The Transformation Of Reese Witherspoon From 4 To 45

Reese Witherspoon started acting as a young child, and by the time she turned 45, she had developed an empire. Witherspoon has won many accolades and awards over the years for her acting, and Fast Company noted she went on to take on producing roles, create a media company, launch a retail brand, become a fierce advocate, and raise three children. She seemingly has been able to do it all, and she refused to be boxed into any one particular niche.

“Men are entrepreneurs but how dare we be anything more than actresses? We, as women, are expected to stay in our lane — that was the inference, and I had sleepless nights over it,” Witherspoon said to The Hollywood Reporter during a December 2019 interview.

Witherspoon started building her empire, and demonstrating her fierce determination, from a young age. Harper’s Bazaar detailed that she was born Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon in 1976. She was born in New Orleans, La., but lived in Germany for five years as a young child. She started acting on a whim, but a throwback photo she shared via Instagram showed her seemingly having an interest in the camera as early as the age of 4 or so.

An acting career develops at a young age

When Reese Witherspoon was around 5 years old, her family returned to the U.S., detailed Harper’s Bazaar. Her family ended up in Nashville, Tenn. and soon she dove into some acting gigs. Witherspoon’s first commercial came when she was 7, and she did some modeling and talent fairs too.

At the age of 14, Witherspoon landed what would become her breakout role. In 1991, the movie “The Man in the Moon” was released, and Witherspoon had a leading role. According to Biography, Witherspoon initially responded to a local newspaper call for extras. That turned into her role as Danielle “Dani” Trant, with actor Jason London playing her crush Court Foster. Not only did Witherspoon learn the basics of filming with this project, she experienced some personally horrifying moments.

“I had to kiss a boy onscreen for the first time, and I was 14 years old and I was so embarrassed,” she told Entertainment Weekly. A body double did the skinny dipping scene, and Witherspoon said it was “so mortifying when I was 14,” even though she didn’t actually do it herself.

Witherspoon landed additional acting gigs after that, including a role in the 1993 mini-series “Return to Lonesome Dove” (per IMDb). Higher-profile roles emerged, such as starring with Mark Wahlberg in 1996’s “Fear.” Despite her growing success, Witherspoon considered ditching acting. She thought about pursuing a career in medicine and briefly attended Stanford. However, continued acting successes prompted another change in plans.

A racy movie and an intense young love

In her early 20s, Reese Witherspoon’s career started to skyrocket, noted Biography. She was noticed in “Pleasantville,” for example, but it was the 1999 film “Cruel Intentions” that sparked a jump in her career. Not only did she play an entirely different type of character from her usual, but she was able to show off the intense chemistry she had with her beau Ryan Phillippe.

Witherspoon didn’t initially jump at the opportunity to do the film with Phillippe, however. She explained to Entertainment Weekly that she pushed for changes before embracing the character of Annette. “I remember finding Annette too demure and too much of a woman influenced by a guy’s manipulations. I was starting what I guess became my bigger mission in life — of questioning why women were written certain ways on film,” Witherspoon revealed.

There was plenty of on-screen chemistry between Witherspoon and Phillippe, and the two had a hot-and-heavy romance off-screen too. Many fans thought that starring in the film together prompted their romance. However, Witherspoon revealed during an appearance on Andy Cohen’s “Watch What Happens Live” that she and Phillippe had already been living together for quite a while at that point.

In fact, Witherspoon and Phillippe first met on her 21st birthday in 1997 (per Us Weekly). They got married in South Carolina just a few months after “Cruel Intentions” was released, and their daughter Ava Phillippe was born three months later.

A major award win and mixed messages with her husband

“Cruel Intentions” led to massive hits for Reese Witherspoon like “Clueless,” “Legally Blonde,” and “Sweet Home Alabama” (per IMDb). Then, in 2003, she welcomed her son Deacon. A couple of years later, she embraced the opportunity to play June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line.” That experience became another significant milestone in her career.

The Hollywood Reporter pointed out that playing Carter was a massive challenge for Witherspoon in one significant way: She’d have to sing on camera. The actor revealed via Instagram that she’d taken six months of voice lessons to prepare for “Walk the Line,” and she’d also needed to learn to play the autoharp.

“Despite all the practice, I was so nervous to sing in front of those huge crowds, but one we got started it was such a thrill. Truly an unforgettable experience I will always cherish,” Witherspoon wrote. All of her hard work paid off, as she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2006. In her speech, Witherspoon thanked Phillippe, who was by her side that night. “I want to say thank you to my wonderful husband and my two children, who should be going to bed, and thank you for loving me so much and supporting me,” Witherspoon said.

Despite the sweet sentiments Witherspoon shared about Phillippe in March, The Daily Mail noted that there had been rumors of trouble in the marriage. In October 2006, the two announced their separation.

A new love and another son for Reese Witherspoon

Not only did Reese Witherspoon’s marriage end at that point, but her career stalled a bit as well, shared The Hollywood Reporter. A handful of projects underperformed after “Walk the Line,” and Witherspoon had a hard time finding projects she loved. In her personal life, she dated Jake Gyllenhaal for a couple of years, noted Wide Open Country. Shortly after breaking things off with Gyllenhaal, she met Jim Toth.

Toth and Witherspoon met at a friend’s house when he saved her from a drunk, rambling friend of his, reported Elle. She hadn’t expected to end up married again, but Toth charmed her and won her over. “Jim said, ‘I’m gonna show you every day what a good partner is, what a good person is. I’m going to take care of you. I’m gonna do this so much that you’re gonna get used to it.’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I’ve never had anybody like that in my life,” Witherspoon said.

Witherspoon and Toth, a talent agent, tied the knot at her Ojai, California estate in 2011.The following year, they welcomed their son Tennessee James Toth. Not only was her personal life in a fabulous place at that point, but Toth nudged her to take a leap in her career. She developed her own company and launched projects of her own.

A happy life and wildly successful career

Reese Witherspoon celebrated her 10th wedding anniversary with Jim Toth in March 2021, celebrating the milestone in a sweet Instagram post. She referenced her “sweet hubby” and admitted she couldn’t believe the years had gone so quickly. “I guess that’s how it goes with 3 kids, Big LOVE, lots of laughing, non-stop travel, so many dogs, and fun adventures … figuring out this crazy world together. Here’s to many more days in the sun!” Witherspoon wrote.

Not only was she happy in her personal life with Toth and her three kids, but her career had exploded again. Witherspoon launched her clothing line in 2015, naming it after her grandparents (per Harper’s Bazaar). She produced and starred in “Big Little Lies,” an adaptation of the book by Liane Moriarty, and she had another hit after producing and starring in the Hulu series “Little Fires Everywhere.”

The Hollywood Reporter indicated her behind-the-scenes work had successfully expanded too. She boosted her own company, rebranded as Hello Sunshine, and created Reese’s Book Club. Some of the books she’d highlighted went on to become development projects of Witherspoon’s, and many other projects were started.

“That message — that you shouldn’t dream a little, girls, that you got enough of your pie already — is not OK. When people try to tell you to stay in your lane, don’t listen,” Witherspoon told THR, and that quip almost perfectly described her career and incredible life transformation.

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