Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

by Lynn Tso December 29, 2014

2014 has been a good year for Reese Witherspoon. On the acting side, Ms. Witherspoon gained her fourth Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Wild, while Gone Girl, which she produced, also received a number of nominations and has been a box-office hit since its release in October.

In Wild, based on a best-selling true story, Reese Witherspoon played the role of author Sheryl Strayed, who solo-hiked the 1,100 mile Pacific Trail Crest after the death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage. Witherspoon gave a moving performance that resonated with audiences who undoubtedly appreciated her determination to work against type. For this tale of quiet, at times heart wrenching introspection, Witherspoon traded the breezy persona that viewers have come to know and love in films like Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama for a character study of uncommon intensity.

Of course this was not the first time the Southern native had stepped outside her comfort zone. Her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, for example, was the first time Witherspoon sang professionally. She spent six months learning how to sing for the role, and delivered a convincing performance that energized the critics eventually walking away with both an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award in 2005.

In 2013, Reese Witherspoon played a cameo in the Mathew McConaughey starrer Mud that unusual role of Juniper seemed to prepare her to go in a new direction. Her raw and strong presence in Wild mark another step toward more serious roles, marking her finest performance since Walk The Line. Jean-Marc Vallee, who directed the film, called her a 100% instinctual actress. He described Ms. Witherspoon as a “wonderful natural actress, born with this gift. And she’s using it in a beautiful way.”

Young and accomplished, Reese Witherspoon was born on March 22, 1976 in New Orleans to a family of doctors. Growing up in Nashville, her first brush with acting came when she was seven in a local commercial production, and she began taking acting lessons. She landed her first lead role when she was 14, and continued acting while finishing High School. She was admitted to the prestigious Stanford University, but eventually had to drop out and move to Los Angeles because of the demands of the entertainment industry.

As a teen working in Hollywood, Ms. Witherspoon showed great promise, picking varied projects like the Gen-X satire S.F.W., Fear, and Freeway. After the critically acclaimed Pleasantville in 1998, the pretty blonde met her first husband Ryan Philippe at her 21st birthday party. The two together made Cruel Intentions, a huge hit following the fairy tale romance. But it was her performance in Alexander Payne’s Election the following year that captured the attention of critics, earning her first Golden Globe nomination.

After the birth of her daughter, Ms. Witherspoon took a short break, but returned with the hugely popular Legally Blonde, earning her second Globes nom. The project showcased her comedic talent and catapulted her to movie stardom.

Her career reached new heights when she finally won a Golden Globe and an Oscar, but on the heels of that success came her breakup from Ryan Philippe. In the following years, Ms. Witherspoon appeared to some to be underused in a series of romantic comedies that featured her good looks, but not her acting chops, until she found Wild.