Born Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon
March 22, 1976 (age 39)
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Occupation Actress, producer
Years active 1991–present
Ryan Phillippe (m. 1999–2007)
Jim Toth (m. 2011)
Awards Full list
Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon (born March 22, 1976), known professionally as Reese Witherspoon is an American actress and producer. She began her career as a child actress, starring in The Man in the Moon in 1991. In 1996, she appeared in the independent drama Freeway and starred in Pleasantville in 1998. In 2000, she earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Comedy or Musical nomination for Election in the now-iconic role of Tracy Flick.
Witherspoon’s breakthrough role came in 2001 in Legally Blonde and in 2002 she starred in the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama, which emerged as her biggest live-action commercial success. In 2005, Witherspoon received worldwide attention for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, which earned her the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and the Critics Choice Award for Best Actress. Her other films include Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003), Monsters vs. Aliens (2009) and Water for Elephants (2011). In 2014, Witherspoon produced the thriller Gone Girl and received critical acclaim for portraying Cheryl Strayed in Wild, for which she earned her second Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
She married actor Ryan Phillippe in 1999. The couple separated in 2006 and divorced in 2007. She married talent agent Jim Toth in 2011. Witherspoon owns a production company, Pacific Standard, and she is actively involved in children’s and women’s advocacy organizations. She serves on the board of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and was named Global Ambassador of Avon Products in 2007, serving as honorary chair of the charitable Avon Foundation. Witherspoon received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on December 1, 2010.
Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon was born on March 22, 1976 in Southern Baptist Hospital, New Orleans, Louisiana, while her father, John Draper Witherspoon, was a student at Tulane University medical school. Her father was born in Georgia and served as a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Reserve. He was in private practice as an otolaryngologist until 2012. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth “Betty” (née Reese), is from Harriman, Tennessee, and earned a BS and master’s degrees in Nursing, and a doctor of education; she worked as a professor of nursing (child care and mental health) at Vanderbilt University. In 1988, her mother began nursing babies back to health in the neonatal intensive care unit of Vanderbilt University Hospital until she retired. Witherspoon has claimed descent from Scottish-born John Witherspoon, who signed the United States Declaration of Independence; this claim has not been verified by the Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence genealogists. Her parents are still legally married, although they separated in 1996.
Because Witherspoon’s father worked for the U.S. military in Wiesbaden, Germany, she lived there for four years as a child. After returning to the U.S., she spent her childhood in Nashville, Tennessee. She was raised as an Episcopalian. Her older brother, John Jr. is a real estate agent. She received good grades in school; she loved reading and considered herself “a big dork who read loads of books.” On mentioning her love for books, she said, “I get crazy in a bookstore. It makes my heart beat hard because I want to buy everything.” Witherspoon attended middle school at Harding Academy and graduated from the all-girls’ Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, during which time she was a cheerleader. She attended Stanford University as an English literature major. After completing one year of studies, she left Stanford to pursue an acting career. Witherspoon is proud of the “definitive Southern upbringing” which she received. She has said that it gave her “a sense of family and tradition” and taught her about “being conscientious about people’s feelings, being polite, being responsible and never taking for granted what you have in your life. Witherspoon is described as a “multi-achiever” and was given the nickname “Little Type A” by her parents. On discussing her early achievements, she told Interview magazine, “I just don’t see any of it as that remarkable. Maybe that’s the attitude I choose to have to keep me sane and keep my feet on the ground. I grew up in an environment where women accomplished a lot. And if they weren’t able to, it was because they were limited by society.”
At the age of seven, Witherspoon was selected as a model for a florist’s television advertisements, which motivated her to take acting lessons. At age eleven, she took first place in the Ten-State Talent Fair.
Witherspoon met actor Ryan Phillippe at her 21st birthday party in March 1997. They became engaged in December 1998 and married near Charleston, South Carolina, on June 5, 1999, at Old Wide Awake Plantation. They have two children, a daughter, Ava (born 1999), and a son, Deacon (born 2003). In October 2006, Witherspoon and Phillippe announced that they were separating. The following month Witherspoon filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. In her petition, she sought joint legal and sole physical custody of their children, with full visitation rights for Phillippe. With no prenuptial agreement, they would be entitled to half of all assets gained during the marriage under California law—with Witherspoon’s being the more significant. Witherspoon requested that the court grant no spousal support for Phillippe, and he did not contest. On May 15, 2007, he filed for joint physical custody of their children and made no motion to block Witherspoon from seeking support from him. Witherspoon and Phillippe’s final divorce documents were granted by the Los Angeles Superior Court on October 5, 2007.
Throughout 2007, there was persistent speculation in the mass media about a romantic relationship between Witherspoon and her Rendition co-star Jake Gyllenhaal. After her divorce was finalized in October 2007, they became more open about their relationship, mainly due to the release of paparazzi pictures of them vacationing together in Rome, Italy. They reportedly broke up in December 2009.
In early February 2010, it was reported that Witherspoon had begun dating Jim Toth, a talent agent and co-head of motion picture talent at the Creative Artists Agency, where Witherspoon is a client. Witherspoon and Toth announced their engagement in December 2010, and married on March 26, 2011 in Ojai, California, at Libbey Ranch, Witherspoon’s country estate (which she since has sold). Their son, Tennessee James Toth, was born on September 27, 2012.
She has attended All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, California.
Early in the morning of April 19, 2013, while in Atlanta, Georgia filming The Good Lie, Witherspoon and Toth were pulled over after the car in which they were traveling was seen weaving across a double line on Peachtree Street. Toth, who was driving, was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.139 and was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and failing to maintain a lane. Witherspoon was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for disobeying the arresting officer’s instructions to remain in the vehicle and arguing with him, saying that she did not believe he was a real police officer and asking if he knew who she was. The couple was released on bond at 3:30 AM the same day. Witherspoon was able to attend the New York premiere of her film Mud on April 21, 2013, and she issued an apology later that night, stating that she had “clearly had one drink too many” and was “deeply embarrassed about the things I said… 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.” When Witherspoon’s lawyer and her husband appeared in court on May 2, Toth pleaded guilty and was ordered to complete 40 hours of community service, an alcohol-education program, and one year of probation; Witherspoon pleaded no contest and was fined $213.