Reese Witherspoon and her Pacific Standard co-founder Bruna Papandrea aren’t like most producing teams. One half of the shingle is an Oscar-winning actress, of course, but more importantly, the duo are dedicated to “making movies solely with women at the center of the story.”
“We are looking for great female parts,” said Witherspoon, who spoke with Papandrea about their aims and origins at LA’s Produced By conference. “If she’s the girlfriend or the wife, probably don’t send it to us,” added the actress.
Three years ago, recalled Witherspoon, “I was just reading scripts, and the scripts were sort of diminishing. I just started to notice they were making less movies for women, and that meant less parts for women.”
“Women make up 50 percent of the population, so we should make up 50 percent of the [roles and stories] in movies,” she added. “It’s not a crazy thought, it’s just a representation of reality.”
Witherspoon credited her husband, agent Jim Toth, with giving her the idea to adapt the books she loved for the big and small screens. Still, it was a tough battle getting studios and investors to pay attention to the projects she and Papandrea thought merited attention.
“We sent [Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl’] to every studio,” said Witherspoon, “and nobody read it. And then it went to No. 1. And they all scrambled.”
Though the two have been wooed by studios to sign exclusive deals, Witherspoon and Papandrea have resisted. “I’m an independent producer and that’s who I am in my heart. We’re growing a company,” said Papandrea. “It has driven me and Reese to activate our movies and move fast. I don’t feel successful if we’re just in development.”
Pacific Standard’s upcoming projects include the mommy murder mystery “Big Little Lies” (to air as a miniseries on HBO), the military drama “Ashley’s War” and the mental-breakdown thriller “Luckiest Girl Alive.”
Witherspoon diagnosed sexism in the industry as occurring early and often. “I feel like it starts very, very young. Women aren’t getting those critical internships when they’re 18, 19, 20,” she said. “The best way to learn how to make a movie or a television show is to be standing on set.”
On a different note, she revealed that she’s been asked to play Hillary Clinton a couple of times. “But didn’t I play her already?” she joked. “When I did meet Hillary Clinton, she said, ‘Everybody talks to me about Tracy Flick in ‘Election,’ all the time.”
Witherspoon can currently be seen in Anne Fletcher’s “Hot Pursuit,” co-starring Sofia Vergara.