Personal detailsName: Reese Witherspoon
Born: 22 March 1976 (Age: 38)
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Height: 5' 2"
Awards: Won 1 Oscar, 1 BAFTA and 1 Golden Globe
All about this star
Of all the new millennium's young female movie stars, only one has proved herself capable of single-handedly headlining a series of major box-office hits. Not Julia Stiles, not Kirsten Dunst, not Sarah Michelle Gellar. They are successful, but still mostly team-players. Only Reese Witherspoon has gone beyond that. Breaking through with Legally Blonde and making a $100 million hit of Sweet Home Alabama, then winning a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk The Line, she separated herself entirely from the new Brat Pack and supplanted Julia Roberts as the most popular female star in Hollywood. And this was wholly deliberate as Witherspoon could well rival Madonna in terms of blonde ambition.
She was born Laura Jean Reese Witherspoon in New Orleans on the 22nd of March, 1976. She'd spend the first four years of her life in Wiesbaden, Germany where her father, John, was a lieutenant colonel in the US Army reserves, there to fulfil his Vietnam draft obligation. After this, the family - John, wife Betty, first child John Jr and little Laura Jean - would return to America to settle in Nashville.
This was a predictable move for the Witherspoons, being deeply rooted in the South. Their earliest American ancestor, another John, had crossed the pond from Scotland, becoming President of the prestigious Princeton University. Such was his standing that he was asked to sign the original Declaration of Independence. Eventually the family would migrate to the southern states, where they'd be a paragon of the region's genteel aristocracy.
Many decades later, John, who'd graduate top of his class at Yale, would meet Betty while the pair were studying at the University of Tennessee. They'd marry, but their studies would continue, John becoming a surgeon specialising in the ear, nose and throat, while Betty, who'd earn five separate degrees, would become a Ph.D in pediatric nursing, winding up as a professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University.
Hailing from such stock, Laura Jean was bound to either hit the heights or crash and burn. Sensible from the start, she chose the former. At school, as a self-confessed "huge book dork", she achieved excellent grades, and would be taken on at the famous Harpeth Hall School For Girls in Nashville (former alumni including the Grand Ole Oprey's Minnie Pearl and pop singer Amy Grant). She'd be both a cheerleader and a debutante, though in later years she'd complain whenever this was mentioned, clearly believing that it undermined her reputation for intelligence and professionalism (her part in Legally Blonde would be close to her heart).