When it comes to putting women at the forefront in TV and film, Reese Witherspoon is showing Hollywood how it’s done. She tells Gemma Dunn why she decided to create her own opportunities.
When Reese Witherspoon and her Big Little Lies co-stars took to the stage at this year’s Emmy Awards, they were met with rapturous applause.
Hand in hand, the five stars – an indomitable tribe made up of Nicole Kidman, Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz and Shailene Woodley, no less – were proof the tide is turning in Hollywood, as the 69th ceremony became historic for its celebration of women in front of and behind the camera.
The irresistible HBO show – based on the book by Australian author Liane Moriarty – had cleaned up, winning eight major awards including Outstanding Limited Series.
“It’s been an incredible year for women in television,” declared Witherspoon, (41), as she accepted the latter alongside her cast mate and co-producer Kidman.
“Can I just say, bring women to the front of their own stories, and make them the hero of their own stories.”
Gripping the star’s hand, Kidman, who also took home best actress, added: “This is a friendship that then created opportunities. It created opportunities out of our frustration because we weren’t getting offered great roles, so now more great roles for women, please.”
Delivering a message that’s hard to ignore, I’m not at all surprised to find Witherspoon – an Academy Award winner in her own right – still processing the night’s events four days later.
“It’s been amazing. It’s been a really interesting time,” quips the Walk the Line actress, sipping tea from a dainty china cup in a London hotel. “I’d never gone to the Emmys before, so it was really fun. (There are) so many talented women: Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Oprah …
“(We’ve been) getting so many well-wishes”, continues the Louisiana-born star. “People are really responding to how many women won.”
Is she seeing a change in the scripts she’s being offered, then?
“Nope”, she fires back, exasperated. “That’s why I’m buying books and turning them into movies, because the scripts are dreadful”, she reasons, having headed up such novel-to-screen adaptations as Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, under her production banner Pacific Standard.
“Honestly, the things that come at me normally are just dreadful and it’s a huge industry.”
She follows: “I think when you’re trying to establish yourself, you take a lot of projects that maybe aren’t, you know, expressive of who you are as an artist or what you want to accomplish, but certainly as you get older you think, ‘Why am I doing this?'”
It goes without saying, then, Witherspoon’s resume has done a 180 since her breakthrough role playing blonde sorority girl Elle Woods in the 2001 classic Legally Blonde.
But while her latest outing might look like it affords the same rom-com tropes – Home Again is, in fact, very different.
For starters, the movie boasts two brilliant filmmakers: legendary producer Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, It’s Complicated) and her daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who will make her directorial debut.
Secondly, it’s a contemporary title that challenges the standard definitions of family, as in between love, friendship and family, it offers a life lesson that starting over is not for beginners.
That teaching comes in the form of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a 40-year-old who has recently separated from her husband (Michael Sheen) and therefore decides to start over by moving back to her hometown of Los Angeles with her two young daughters. It’s there she comes across three young filmmakers and, having agreed to a temporary living arrangement, finds her newfound life unfolding in unexpected ways.
For Witherspoon, it was refreshing to explore the truth of divorce, as opposed to a traditional love story.
“(To) have a woman separated in the very beginning of the film is a very modern concept”, she says of Home Again, admitting she was keen to explore the notion that decisions you make at 25 don’t necessarily suit your life further down the line.
“I loved the script. I think so many people can relate to the journey of getting divorced and not knowing what’s next,” she adds. “People are going through that more and more, so it’s nice to see reality reflected on film.”
Restating her support for ‘dynamic’ women steering the ship, she states: “It’s great to have a female director and a female producer (too).
“They really see romance in a different kind of way and it’s definitely through their lens that you see a romance between an older woman and a younger man …”
But she’s quick to point out it goes far beyond mother-daughter bonding.
“It’s been really fun to see Hallie and Nancy’s dynamic and how they speak the same language,” Witherspoon enthuses. “They think the same ways about comedy and character.
“It’s nice for me to be around so many female filmmakers,” she says. “It’s important that we have female voices in film and I think Hallie is going to be a great new voice.”
But ultimately, she insists, it’s about updating the age-old rom com: “Audiences are ready for something a little more modern.”
A mother to three children, Witherspoon – who shares a son and daughter with her ex-husband, actor Ryan Phillippe, and a young son with her second husband, talent agent Tim Roth – is ever conscious of setting a fine example to her brood. In particular, her lookalike daughter Ava, who she took as her plus-one to this year’s Emmys.
“I look forward to the day when she gets to be the boss”, Witherspoon says of the 18-year-old. “I will be like happy; I’m like ‘Youuu take the responsibility'” she adds, her southern twang in full force.
“It’s shifted definitely to, ‘Wow, look at what my mother and these other women are accomplishing and I am so proud of them'”, she concludes, smiling. “She is learning a lot from these incredible women that I get to spend time with – it’s the dream.”
“Turkish-American composer Pinar Toprak has been hired to compose the score for Captain Marvel, which will premiere in March of next year.
Even if you’re not a film score buff, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with Toprak’s work. In addition to writing additional music for Justice League in 2017, she is responsible for some of the incredibly catchy music from Fortnite. Yes, the stuff that is stuck in your head all the time…….”
“For every unmitigated disaster like Solo, there are multiple other box office hits for Disney. Incredibles 2 is the latest.
The 14-years-later sequel is on a pace to finish off its opening weekend with a $180 million box office haul in the United States. That’s the highest opening to date for any animated release, and for any PG-rated release as well. It’s also the eighth-largest domestic opening weekend ever, overall.
Incredibles 2 soars past another Pixar sequel, Finding Dory, the previous top animated opener. The Finding Nemo sequel launched in 2016 on the same June weekend as Incredibles 2, but it only (only!) managed to pull in $135.1 million in its first three days.
The new $180 million bar will be a tough one for future competitors to beat, though even that record is bound to eventually fall. Inflation and rising ticket prices all but ensure it.
Disney currently has three recent releases in the weekend box office top 10. Solo: A Star Wars Story comes in at #4 on this weekend’s chart, with an estimated $9.1 million. That brings its domestic total up to $192.8 million.
Solo will probably cross $200 million domestic in the next week or two, but it’s currently the lowest-earning live action Star Wars movie to date. There’s even some question at this point as to whether or not it will manage to beat The Empire Strikes Back. Not accounting for inflation, that second-ever Star Wars movie ended its box office run in 1980 with $209.4 million.
Disney’s lowest entrant on this weekend’s box office top 10 is Avengers: Infinity War, at #8. The April 2018 release is still kicking in its eight week after hitting theaters. It picked up an estimated $5.3 million this weekend…..”
Apple announced today a multi-year content partnership with Oprah Winfrey to produce programs for the tech company’s upcoming video-streaming service. Apple didn’t provide any specific details as to what sort of projects Winfrey would be involved in, but there will be more than one it seems.
Apple shared the news of its deal with Winfrey in a brief statement on its website, which read:
Apple today announced a unique, multi-year content partnership with Oprah Winfrey, the esteemed producer, actress, talk show host, philanthropist and CEO of OWN.
Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.
Winfrey’s projects will be released as part of a lineup of original content from Apple.
The deal is a significant high-profile win for Apple, which has been busy filing out its lineup with an array of talent in recent months.
Winfrey, however, is not just another showrunner or producer. She’s a media giant who has worked across film, network and cable TV, print and more as an actress, talk show host, creator and producer.
She’s also a notable philanthropist, having contributed more than $100 million to provide education to academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, and is continually discussed as a potential presidential candidate, though she said that’s not for her.
On television, Winfrey’s Harpo Productions developed daytime TV shows like “Dr. Phil,” “The Dr. Oz Show” and “Rachael Ray.” Harpo Films produced several Academy Award-winning movies, including “Selma,” which featured Winfrey in a starring role. She’s also acted in a variety of productions over the years, like “The Color Purple,” which scored her an Oscar nom, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”
Winfrey also founded the cable network OWN in 2011 in partnership with Discovery Communications, and has exec produced series including “Queen Sugar,” “Oprah’s Master Class” and the Emmy-winning “Super Soul Sunday.”
The latter has a connection with Apple as it debuted as a podcast called “Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations” and became a No. 1 program on Apple Podcasts.
Winfrey recently extended her contract with OWN through 2025, so it’s unclear how much time she’ll devote specifically toward her Apple projects.
Apple also didn’t say if Winfrey will star or guest in any of the programs themselves, but that’s always an option on the table with a deal like this. CNN, however, is reporting that Winfrey “is expected to have an on-screen role as a host and interviewer.”