That's Not Even Her Real Name: 25 Secrets About Reese Witherspoon That You Probably Forgot

In honor of the Hollywood powerhouse's birthday on Friday, March 22.

By Billy Nilles Mar 22, 2019 10:00 AMTags
Reese WitherspoonJon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Is there anything that Reese Witherspoon can't do?

Last year, we at this very website declared the multi-hyphenate one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, noting that she'd expertly managed to take a 20+ year acting career and elevate it something so much more. Venturing into the world of producing, writing, retail, and activism, Witherspoon has become the sort of woman unabashedly worthy of calling Oprah Winfrey her pal. And as she celebrates her 43rd birthday on Friday, March 22, the year ahead for the star looks even brighter than the last.

Not only does she have the highly-anticipated second season of Big Little Lies due to hit HBO this summer, but her team-up with Jennifer Aniston for one of Apple's first original dramas—set in the world of morning TV—is due to be have a release date announcement literally any day now. Not only that, but there's the Hulu miniseries co-starring Kerry Washington, an adaptation of Celeste Ng's novel Little Fires Everywhere, to look forward to, as well as the two films she has in pre-production as a producer.

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Photographic Evidence Reese Witherspoon and Ava Phillippe Are Actually Twins

But for as bright and exciting as her near future looks, her past is just as interesting. She is a celebrity after all. So, before you break out your best Wreath Witherspoon—bless you, Mindy Kaling, for introducing us to such a delightful concept—and celebrate Reese's big day, brush up on 25 of the most fascinating facts from her 43 years around the sun!

1. She was born Laura Jean Reese Witherspoon in 1976 in New Orleans. Reese is actually her mother Betty's maiden name.

2. She is a claimed descendant of John Witherspoon, one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, though that claim has not been verified by the Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence genealogists.

3. Her father Dr. John Draper Witherspoon served as a lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve and, as result, Reese spent four years of her childhood living in Wiesbaden, Germany.

4. Growing up a dedicated student who loved reading, she earned the nickname "Little Miss Type A" from her parents. She would later launch her own production company with a title that nodded to the moniker, Type A. In a 2005 profile with Interview, however, she clarified the title choice, saying, "It was actually an in-joke with my family because at [age] 7 I understood complicated medical terms, such as the difference between type A and type B personalities. But I just wished I'd named the company Dogfood Films or Fork or something. You carry that baggage all your life."

5. Her first acting gig came at age seven, when she selected as a model for a florist's commercials. It inspired her to take acting lessons.

6. In 1991, she attended an open casting call for the film The Man in the Moon, intending to audition as a bit player. Instead, she landed the lead role of Dani Trant, the 14-year-old girl who falls in love for the first time with her 17-year-old neighbor. In her debut, she was nominated for Best Young Actress at that year's Young Artist Awards.

7. Despite making her acting debut at 14, she maintained good enough grades to get accepted to Stanford University as an English literature major, but she withdrew after a year to pursue her burgeoning acting career.

8. Reese met her first husband, Ryan Phillippe, when a mutual friend brought him along to her 21st birthday party in 1997. As she told People in 2002, she told him at the end of the night, "I think you're my present."

9. After filming the cult classic Cruel Intentions, which was released in 1999 and returned to theaters for a limited engagement this year for its 20th anniversary, Phillippe proposed to his girlfriend in December 1998 with a homemade breakfast-in-bed meal of waffles with strawberries and cream. They tied the knot in Charleston, South Carolina on June 5, 1999. Their daughter Ava, who's grown into the spitting image of her mother, was born three months later.

10. On September 29, 2001, Witherspoon hosted the very first episode of Saturday Night Live to air after the September 11 terrorist attacks. "It was a really difficult time in New York City," Witherspoon told Katie Couric in 2015. "But I was so proud to be there and be on stage with firemen and Paul Simon and Lorne Michaels I think did an incredible job getting that show back on its feet and making America laugh again."

11. When she landed the lead role in director Mira Nair's Vanity Fair, Nair joked that Witherspoon should get pregnant to gain weight for the role. The actress wound up announcing her second pregnancy during filming, with careful costuming needed to help conceal her baby bump.

12. Witherspoon and Phillippe's son Deacon, born in October 2003, was named after former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Deacon Phillippe, a relative of her then-husband's.

13. For her performance as June Cash in Walk the Line, she joined a very small list of actresses who have won the Academy Award, BAFTA, Critics' Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG Award for the same performance.

14. She and Phillippe split in 2006 after seven years of marriage.

15. Witherspoon decided to become a producer after reading a terrible script that her agent sent her way. As she told Chelsea Handler in 2017, "I thought, 'If every actress in Hollywood wants this part, I need to start making movies because this is not worth women's talent.'"

16. After dating Jake Gyllenhaal, Witherspoon met her current husband, CAA talent agent Jim Toth, at a party in early 2010 where he came to her rescue. "This really drunk guy was hitting on me, making such an idiot of himself, yelling at me," she told Elle in 2012. "He was like, [slurring, scowling, pointing finger in her face] 'You don't know me.' And I was like, 'Yeah, I know. I don't know you!' Jim came over and said, 'Please excuse my friend. He's just broken up with someone.' Jim was a really good friend, pulling him out of that situation. That's just kind of who he is, a really good person." They tied the knot at her ranch in Ojai, Calif., in March 2011 and welcomed their son, Tennessee in September 2012.

17. In 2013, Witherspoon and Toth were pulled over by Atlanta PD as Toth was weaving in and out of lanes. As officers were arresting her husband for DUI, she allegedly became irate and started acting up, supposedly asking the officers, "Do you know my name?" When they replied they didn't need to, she allegedly responded with, "You're about to find out who I am." She was arrested for disorderly conduct, later pleading no contest to obstruction.

"Out of respect for the ongoing legal situation, I cannot comment on everything that is being reported right now. But I do want to say I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said," she said in a statement. "It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that was no excuse. I was disrespectful to the officer who was just doing his job. The words I used that night definitely do not reflect who I am. I have nothing but respect for the police and I am very sorry for my behavior."

18. In a 2002 interview with People, Witherspoon admitted to being "obsessed with Tupperware" and said she can't walk by a Hold Everything container store without going in.

19. From 2007 to 2011, Witherspoon served as the announcer of the Playhouse Disney block of programming on the Disney Channel. Her voice was featured in promos, bumpers and commercials for the morning block that targets children ages 3-8.

20. In 2013, she appeared on Michael Bublé's album To Be Loved, featured on a cover of the Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra duet, "Somethin' Stupid."

21. When she launched her retail brain Draper James in 2015, she named it after her grandparents, Dorothea Draper and William James Witherspoon. The brand, with its focus on fashion, accessories and home décor inspired by the American South, opened its first brick and mortar store in the fall of 2015 in her hometown of Nashville, Tenn.

22. Her first book, a lifestyle book inspired by her southern upbringing entitled Whiskey in a Teacup, was released on September 18, 2018. The lover of books also runs book club on her Instagram account, where she announced a new recommendation every month.

23. She turned down lead roles in Scream and Urban Legend, and was considered for the lead in Romeo + Juliet before losing out to Claire Danes. She also was forced to quit Pixar's Brave because she couldn't master the Scottish accent required to bring Merida to life.

24. She kept most of Elle woods' iconic wardrobe from the Legally Blonde franchise.

25. Witherspoon helped spearhead the Time's Up movement by texting and emailing all of her close friends and colleagues in Hollywood before pushing all the women to get in one room and consolidate the conversations into a plan of action. She also found the designer who would create the movement's now iconic logo and pin design, which debuted on the red carpet at the 2018 Golden Globes.

Happy birthday, Reese!