Receiving the American Cinematheque Award last Friday night, Reese Witherspoon made no secret of how she feels about how women are represented in Hollywood.
“Women make up 50% of the population, and we should be playing 50% of the roles on the screen,” said the Oscar winner in a frank and inspiring acceptance speech. Witherspoon emphasized the need for more “female surgeons, Supreme Court justices and soldiers” in the media, so we can see women “not just as the girlfriends to famous men.” Witherspoon’s past film roles have seen her play a high-school politician (“Election”), a lawyer (“Legally Blonde”), a doctor (“Just Like Heaven”) and a police officer (“Hot Pursuit”).
Witherspoon’s feminism and business savvy were referenced throughout the evening. Kate Hudson referred to the “Wild” star as “a true, modern-day feminist” and recalled observing Witherspoon’s precocious and ambitious behavior at an after-party for her breakout film, 1991’s “The Man in the Moon,” where the 15-year-old Witherspoon worked the room “like a seasoned politician.”
Even though she’s since been crowned “America’s Sweetheart,” Witherspoon has remained openly fierce and tactical in her career. As Matthew McConaughey described, “I remember thinking when I first met her, ‘This woman is nobody’s fool, and if she wants something she makes a straight line to it.'”
While Witherspoon is, of course, best known as an actress — one of the world’s most famous actresses — her profile as a producer is steadily rising. Her most notable credits include “Gone Girl” and “Wild,” the latter of which she starred in. (Her performance landed her an Oscar nod.) Witherspoon’s production company, Pacific Standard, was founded with the mandate to tell stories about female role models.
The American Cinematheque Award is given in recognition of an artist who has made a significant contribution to the art of motion pictures. Witherspoon’s award-winning acting career, as well as her mission to get more women on the big screen, make her one hell of a worthy recipient. The last woman to win the award was Julia Roberts in 2007. Of 29 awardees, only five have been women: Bette Midler (1987), Jodie Foster (1999), Nicole Kidman (2003), Roberts and Witherspoon.
Pacific Standard’s next release will be “Big Little Lies,” a limited series on HBO that will star Witherspoon and fellow American Cinematheque winner Kidman, who is also producing.