in her rearview mirror when, one day, she came home from school to be greeted by huge news from her mother, revealing the filmmakers wanted to fly her to Los Angeles and film her for a screen test. 

Once she landed the role, Witherspoon fell in love with filmmaking. "It was the summer before I started my freshman year of high school and we shot all summer," said Witherspoon. "And it was the most magical experience."

She dropped out of college when Hollywood came calling

Following "The Man in the Moon," teenage Reese Witherspoon continued to land movie roles, including such films as "A Far Off Place," "Jack the Bear," and "S.F.W." She also appeared in the blockbuster TV miniseries "Return to Lonesome Dove." Yet just as her career was heating up, Witherspoon slammed the brakes on Hollywood in order to attend Stanford. 

Even though she was going to college, the offers kept pouring in. After just one year at Stanford, reported, she dropped out to star in the 1998 film "Twilight" (Jane Magazine, in a profile that same year, described Witherspoon as being "on hiatus" from Stanford at that time). 

Although she never did graduate, Witherspoon returned to Stanford in 2017 to give a lecture to students of the Graduate School of Business, as documented by the school's Instagram account (she tweeted her thanks for the invitation). During that visit, reported Today, Witherspoon also made an unscheduled visit to her old dorm room, where she met the new occupant, a student named Caitlyn. "She was so nice; she even welcomed me in!" wrote Witherspoon in a since-deleted Instagram post documenting her dorm visit.

She initially turned down Legally Blonde

If there's one movie for which Reese Witherspoon will forever be associated, it's "Legally Blonde." Interestingly, though, Witherspoon nearly didn't accept what's come to be her signature role of Elle Woods. 

According to the film's producer, Marc Platt, Witherspoon was initially hesitant. "She was afraid it was too similar to 'Clueless,' which had recently come out, in terms of the character," he told The Hollywood Reporter, referencing the similarly beloved Alicia Silverstone-starring comedy. However, Platt ultimately sold Witherspoon on the project by hyping the female empowerment at the heart of "Legally Blonde." "I literally said to her, 'I want Elle to be a role model,'" Platt explained. "I wanted my daughters to watch her and think that they can live in a world where they can do anything."

Meanwhile, the head of the studio was also reluctant to cast Witherspoon, and insisted on a face-to-face meeting. "He thinks you really are your character from 'Election' and that you're repellent.' And then I was told to dress sexy," Witherspoon recalled. After several auditions — even meeting with studio execs in character as Elle — she finally landed the role. By then, she told, Witherspoon had come to see the film's overarching theme as representing her own struggles in Hollywood, having been told she was "not sexy enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough" for a particular role. "So making 'Legally Blonde' was my own private campaign against a lot of prejudices and stereotypes."

The reason she founded her own production company

Following the success of "Legally Blonde," noted Reese Witherspoon's IMDb credits, came the 2003 sequel, "Red, White & Blonde," the 2004 period drama "Vanity Fair," and her Oscar-winning performance as June Carter in the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line." While the heat from an Oscar win typically fuels an actor's career, that wasn't the case with Witherspoon. "I was just kind of floundering career-wise, 'cause I wasn't making things I was passionate about," she admitted in an interview with "60 Minutes," conceding that box-office performance of the films she made during that period indicated that "audiences weren't responding to anything I was putting out there." 

Witherspoon, who had always been an avid reader, decided to take control of her career by creating her own production company, initially titled Type A Films before evolving into multi-media company Hello Sunshine. Her intention, she told "60 Minutes," was to adapt some of the more compelling books she read for the screen, and then star in the ensuing projects that she'd also produce. "I'm at a point in my life, it's like, I can make 20 more movies," she explained. "But I want to make 20 more movies that matter to me."

And that's exactly what she did, beginning with the 2014 drama "Wild," which earned Witherspoon a Best Actress Oscar nomination, and paved the way for a future in which she now had the power to call the shots in her own destiny. 

Reese Witherspoon launched her own fashion line

Launching her own production company was just one way that Reese Witherspoon took control of her career. In 2015, Witherspoon announced plans for her own fashion line, which she called Draper James. The clothing, Witherspoon wrote, was intended to "honor my Southern heritage," and was named for her grandparents, Dorothea Draper and William James Witherspoon.

As Witherspoon told the Los Angeles Times, she'd long been interested in fashion, and had "even sketched my own clothes when I was little." Ultimately, she explained, the clothing she offered through Draper James was intended to evoke her own experience as a Southern woman. "My grandmother was always so impeccably put together," she said. "She was the quintessential Southern lady. Her bag always matched her shoes. She got her hair done once a week and her nails done on Thursdays. As a little girl, I would sit and watch all these women getting done up, and there's a sense of pride in that tradition of pulling yourself together and presenting your best self to the world."

It was also important for Witherspoon that Draper James' clothing reflected her own approach to style. As she told Glamour, her designs have "a sense of humor. Fashion is too serious sometimes ... I just like clothing that has a sense of fun. My mother and my girlfriends and I are telling jokes and laughing all day long. That's what we try to capture in the clothes. "

She started an online book club

Not content with producing movies and TV series while also offering her Southern-inspired fashions, Reese Witherspoon next set her sights on another of her passions: books. Witherspoon had always been a bookworm, and her passion for reading led her to successfully adapt such books as "Wild," "Gone Girl," and "Big Little Lies" for the screen, so it was something of a natural progression when, in 2017, she launched her own book club. 

By 2019, reported VoxReese's Book Club had demonstrated a proven ability to catapult its picks into the bestseller ranks. Being chosen as one of the book club's picks, Bookscan executive director Kristen McLean told Vox, "is the equivalent of winning the lottery for these authors." Since its founding, however, any potential pick for Reese's Book Club must feature one key element. "A woman has to be driving the story." said Hello Sunshine CEO Sarah Harden. "They are driving the narrative, they have agency in the story, they are not the side character, they are the one determining how the narrative goes."

In 2021, Reese's Book Club launched an app that added an array of additional features. "Since we launched Reese's Book Club, we've shown that our books have the power to spark discussions, make us laugh when we need it most, and bond us over something bigger than ourselves, all while celebrating diverse voices that put women at the center of their stories," Witherspoon told The Hollywood Reporter.

She admitted to a major meltdown on the set of Big Little Lies

When Reese Witherspoon brought Liane Moriarty's novel "Big Little Lies" to television as an HBO series, she assembled a female-led dream team of a cast, co-starring with Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, Laura Dern, and, for second season, the addition of Meryl Streep

Even though Witherspoon was starring in the project she shepherded to the screen, alongside a hand-picked cast of top female actors, shooting "Big Little Lies" wasn't always smooth sailing. During a roundtable discussion for The Hollywood Reporter, Witherspoon admitted that shooting the first season's finale episode was particularly fraught. "We were on our seventh day of night shoots and I was losing my mind," she recalled. 

According to Witherspoon, she'd been preparing to shoot a pivotal scene for her character that culminated with an onscreen "breakdown," but filming that particular scene kept getting postponed for various reasons. "By day seven of getting prepared and not ever using it, we came in and, out of nowhere, we were told we had to do the title sequence, and I just couldn't do it ... I started to scream, and I've never screamed like this. Like, howling," Witherspoon said. "And instead of having this feeling — like, 'Oh, my God, what did I just do?' — all the women came over and said, 'Girl, I have so been there.'" 

Reese Witherspoon entered the Metaverse

In February 2022, Reese Witherspoon shared a brief video on Instagram that was a bit out of the ordinary. In the video, Witherspoon and her dog Minnie are seen wandering through an art gallery — in the Metaverse, with their digital avatars exploring a variety of NFT artwork. 

Witherspoon's entry into the digital world was part of a previous announcement that her company, Hello Sunshine, had partnered with the NFT collective World of Women (WoW) to create movies and television series inspired by the collective's NFTs. 

In a statement to Variety, WItherspoon explained that the company's entry into the digital world was Hello Sunshine's way of bringing women into the traditionally male-dominated "crypto and NFT space." As she explained, "there are inspiring leaders like World of Women creating incredible communities for women during this massive shift for media and technology," and Hello Sunshine would be developing "innovative scripted and unscripted content" from the "universe of characters" found within WoW's NFTs. "We look forward to engaging with the remarkable WoW community at every step of this partnership and creating opportunities for WoW holders to work collaboratively with Hello Sunshine on transforming the WoW art into powerful stories," she added.

She hopes her daughter never plays her in a biopic

Reese Witherspoon was just 23 when she and then-husband Ryan Phillippe welcomed their first child in 1999, daughter Ava Elizabeth Phillippe. As her daughter grew older and bore an extraordinary resemblance to her mom, Witherspoon came to appreciate one of the benefits of being a young mother. "I love being mistaken for her because it makes me feel so young," Witherspoon told interviewer Gayle King in an interview for InStyle. "I'm so proud of her," she added of Ava. "She really rolls with it. I'm sure it's not easy looking exactly like your mother."

During an interview with Fox 5 New York, Witherspoon was asked whether she was interested in having a biopic made about her life, and who she'd like to see cast as her. "Well I don't think all the chapters of my life have been told yet, so I don't think I'm ready for a biopic," Witherspoon responded, figuring that "there will be some young, fabulous actress who will play me" if it ever were to happen. 

However, Witherspoon was quick to shoot down the suggestion that her "mini-me" daughter Ava would play her. "You know, she's not an actress, but she's so happy with her life and I am just so enormously proud of her and the incredible, compassionate young woman she's become," she said.

She dabbles in real estate

Among all her various acting and producing projects, along with her other assorted business ventures, Reese Witherspoon has also proven to be a savvy investor in real estate. As Architectural Digest pointed out, the Brentwood mansion that she and Jim Toth bought in March 2020, paying $15.9 million at the time, sold for $21.5 million in May 2022.

That was far from the first time that Witherspoon has fattened her bank account via buying and selling real estate. Back in 2001, noted AD, she and then-husband Ryan Phillippe purchased a Bel Air mansion for $3.3 million, and sold it three years later for $4.5 million. Over the years she also purchased a few more Brentwood properties, with Dirt reporting in 2014 that she sold them all in 2014, pocketing millions in profit. 

Another big payday came courtesy of a 10,300-square-foot Pacific Palisades property that she and Toth picked up for $12.7 million in 2014. She and Toth lived there for the next few years until selling it for $17 million in 2020, making a tidy profit of more than $4 million along the way.

The one movie she's singled out as the 'most rewarding' of her life

 In 2020, Witherspoon took to Instagram to mark the 15th anniversary of "Walk the Line", which led her to win her first Oscar. "Playing the role of June Carter was one of the most rewarding experiences of my lifetime," she wrote in her Instagram post. "From the stunning costumes created by @ariannephillips to recording all of those classic country songs with T. Bone Burnett, to the incredible scenes written and directed by James Mangold, I felt completely transformed into an authentic country artist." 

In the film, Witherspoon and co-star Joaquin Phoenix (as Johnny Cash) famously sang their own versions of their characters' country hits. However, as Witherspoon admitted during a 2005 interview on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," that wasn't something she realized she'd be required to do until after she'd already committed to the project. "I was a little bit hoodwinked there," she shared.

Thinking she was just going to be "doing the acting part" in portraying June Carter, two weeks after the contracts had been signed she was summoned to director James Mangold's home and asked to "sing a little something" for him. Confused, Witherspoon asked why, and was then told she'd be recording all Carter's vocals. "And I just freaked out, 'cause I've never sung before professionally," Witherspoon said, revealing that her eventual vocal performance did not come about spontaneously, but was the result of "six months of voice lessons." 

She's embarrassed about that time she was arrested

In 2013, Reese Witherspoon and husband Jim Toth were pulled over while driving in Atlanta. It did not go well. "Do you know my name?" Witherspoon reportedly told the state trooper who stopped them, as reported by The Guardian. According to the arrest report, she also told the trooper, "You're about to find out who I am," and "You're about to be on national news." Both were placed under arrest, with Toth charged with driving under the influence and Witherspoon charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to stay inside their vehicle when her husband was asked to perform a field sobriety test.

"I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said," said Witherspoon in a subsequent statement. "It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse."

In a 2020 appearance on Jameela Jamil's "I Weigh" podcast, Witherspoon looked back on the incident with regret. "I did something really stupid... It was so embarrassing and dumb," said Witherspoon, per Harper's Bazaar. "But you know what? Turns out, I breathe air. I bleed the same way. I make dumb decisions. I make great decisions. I'm just a human being."

Reese Witherspoon's net worth is astronomical

It's not uncommon for Hollywood movie stars to have amassed fortunes after decades onscreen, and that's certainly been the case with Reese Witherspoon. However, Witherspoon's net worth increased significantly with the 2021 sale of her production company, Hello Sunshine. According to Variety, the company was sold to Blackstone Group Inc., a private equity firm, for more than $900 million. 

While it hasn't been publicly divulged how much of that money went to Witherspoon directly (Celebrity Net Worth lists her net worth at $300 million), it's a no-brainer that the sale made her exceedingly wealthy. 

Speaking with InStyle, Witherspoon described her emotional response when the deal was done and she received a very big check. "I cried. I cried, and I thought about my grandma, and I cried more," Witherspoon said, becoming tearful at the memory. "I thought about all of the women who haven't gotten these opportunities, and I just feel really lucky that I'm standing in a path that other women created for me."