27 things you probably didn't know about Reese Witherspoon
- Reese Witherspoon is a 45-year-old actress, producer, and entrepreneur.
- From championing women-centric stories to combating gender inequality, she's a powerful figure in Hollywood.
- Here are 27 little-known facts about the star.
Perhaps you've seen Reese Witherspoon strutting down the halls of Harvard Law School as a perky Delta Nu alum in "Legally Blonde," carrying a 70-pound pack along the Pacific Crest Trail in "Wild," or singlehandedly running the PTA on HBO's "Big Little Lies."
But her on-screen performances are just one facet of her ever-expanding career.
What viewers don't readily see is the star's behind-the-scenes role in bringing strong, complex women to life through storytelling. Nor do they know about the choices she's made along the way to get her to where she is today.
From the savvy business she ran out of her desk in third grade to the reason she had to quit a Disney movie, here are 27 little-known facts about the producer, cookbook author, and actress.
Her real name is Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon
"Reese" is her mother's maiden name.
It's unclear when the actress started going by the family moniker, but she also used it as her son Deacon Phillippe's middle name.
She was born in New Orleans and raised in Nashville
She spent the first five years of her life in Germany, where her father was serving as a military surgeon, before the Witherspoon family landed in Nashville, Tennessee. From a young age, Witherspoon attended Harpeth Hall, an all-girls school.
"It definitely encouraged whatever tiny little feminist pilot light I had," she told Vanity Fair in 2020. "I was very opinionated, a little devious. I had a master plan. I might have tried to put beer in the Coke machine."
Witherspoon would walk to school every single day and have dinner with her grandmother every night.
"It was just kind of a simpler life," she told Southern Living.
Witherspoon has an older brother named John
Now 48 years old, John D. Witherspoon grew up with the actress in Nashville.
"We have that inexplicable bond of childhood. Two people forged in the same fire. It's interesting because we're very different, but we manage to love and care for each other with a ferocity that defies words. I call him Brother. He calls me Sister. Very Southern sibling stuff," she explained to Vanity Fair.
Every once in a while, the actress shares photos of her time with her brother, who "always volunteers to be my chauffeur when I'm in Nashville."
She added that he's good at "setting up electronic devices, cleaning AC filters, smoking 5lbs of ribs for a party, and changing oil filters."
"All of these skills are much appreciated by his Sister," she wrote.
She was a cheerleader for wrestling and football
During a 2017 appearance on "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon," Witherspoon revealed that she used to be a cheerleader for both wrestling and football.
"In the South, you have a cheerleader for basically everything," she explained.
Witherspoon has also shared throwback photos of herself on top of a cheerleading pyramid.
Though she's since turned in her uniform, the actress gave a shout-out to Netflix's "Cheer" cast and said she "cried big baby tears" while watching the show.
Witherspoon was suspended in 3rd grade for selling hair accessories
Ambitious from the time she was a child, Witherspoon was running a business out of her desk in third grade.
She would buy barrettes from the store and hand-paint them for other students, selling them at a profit, she told Vogue in 2019. When the administration found out, they suspended her.
And though they squashed her barrette-making business, Witherspoon remained driven throughout her studies and said she frequently challenged her teachers to assign a more difficult curriculum.
"I always tended to be outspoken with my opinions," she told the outlet. "Whether they were appropriate or not."
Before becoming an actress, she attended Stanford University for 1 year
Witherspoon studied English literature at Stanford University in the mid-1990s before going on leave to pursue acting.
Her on-screen career took off, and she didn't return to Stanford University. However, she did drop by campus and visit her old dorm room in 2017.
She landed her first role in a 1991 film called 'The Man in the Moon'
After appearing in a local florist's commercial, Witherspoon was hooked and enrolled in weekly acting classes.
She landed parts in more commercials before spotting a newspaper casting call for a 14-year-old Southern girl, so she auditioned. Eventually, after reading lines in Los Angeles and Louisiana, she got the part of Dani Trant.
"It was the most magical experience," Witherspoon said in an Instagram video. "I learned everything I needed to know about being a film actor - how to hit marks, how to perform for a camera, how to get emotional."
Looking back at the role, she said she's "forever grateful" to the individuals who helped her get the job.
"It changed my entire life," she said.
Witherspoon met her husband Jim Toth after his friend hit on her
The actress has been married to her husband, CAA talent agent Jim Toth, since 2011. And though they're now happily coupled up, their meet-cute was far from a traditional fairy tale.
"It happened out of the blue. This really drunk guy was hitting on me, making such an idiot of himself, yelling at me. He was like, 'You don't know me.' And I was like, 'Yeah, I know. I don't know you!'" she recalled during a 2012 interview with Elle.
Witherspoon continued, "Jim came over and said, 'Please excuse my friend. He's just broken up with someone.' Jim was a really good friend, pulling him out of that situation. That's just kind of who he is, a really good person."
They began dating in 2010, months after Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal broke up.
Toth and Witherspoon got married in 2011 and had their son Tennessee Toth one year later.
She published a lifestyle book filled with Southern-inspired recipes
Today, my first book ever, #WhiskeyInATeacup, is out. This book gave me an opportunity to reflect on growing up and all the traditions that I learned from my friends and family in the South. I’ve included some of the recipes that remind me of home, and are staples in my house, as well as no-fail tips and tricks that I live by. I’m so humbled from the experience of it all and honored to share it with you.
Witherspoon drew on her Tennessee roots to create a cookbook called "Whiskey in a Teacup," which was published by Atria Books in 2018.
A month after the book's release, she tried to make her own baked brie recipe and failed, sharing a photo of the relatable blunder on Instagram.
"That one time I failed miserably at making my famous Baked Brie. Instead I made it explode. It happens people," she wrote.
Her clothing company, Draper James, is named after her grandparents
Witherspoon launched Draper James - which has brick-and-mortar stores in Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, and Georgia - in 2015.
From tote bags with "Y'all" emblazoned on the front to floral patterned dresses, the clothing line has a distinctly Southern influence.
"I started this company to honor my Southern heritage and in particular my grandparents who were, and still are, the greatest influences in my life: my grandmother, Dorothea Draper and my grandfather, William James Witherspoon," she wrote on the company's website.
Witherspoon added, "When I returned to Nashville with my own family, I wanted to recapture and celebrate all that I love and remember about my grandparents and the South. That is why I created Draper James."
Witherspoon has a tattoo on her stomach
Slightly above her left hip, the actress has two birds framing a star.
"She has had the star tattoo for a few years," a source told Us Weekly in 2011. "After she and Jim got married, she added two birds - one to each side of the star."
The source added that the ink "symbolized their new life and love together."
She had to quit 'Brave' since she couldn't nail down a Scottish accent
Witherspoon was all set to voice Princess Merida in the animated movie "Brave" (2012), which was set in the Scottish Highlands, before Kelly McDonald replaced her.
The truth behind her departure from the movie came out during a 2017 interview with Lorraine.
"I tried to do a Scottish accent once. It was bad, I had to quit the movie," she said.
Witherspoon continued, "It's not my finest moment. I don't want to talk about it anymore. That just came out and I really wish it hadn't."
Witherspoon kept 60 outfits worn by Elle Woods in 'Legally Blonde'
When production on "Legally Blonde" wrapped, the lead actress took a large portion of her character's over-the-top wardrobe home for keeps.
"It really bothers me. Imagine some sicko in Wisconsin smelling the seams. It creeps me out. It's all in the closet. One day my daughter can play with it," she told Hollywood.com in 2002.
Her family has 3 dogs
Their names are Lou, Pepper, and Hank.
She refused to reprise her role on 'Friends' because she had stage fright
Witherspoon appeared twice on NBC's hit sitcom "Friends" as Jill Green, Rachel Green's (Jennifer Aniston) younger sister.
During a 2019 interview with AP Entertainment, Witherspoon revealed that she was offered an opportunity to return again but turned down the opportunity since she gets so "nervous" in front of a live audience.
"I said, 'No, I can't do it,'" she recalled. "I was too scared."
Witherspoon added that she hasn't acted in front of a live audience since.
And though she never returned to Central Perk with Aniston, the actresses later teamed up as costars and executive producers on Apple TV+'s "The Morning Show."
She was 23 years old when she had her 1st child
Witherspoon gave birth to her and then-husband Ryan Phillippe's daughter Ava six months before shooting "Legally Blonde."
"I had to grow up really fast and figure out what woman I wanted to be for my daughter," she told The Hollywood Reporter.
The actress told Cinema.com that Phillippe helped her juggle the early days of motherhood and her career.
"I couldn't have done it without Ryan's support. I was worried that I wasn't getting enough sleep because my daughter Ava was sick quite often during the shoot and there were a lot of days when I didn't think I could pull it off," she said.
Witherspoon continued, "Some nights Ava would wake up screaming because she had the flu and I would spend most of the night trying to rock her back to sleep and then have to be on the set at 7 in the morning for make-up! And then you throw in the fact that I'm supposed to be playing a very bubbly and energetic California preppy who is smiling all the time! I kept thinking, 'I'm going to kill myself! I'm never going to make it!'"
Witherspoon was pregnant with her son Deacon Phillippe while filming 'Vanity Fair' in 2003
While shooting the 19th-century period piece, Witherspoon was five months pregnant with her and Phillippe's second child, Deacon. She said the crew was careful to conceal Witherspoon's pregnancy on-screen.
"We've had a couple of scenes where my stomach was peeking out a bit, but we've found solutions," the actress, who played the lead role of Becky Sharp, told People in 2003.
Witherspoon said she'd wear loose gowns that didn't draw attention to her stomach and stand behind pieces of furniture to obstruct the view.
Deacon was born in October 2003, almost a year before "Vanity Fair" was released.
Her son Deacon is an up-and-coming music producer
The 17-year-old released his first single "Long Run," which featured Nina Nestbitt's vocals, in July 2020.
A proud mom, Witherspoon posted a video of herself dancing to Deacon's track on Instagram.
"When your kid has his first single... you gotta dance!" she wrote.
She's a descendant of John Witherspoon, a signatory to the Declaration of Independence
According to Town Topics, Princeton's community newspaper, the actress is a direct descendant of John Witherspoon, a minister and founding father that represented New Jersey at the Continental Congress.
He was also a former president of Princeton University.
Witherspoon learned to sing and play the autoharp for her role in 'Walk the Line'
When she signed on to the film, Witherspoon, who was cast as June Carter Cash, didn't know she'd have to sing, she told liveabout.com.
"I am just a perfectionist and totally afraid of stinking. So we went into it and I was just determined to get the right coaches and the right people," she said.
Witherspoon had never played an instrument before landing the role and said that vocal training came easier than playing the autoharp.
"Also, recording the album… You think you are a good singer when you are in the car…you can sing along. But then when you go in and you actually sing into a microphone for 4 hours straight," she said.
She won an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a British Academy Film Award, and a Golden Globe for her performance.
She's featured on Michael Buble's cover of 'Something Stupid'
Witherspoon recorded a duet with the singer on his cover of the song "Something Stupid," which was originally recorded by Carson Parks in 1966 and covered by Frank Sinatra in 1967.
She didn't wear any makeup in 'Wild'
The film's director Jean-Marc Vallee told Witherspoon that he wanted her to embrace a completely natural look for her lead role in the 2014 film.
"Yeah, yeah, a little mascara and a little cover-up, right? No, no makeup," she recalled of her conversation with Vallee during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Witherspoon admitted that it was startling to see herself looking so natural on the big screen.
"It was raw. I'd never seen myself in a movie like that before," she said.
Toth and Witherspoon were arrested in 2013
The couple was pulled over in Atlanta when Georgie state troopers noticed that Toth was driving in and out of the lane, according to a police report obtained by CNN.
They were bailed out of jail the following morning, and Witherspoon apologized for her behavior.
"I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said," she said in a statement. "It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse. I was disrespectful to the officer who was just doing his job. I have nothing but respect for the police and I'm very sorry for my behavior."
David Fincher, the director of 'Gone Girl,' told Witherspoon she wasn't right for the lead role
Witherspoon was a producer on the 2014 film, which was based on Gillian Flynn's novel, and told The Hollywood Reporter that she was willing to star in the role of Amy as well.
"I was always open to doing it, but whenever David Fincher says he wants to do a project, you just sit back and say, 'Whatever you want to do,'" she said.
Witherspoon explained, "We had a long conversation where he was like, 'You're not right for it. And this is why.' And I actually completely agreed with him."
The role eventually went to Rosamund Pike.
She hosted the first episode of 'Saturday Night Live' after the 9/11 terrorist attacks
Two weeks after the attacks, Witherspoon stood on the Studio 8H stage to host the season 27 premiere when she was just 25 years old.
Rudy Giuliani, who was the mayor of New York City at the time, and Paul Simon, the musical guest, joined her along with first responders.
"It was a really difficult time in New York City," Witherspoon said in 2015, according to Yahoo. "But I was so proud to be there and be on stage with firemen and Paul Simon and Lorne Michaels I think did an incredible job getting that show back on its feet and making America laugh again."
Witherspoon is the executive producer of a country-music competition called 'My Kind of Country'
The producer announced that Hello Sunshine was teaming up with Apple to create "My Kind of Country," which she called "the search for extraordinary country music talent."
She'll be serving as one of the show's executive producers.
"Growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, Country music has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. The history of songwriting and recording, the artistry of matching lyrics and chords, the true expression of what is happening to humanity right now... not to mention the dazzling stage performances that bring you to your feet!" she wrote.
Well, it’s not looking like I’ll ever fulfill my childhood dreams of becoming @DollyParton… but this might just be the next best thing! ✨ I am beyond excited to share that @HelloSunshine will be partnering with @Apple to bring y’all it’s very first competition series called “My Kind of Country”…. the search for extraordinary country music talent. Growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, Country music has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. The history of songwriting and recording, the artistry of matching lyrics and chords, the true expression of what is happening to humanity right now... not to mention the dazzling stage performances that bring you to your feet! ✨ There are so many remarkably talented people whose voices are being heard right now, but there are many more who have different experiences and remarkable stories that still need to be told in the genre. I’ve been incredibly inspired by all artists who continue to blaze bold new trails and our hope is to discover musicians who are revolutionizing country music and help amplify their voices and bring the JOY of Country Music to everyone around the world! @jwowen @izziebea13 @adamblackstone
Though details about the show have yet to be released, Apple said that it hopes to bring "fresh, new documentary sensibility" to the genre and create an inclusive space for country musicians, as reported by Deadline.
She was one of the women that backed the Time's Up movement
Witherspoon was one of the many women in the entertainment industry that supported Time's Up in 2018 to "address the systemic power imbalances that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential" in Hollywood and beyond.
One year ago, an incredible group of women in my industry stood up to say #TIMESUP on harassment and discrimination in the workplace. We created and raised funds for the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund with the @NationalWomensLawCenter. Funds raised have already helped over 3,800 people in all 50 states seek legal assistance. But there is still so much more work to do. If you want to help create safer work environments or you are seeking advice, check out @timesupnow for more details!
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