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33 interesting facts about Reese Witherspoon, from her real name to the special clause in her Legally Blonde contract

 Reese Witherspoon smiling.
Reese Witherspoon smiling.

If she's not already there, Reese Witherspoon is well on her way to national treasure status - being one of those celebrities who everyone seems to love. 

Perhaps it's her iconic roles in some of the most feel-good movies ever, like Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama, or it's her commitment to making strong, female-led content with the likes of Big Little Lies and Little Fires Everywhere.

Whatever it is, when Reese takes the time to make something, people tune in in their millions. But it's not just her on-screen appearances people love. Her best looks over the years have solidified her as a master in Hollywood glamour.

In front of the camera or behind it, we can't seem to get enough of Reese - but did you know these interesting facts about the Oscar-winner?

33 interesting facts about Reese Witherspoon

She swears by this budget skin cleanser

Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon

One of Reese's go-to cleansers is surprisingly affordable. She told Refinery 29 that her favourite budget brand is Cetaphil. "I use the face wash, and I travel with it," she said.

"I love drugstore makeup, too," she continued. "I remember going as a little girl to the drugstore down the street from my grandmother's house, and I'd spend hours looking at nail polish and lipstick and blush."

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Reese Witherspoon isn't actually her name

A young Reese Witherspoon
A young Reese Witherspoon

She was born Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, with Reese being her mother's maiden name. It's unclear when the actress started going by the family moniker, but in a touching continuation of tradition, she also used Reese for her son, Deacon Phillippe's, middle name.

Reese was a military brat

Reese Witherspoon as a child
Reese Witherspoon as a child

Reese is known for her signature southern drawl and has written books inspired by her connection to the American South, but she’s not necessarily a Nashville native. She was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1976 and spent the first years of her life in Germany where her father was a military surgeon, before her parents relocated to Tennessee.

Her mother, Betty, was a nurse and she and Reese enjoy a close bond, with Reese writing a children's book named after her mum.

She's not the only famous one in her family

Reese Witherspoon and her mum
Reese Witherspoon and her mum

One of Reese's ancestors is thought to be an important historical figure who was at one of the most monumental events in American history.

According to numerous sources, the actress is a direct descendant of John Witherspoon, a minister and founding father who was at the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Reese was a born performer

A young Reese Witherspoon
A young Reese Witherspoon

Growing up in the South, she did some very quintessential American things, including being a cheerleader for her school’s football and wrestling teams.

The Oscar-winning star has regularly shared throwback snaps of her cheerleading days with her millions of Instagram followers, as well as documenting her love for the 2020 Netflix series, Cheer.

Reese's career path could have been very different

Reese Witherspoon with a cake
Reese Witherspoon with a cake

Can you imagine settling down to enjoy Sweet Home Alabama or Election and it not being Reese Witherspoon on screen? Well, that could've been the case if Reese never took a break from her academics to pursue acting.

She attended Stanford University for a year, studying English Literature, when she decided to take a break to focus on her career. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Reese's first big break came in 1991

Reese Witherspoon wearing a strapless dress
Reese Witherspoon wearing a strapless dress

While she had appeared in commercials as a youngster, her first major role was in 1991's The Man in the Moon.

"It was the most magical experience," the star has said of the role in an Instagram video. "I learned everything I needed to know about being a film actor - how to hit marks, how to perform for a camera, how to get emotional.

"It changed my entire life."

Reese has grown into a one-woman empire

Reese Witherspoon holding up her book, Busy Betty
Reese Witherspoon holding up her book, Busy Betty

As well as success in acting and producing, she has written a book and set up a clothing company named Draper James, named after her grandparents.

"I started this company to honour my Southern heritage and in particular my grandparents who were, and still are, the greatest influences in my life: my grandmother, Dorothea Draper and my grandfather, William James Witherspoon," she wrote on the company's website.

Her entrepreneurial mind hasn't always worked in her favour

Reese Witherspoon in a blue trouser suit
Reese Witherspoon in a blue trouser suit

She's the very definition of a hustler, transforming her success on screen into lucrative businesses in fashion, beauty and beyond. But this go-getter attitude didn't always work in her favour.

When she was a child, the Walk the Line actress was suspended from school when she was caught selling hair accessories.

She had to quit a role as a Disney princess

Reese Witherspoon in a red sequin dress
Reese Witherspoon in a red sequin dress

For many actors, becoming immortalised in the Disney canon as one of the princesses or characters is a dream. But, sadly for Reese, she had to quit the opportunity of playing Merida in 2012's Brave.

Fortunately, Reese saw the funny side. She had to turn down the role of the flame-haired Scottish princess because she simply couldn't pull off the accent.

"I tried to do a Scottish accent once. It was bad, I had to quit the movie," she joked on ITV’s Lorraine in 2017. "It's not my finest moment. I don't want to talk about it anymore. That just came out and I really wish it hadn't."

She refused to return to her role in Friends

Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston
Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston

While she's best known for her iconic movie roles, Reese's appearance in the sitcom Friends became one of the show's favourite guest roles - and fans wanted to see more of her turn as the spoilt sister to Jennifer Aniston's Rachel Greene.

However, during a 2019 interview with AP Entertainment, Reese revealed that she was offered an opportunity to return but turned it down since she gets so "nervous" in front of a live audience. "I said, 'No, I can't do it,'" she recalled. "I was too scared."

Reese and Jennifer would, however, go on to reunite in Apple TV's The Morning Show.

She had the chance to star in a few other major franchises

Reese Witherspoon in a strapless black dress
Reese Witherspoon in a strapless black dress

When you've got the likes of Legally Blonde in your portfolio, you're set for life. But Reese was reportedly considered the first choice for some other pop culture juggernauts - and they're a far cry from her usual roles.

Various sources suggest that Reese turned down the chance of starring in the Scream franchise (with the role of Sidney Prescott going to Neve Campbell) as well as the less-successful slasher Urban Legend movies. Reese, however, has never confirmed whether or not she was approached.

Unthinkably, she wasn't a shoe-in for Legally Blonde

Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde
Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde

In one of those examples of perfect casting, many would agree that Reese Witherspoon simply *is* Elle Woods, the blonde sorority princess who proves she has the brains and determination to succeed as a lawyer in Legally Blonde.

However, other actresses were reportedly considered for the role before Reese won the part. These included Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Alicia Silverstone and even Britney Spears.

She hosted one of the most poignant Saturday Night Live episodes

Reese Witherspoon on stage
Reese Witherspoon on stage

Two weeks after the September 11 terror attacks in New York City, it was up to Reese Witherspoon to host the first episode of Saturday Night Live, live from the Big Apple. She was the scheduled host for the season opener and agreed to show up as planned, the show airing just 18 days after the worst terrorist attack in American history.

The actress stood on the Studio 8H stage to host the season 27 premiere when she was just 25 years old. Rudy Giuliani, who was the mayor of New York City at the time, and Paul Simon, the musical guest, joined her along with first responders.

In an interview with Yahoo in 2015 she reflected on the episode. "It was a really difficult time in New York City,” Witherspoon said. “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."

Reese is a talented singer

Reese Witherspoon on the red carpet
Reese Witherspoon on the red carpet

For Walk The Line, where she played Johnny Cash’s wife, June, Reese did all her own singing.

"I've never sung before professionally," she said on Late Night With Conan O'Brien. "We practised. We did six months of voice lessons, and then we recorded an album over six months. I got to learn how to sing basically. This man, Roger Love, taught me how to sing."

She would go on to sing again in the animated movie, Sing, as well as recording a duet with Michael Bublé for his 2013 album To Be Loved.

She's played the same co-star's lover AND mother

Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson
Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson

Proving that Hollywood can be a confusing place, Reese Witherspoon has starred alongside Robert Pattinson in two movies, and the star has been cast as both his mother and his lover.

In 2003's Vanity Fair, Robert was cast in a small part as Reese's son but was later cut from the film. Sometime later, the pair were reunited for Water for Elephants, where they played lovers.

There’s only a ten-year age difference between the two.

Her chat-up line to her first husband was romcom-worthy

Reese Witherspoon and her husband
Reese Witherspoon and her husband

Reese met her first husband, Ryan Phillippe when a mutual friend brought him along to her 21st birthday party in 1997. The two would go on to co-star in 1999's Cruel Intentions.

The pair welcomed two children together, before splitting in 2006. While they might not have had the romcom happy ending, Reese told People in 2002 that they most definitely had a romcom-worthy flirty first conversation.

The actress reportedly told him on that fateful night, her birthday, "I think you're my present."

She welcomed her first child at 23

Reese Witherspoon and her daughter
Reese Witherspoon and her daughter

Reese is now a mother of three. Her children are Ava and Deacon, whom she shares with her ex-husband, Ryan Phillippe, and Tennessee James from her marriage with her second husband, Jim Toth.

Reese was relatively young and early into her career when she welcomed her first baby, daughter Ava, at 23. Looking back, Reese has said she’s glad she had kids early on but confessed that early motherhood was also quite ’’scary’’ for her in the beginning. "To be completely candid, I was terrified," she admitted to her friend and host of The Drew Barrymore Show. "I got pregnant when I was 22 years old, and I didn't know how to balance work and motherhood, you just do it."

She filmed Legally Blonde right after having her child

Reese Witherspoon on the red carpet
Reese Witherspoon on the red carpet

The next time you sit down to enjoy Reese's now-iconic performance in Legally Blonde, marvel at the fact she was doing so on next to no sleep.

She has revealed in past interviews that her daughter Ava, who was only a few months old when filming started, kept her up most nights during filming. "I was worried that I wasn't getting enough sleep because my daughter Ava was sick quite often during the shoot and there were a lot of days when I didn't think I could pull it off," she told Cinema. "Some nights Ava would wake up screaming because she had the flu and I would spend most of the night trying to rock her back to sleep and then have to be on the set at 7 in the morning for make-up."

She’s part of an elite acting circle

Reese Witherspoon holding an award
Reese Witherspoon holding an award

Even by Hollywood standards, Reese Witherspoon is part of a prestigious group of people.

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.

Other actresses to pull off the same coup include Helen Mirren and Cate Blanchett.

She became a producer for the best reasons

Reese Witherspoon in a red trousersuit
Reese Witherspoon in a red trousersuit

Reese Witherspoon embodied the mantra of walking the walk instead of just talking the talk when it came to finding and developing better scripts for women.

She 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.'"

Setting up her own company has proven very successful so far, as her company was responsible for making the critically acclaimed Gone Girl and Wild, which Reese also starred in.

She had a real-life romcom meet-cute with her second husband

Reese Witherspoon and her second husband
Reese Witherspoon and her second husband

Reese met her second husband, CAA talent agent Jim Toth, at a party in early 2010 when, like the lead from one of her romcoms, 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."

The couple split in 2023, and share a son, Tennessee, who was born in September 2012.

Her wedding to Jim Toth was something out of a fairytale

Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth
Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth

Reese married second husband Jim Toth on March 26, 2011, in a marquee on her ranch in Ojai, California, wearing a custom-designed gown by Monique Lhuillier.

The gorgeous nuptials took place in front of 120 guests, including some of Reese's superstar friends like Selma Blair.

In a very Hollywood fashion, eighty white doves were reportedly released just moments after the couple said I do.

Reese’s engagement ring was super rare

Reese Witherspoon showing her engagement ring
Reese Witherspoon showing her engagement ring

Her ring from Jim Toth was an early 1990s Neil Lane, Asscher-cut-diamond, and there are only a few like it in the world. The stone features 62 facets and rounded corners, and one jewellery expert, William Goldberg, explained that less than 10% of diamonds mined yearly can be cut in such a way.

Reese Witherspoon has an unlikely addiction

Reese Witherspoon with Whole Foods bags
Reese Witherspoon with Whole Foods bags

In a 2002 interview with People, the Sweet Home Alabama star admitted to having the most peculiar of addictions.

She revealed that she was "obsessed with Tupperware" and said she can't walk by a Hold Everything container store without going in.

A well organised home is the key to a calm space, so perhaps this is how Reese maintains her famous sunny disposition.

Reese turned her relatable hobby into something bigger

Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon, like many of us, loves getting lost in a good book and knows a thing (or ten) about what makes a good bookclub book.

Such an avid reader, she set up her own book club. Each month, Reese's Book Club chooses a book with a woman at the centre of the story. As the website states, "There's not a formula to the books we spotlight, and we like it that way. We make our choices thoughtfully and look for ways to deepen our connection to books, authors and ourselves."

Reese and Nicole Kidman almost went head-to-head for Big Little Lies

Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman

Reese produced Big Little Lies with Nicole Kidman after both wanting the rights for the book – proving that two talents coming together is better than a competition, the actresses decided to share executive producer rights for the HBO drama, which has become a huge hit with viewers around the world.

Reese and Nicole Kidman both recorded the same song

Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman

It wasn't just their shared interest in Big Little Lies which bonded Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. In a fun little coincidence, both actresses' forays into the world of music saw them record the same song.

Reese and Michael Bublé recorded a duet of Somethin' Stupid for his 2013 album. In 2001, shortly after her turn in Moulin Rouge!, Nicole hit number one on the UK Singles charts when she collaborated on the same track with Robbie Williams.

She seems to be one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood

Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Garner
Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Garner

Reese appears to maintain close friendships with a number of fellow actors and other entertainers.

Going on the record in the past, she has included the likes of Selma Blair, Jennifer Aniston and Salma Hayek as close friends.

Renée Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., Alyssa Milano, and Isla Fisher all also attended nuptials for the Legally Blonde star.

Reese was pivotal in spearheading the Time’s Up movement

Reese Witherspoon on the red carpet
Reese Witherspoon on the red carpet

Reese used her significant influence in Hollywood to help spearhead the Time's Up movement.

Shortly after #MeToo shocked the world with explosive tales of sexism and misogyny faced by women all through the industry, Reese was said to have texted and emailed 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 logo and pin design, which debuted on the red carpet at the 2018 Golden Globes, where all the women symbolically wore black.

The most genius contract clause saw her keep most of her Legally Blonde closet

Reese Witherspoon in a red dress
Reese Witherspoon in a red dress

According to Hollywood.com, Reese managed to keep all of her outfits from the first Legally Blonde movie.

The clothes are almost as iconic as the film itself, with everything from the hot pink breakup dress to the first-day-of-school teal blazer becoming legendary style moments.

A clause in her contract meant she got to keep hold of everything, and "it's all in the closet" she explained to Hollywood.com. "One day my daughter can play with it."

Her impressive Jimmy Choo collection will make you jealous

Reese Witherspoon on the Hollywood walk of fame
Reese Witherspoon on the Hollywood walk of fame

Appearing on The Graham Norton Show in 2019, Reese revealed that, not only had she been able to keep outfits from the first movie, she managed to keep over 70 pairs of the best designer shoes from Legally Blonde 2. Specifically, Jimmy Choos.

"How many pairs of Jimmy Choos?" host Graham Norton asked her. The actress, who was sitting next to a shocked Jennifer Anniston as they promoted The Morning Show, responded it was "like 77." She added, "I had it written in my contract...I have all of them."

She went completely make-up free for one of her most famous roles

Reese Witherspoon on the red carpet
Reese Witherspoon on the red carpet

For many, seeing yourself projected onto a huge cinema screen is enough to cause some self-doubt. But Reese took it one step further by ditching all makeup for her role in 2014's Wild.

She wore no makeup for her role as Cheryl Strayed, who takes off on a daring solo 1100-mile trek.

Reese has referred to her work on the movie as some of the best in her career, telling the Hollywood Reporter, "It was raw. I’d never seen myself in a movie like that before."