On a mission

Reese Witherspoon is creating opportunities for women in Hollywood like no one has before

Reese Witherspoon (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for People.com)

Reese Witherspoon, 41, is on a mission to create opportunities for women in Hollywood — both onscreen and off. The top earning actress, producer, fashion designer, and mother of three has already made an impact on the movie scene — Pacific Standard, the production company she founded, shook the industry with the success of Oscar-nominated movies Wild and Gone Girl, as well as Emmy-winning TV series Big Little Lies. All three projects star women, and were optioned by Witherspoon herself from books she read. And according to Witherspoon, who founded multimedia company Hello Sunshine last year, this is just the beginning.

A 2016 study by the University of Southern California has found that women only make up 28.7 percent of speaking roles in movies, and, as Witherspoon reveals in an essay for Glamour, she’s been told by studio heads, “‘We don’t want to make biopics about women,’ or more simply, ‘We’re not interested in female-driven material.’” By taking that approach, Witherspoon notes, producers are missing out on a big moneymaking opportunity — 52 percent of moviegoers are women, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. After the runaway success of Wild and Gone Girl, which together brought in $422 million, according to Forbes, Witherspoon is upping the ante.

“I started a production company five years ago to create more roles for women onscreen and behind the scenes,” Witherspoon says. “Today I have something like 23 projects in the works driven by great female characters of different ages and races.”

Among those projects is a TV series starring Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, in a highly anticipated return to TV for the famous Friends actress. Another project set to hit theaters this March is director Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, which is based on Madeleine L’Engle’s critically acclaimed science fantasy novel. A Wrinkle in Time will star Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, and Witherspoon herself — and will also mark the first time an African-American woman has directed a film with a budget in excess of $100 million.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal and CNBC.


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