What the Hell Happened to Reese Witherspoon?

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon started her career in independent films in the 1990s.  With the new millennium, she entered the mainstream.  For a while, she seemed like the heir apparent to Julia Roberts as the Queen of Rom Coms.  She scored an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her performance in Walk the Line in 2005.  Since then, she has had one live action box office hit, a handful of disappointments and an embarrassing arrest for disorderly conduct.

What the hell happened?

Reese Witherspoon - Man in the Moon - 1991

Reese Witherspoon – Man in the Moon – 1991

Witherspoon made her film debut in 1991 opposite Sam Waterston and Jason London in Robert Mulligan’s coming-of-age drama, The Man in the Moon.

Witherspoon played a head-strong 14-year-old girl (is there any other kind) who finds love with the guy from Dazed and Confused.  They meet during one of her nude moonlight swims in the neighbor’s pond.

Man in the Moon was one of those little films that didn’t get a wide release.  Director Robert Mulligan was upset with how airlines recut his movie for in-flight showings.  So he had his name removed from the credits.  He was so disturbed that he retired from film-making.  After more than three decades in the business, Man in the Moon was Mulligan’s final film.

Reviews were mostly positive.  Roger Ebert praised the film and named it as one of the 10 best of 1991:

“Nothing else [Mulligan] has done… approaches the purity and perfection of The Man in the Moon. As the film approached its conclusion without having stepped wrong once, I wondered whether he could do it – whether he could maintain the poetic, bittersweet tone, and avoid the sentimentalism and cheap emotion that could have destroyed this story. Would he maintain the integrity of this material? He would, and he does.”

Reese Witherspoon - Wildflower - 1991

Reese Witherspoon – Wildflower – 1991

Later that year, Witherspoon appeared opposite Beau Bridges and Patricia Arquette in the TV movie Wildflower.

Arquette played a partially deaf girl with epilepsy who is being kept by her abusive stepfather.  Witherspoon’s character befriends the poor girl and hopes to help her escape her stepfather’s brutality.  Diane Keaton directed.

As TV movies go, Wildflower was well-received.

Reese Witherspoon - Desperate Choices: To Save My Child - 1992

Reese Witherspoon – Desperate Choices: To Save My Child – 1992

In 1992, Witherspoon appeared in another TV drama, Desperate Choices: To Save My Child.

Her parents were played by Bruce Davison and Growing Pains’ Joanna Kerns.


Reese Witherspoon – A Far Off Place – 1993

In 1993, Witherspoon starred opposite Ethan Embry (credited as Ethan Randall) in the family adventure film, A Far Off Place.

Witherspoon and Embry played survivors of an attack by a gang of poachers.  They befriend an African bushman who helps them escape the poachers and travel to safety.

 Reviews were mostly negative and the movie was barely noticed at the box office.

Next: S.F.W. and Fear


Posted on August 10, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 134 Comments.

  1. Reese Witherspoon splits from producing partner Bruna Papandrea


  2. Are Reese Witherspoon’s days as a leading lady over?

    Well, outside of what she produced, she hasn’t lead a film since This Means War killed her status as a leading lady, and Hot Pursuit might have made things even worse for her. Mud, The Good Lie, and Inherent Vice were all supporting roles, two of them being cameos, and being part of an ensemble in Devil’s Knot. Now, she got cast in a small role in Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle In Time.


  3. Hey, it’s been 3 years since her arrest. I know it’s been a long time since but I was looking at the comments and I noticed you said how she may not have been sincere in her apologies but at least she made everyone else believe it. I kinda agree with you there. Both her written and TV apology sounded too calculated by checkmarking every box on how to do an apology for the press. She never seemed genuine in her television appearance.

    Not to mention displaying egotistical behavior before and after the arrest. I looked at her Instagram account and it reeks of self-absorption. It is a shame since she always seemed to be sweet but I guess she really is that good of an actress.

    I can’t get over her arrest video though. I know it’s been a long time but re-watching it here, I was disgusted. You don’t ever think you’re above the law. Kudos to the officer and her husband for handling the situation. And according to people who know her or have worked with her, what we saw in the video is the real her.

    But regardless, after 3 years, what did you think about her arrest in hindsight and do you think she was genuinely sorry?


    • My opinion really hasn’t changed much. Witherspoon has had a reputation for being cold, calculating, cut-throat, and driven since before she ever became famous. She did a really good job of manufacturing that girl-next-door image for a while. The arrest is where the image slipped and the truth came out for a bit. She smoothed it over as far as most people were concerned, but it didn’t matter all that much because she’s a 40-year-old actress and Hollywood isn’t all that interested in actresses once they hit that age. I give Witherspoon a lot of credit for creating opportunities for herself at a point in her career where no one else is likely to hand them to her. But don’t believe the America’s Sweetheart bit. That was never real.


      • Yeah, the arrest doesn’t seem to hurt her image when it likely could’ve. Her presence on social media, like I said, is so disingenuous and pathetic in her attempt at trying to maintain that image. There was a group interview with EW where she was talking more than anyone else and had an entitled aura around her. Have you seen it? I’m not saying she should act like a diva in public but she should be more authentic. As it stands, that arrest may have been the real her but has done a good job so far not acting like that again.

        And yeah, it’s good she has her own production company to make more roles for women but so far, she’s made roles for her. Gone Girl was close to being her role. Wild was a success but Hot Pursuit has brought her back to square one as far as I’m concerned.


  4. Reese Witherspoon admits she thinks the time may now be right for Legally Blonde 3


    • Ratatoing Sucks

      Didn’t she choose not to make another film? Guess she must be that desperate to be an A-lister again, joining the likes of Jim Carrey (Dumb and Dumber To) and Renee Zellwegger (Bridget Jones’ Diary).


  5. ironic she called tom hanks washed up his career is doing better then hers . his box office still higher. his last 4 flicks saving mr banks captain phillips bridge of spies and sully all box office hits


  6. Reese Witherspoon’s Best Type-A Maniacs

    It’s hard to think of a role that’s a better fit for Reese Witherspoon than Madeline Martha Mackenzie, the uptight type-A supermom at the heart of HBO’s Big Little Lies. Madeline, on her second marriage (to a bearded Adam Scott), is still obsessed with her first husband, played by James Tupper, and rages impotently against his New Agey new wife (Zoë Kravitz). She treats her daughters with all the affection of a Soviet gymnastics coach, and her singular goal currently, other than getting those daughters into good colleges, is to stage a community-theater production of Avenue Q. In the hands of a lesser actress, Madeline would amount to a pile of nonsense in yoga pants. As played by Witherspoon, she’s funny, intimidating, and when she reveals the cracks in her moisturized facade, a little tragic.

    More to the point, with Witherspoon playing her, Madeline gets to be the center of the story — or near the center, as Nicole Kidman’s Celeste, who harbors dark secrets in her home life, plays the moon to Witherspoon’s abrasive sun. She’s playing a kind of character she’s perfected: the type-A maniac. Witherspoon can take characters broad enough to be bullies, villains, or jokes, and make them the most compelling thing onscreen.


  7. I’ve recently read the argument that Reese Witherspoon is one of those actresses (like Goldie Hawn before her) is talented comedic actress that’s no longer being cast in those roles due to age discrimination. Reese therefore, is a good example of a an actress who is changing her career to be more of a dramatic actress (i.e. “Wild”) and producer.


  8. 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Reese Witherspoon

    Reese Witherspoon is one of the few child stars to have had a tremendous amount of success in her adult career. She’s been nominated for two Academy Awards – winning one for her role as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line – and she’s also become one of the most influential producers in Hollywood. Since she’s celebrating a birthday, here are 10 things you didn’t know about Reese Witherspoon:


  9. ‘There’s no love lost at all’: Reese Witherspoon ‘furious with co-star Nicole Kidman after fallout over their new TV show Big Little Lies’


  10. Rewatching “Sweet Home Alabama” with Reese Witherspoon and this movie is racist!!?p=31001636&viewfull=1#post31001636

    This movie came out in 2002/2003 so I was a child back then and I missed a lot that was wrong with it. But my God it’s bad. Confederate flags all over the place, only black people shown are servants and look scared, and the make southerns seem dense as hell. Just weird.


  11. ‘Actors are NOT machines’: Reese Witherspoon nearly ‘lost her mind’ during Big Little Lies shoot… and says she regrets working when pregnant


  12. ‘It’s hard being an actress over 25’: Reese Witherspoon admits she feels ‘liberated’ in her forties as she continues to fight for female importance in Hollywood


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