Though she made her name as a ditz in Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon has built her career with a wide range of roles, with her high point to date being her Academy Award-winning turn in Walk the Line.
Witherspoon was born in 1976 in Louisiana to a doctor and a pediatric nurse; because of her father’s Army career the family spent four years in Germany before returning to the U.S., eventually settling in Nashville, Tennessee. As she told Interview in 2005, she wanted to grow up to be Dolly Parton; she did take singing lessons, but she got work instead in modeling and TV commercials.
Even though she had already landed a few film roles before graduating from high school, Witherspoon went to Stanford University with the intention of getting a degree in English Literature. Just a year after entering school, however, Witherspoon acted in two thrillers, Freeway, co-starring Kiefer Sutherland, and Fear, with Mark Wahlberg. The roles led to more film work and to Witherspoon’s subsequent departure from school.
Witherspoon had substantial roles in Pleasantville, Cruel Intentions and Election, but enjoyed her first box-office hit with the 2001 comedy Legally Blonde. Her performance earned a Golden Globe nomination, and she earned $15 million for the 2003 sequel. Cash of a different sort was involved in the 2005 biopic Walk the Line. Witherspoon won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild award for her portrayal of June Carter Cash, the second wife of country singer Johnny Cash.
Offscreen, Witherspoon has served as producer on two of her films, Legally Blonde 2 and Penelope, and runs a production company called Type A Productions. She was married to Ryan Phillippe, her Cruel Intentions co-star, from 1999 – 2006, with whom she has two children. After several high profile romances, including one with Jake Gyllenhaal, Witherspoon married for a second time in 2011, to talent agent Jim Toth.
Witherspoon is active in organizations including the Children’s Defense Fund and Save the Children. She is the honorary chair of the Avon Foundation, the charitable arm of Avon Cosmetics.
— A. Wu