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Reese Witherspoon: Hollywood's Most Powerful Woman

Updated: May 20, 2023

Not just the most powerful woman in Tinsel Town - she's now also the world's richest actress.


Reese Witherspoon in a polkadot dress

In 2011, Reese Witherspoon received a script that made her question her future in Hollywood. At 35, she had distinguished credits including Election, Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama, and had scooped a Best Actress Oscar for her 2006 portrayal of a steely June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line.


Yet she found herself leafing through a script peppered with brash male characters and female ones whose primary identity was that they were someone’s girlfriend.


Frustrated, Witherspoon organised meetings with a string of top Hollywood executives to figure out why there was a dearth of interesting female leads of a certain age, but their responses were depressing. “One even said to me, ‘We have a movie with a woman at the centre of it, but we’re not going to make two this year’,” she later revealed.


So, rather than just putting up with this disappointing state of affairs, she decided to do something about it.


In 2012, she launched production company Pacific Standard and optioned her first two books: Wild, a grief memoir by Cheryl Strayed and Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s psychological thriller. She starred in Wild and cast Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl. Both became instant box office hits and earned Witherspoon and Pike Oscar nominations for Best Actress.


Now a 47-year-old mother of three, Witherspoon is one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. Pacific Standard rebranded as a bigger digital media company Hello Sunshine in 2016, and has produced a string of hit TV shows that have dominated both streaming platforms and the zeitgeist with their female-driven plots, glossy aesthetics and A-list ensemble casts.


Hello Sunshine has become such a juggernaut that Witherspoon sold a majority stake to private equity firm Blackstone for a reported $900 million in 2021 though Witherspoon continues to oversee operations day-to-day.


Starring in many of Hello Sunshine’s own titles, Witherspoon’s own stock as an actress has soared, with reports she can now command over $1 million per episode for TV roles and many millions more for film projects. According to Forbes, she is the richest actress in the world with an estimated $400 million (£324 million) in the bank.

 
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