Reese Witherspoon on the “Lightbulb Moment” That Made Her a Powerhouse Producer

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Reese Witherspoon is an undeniable force in Hollywood, an Oscar-winning performer turned major producer who has put a spotlight on female-centric storytelling. But before she turned behind the scenes to get the green light for films like Gone Girl and Wild, and TV shows like Big Little Lies, she was an actress getting weighed down with scripts that had tepid roles for female leads—and one in particular was so bad that it pushed her start creating roles for herself.

In an interview with Vanity Fair’s executive West Coast Editor Krista Smith on CBS News, Witherspoon spoke about the eye-opening moment she decided to become a producer. After winning a best actress Oscar in 2006, she experienced a post-awards season slump—and remembers being sent a particularly embarrassing script.

“It was just awful,” she tells Smith. “I called my agent, I said I’m not gonna do this. Who would want to do this? He said every actress in Hollywood wants this part. It was just a lightbulb moment for me.”

Witherspoon realized that she had “to create more and do better for other women and create opportunities . . . I don’t see women at the center of their own movies as much as I would like to.”

That lightbulb moment led to her co-founding a production company, Pacific Standard, which has found success with adapting female-centric novels for the screen. Box office hits like Gone Girl and prestige series like Big Little Lies have helped bolster Witherspoon’s status as a major power player in Hollywood. “I notice people return my phone calls quicker,” she says.

Witherspoon also discusses a variety of other things in the interview, including her eerie similarities to her BLL character, reuniting with Jennifer Aniston for an upcoming series about morning news anchors (Witherspoon previously played Aniston’s sister on Friends), and the ups and downs of running her retail company, Draper James.

“Sometimes you just have to jump two feet into a cold pool,” she says, with a slight Southern twang. “And then just figure out how to swim later.”

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