Reese Witherspoon on her production company: "We support new female voices in film"

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Reese Witherspoon Started Her Production Company as Women 'Deserve Better'


This story first appeared in the Oct. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Reese Witherspoon is known for her lovable comedic characters in Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama and her critically acclaimed work in last year's Wild and 2005's Walk the Line, which earned her a best actress Oscar. But it's her work behind the scenes as a producer through her Pacific Standard banner, which she and Bruna Papandrea founded in 2012, that has made her a true industry force. "One of the best parts of our job is we're buying books and helping authors navigate the process of getting a book all the way to the screen," says Witherspoon, 39, who will receive the 29th American Cinematheque Award on Oct. 30.

After the successes of Gone Girl and Wild, are publishers flocking to you at Pacific Standard?

When we bought Gone Girl, we could barely get anyone to read it. But there's been such an incredible response to our company and what we're trying to accomplish. Cheryl Strayed went from selling 1.5 million [copies of Wild] before the film was announced to selling 6 million books in two years. That's huge for an author.

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Did you and Bruna know you would work well together right away?

I really wanted a partner, not an employee. It's a self-funded company, and we purposely chose not to be at one studio because we wanted to be able to take material everywhere. I met with her, and I'm sure she didn't have any idea if I wanted to just develop material for myself or if I had real perspective about other stories or business acumen. Then I sent her Wild, and she said it was amazing and wanted to start this company. The next project we got within a month was Gone Girl.

How do you split the responsibilities?

She handles things I absolutely could not handle; she's incredibly logistical and strategic. [Among her credits: All Good Things, Andrew Jarecki's fictionalized take on the Robert Durst story.] She knows how to put together budgets and location scouts and a lot of developmental work. I do a lot of the creative and dreaming for the company. And I'm looking at new technologies and creating opportunities for the company. We both read very quickly and passionately. We care about finding new writers and new voices and helping support new female voices in film.

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Pacific Standard focuses on creating opportunities for women in front of and behind the camera. What should Hollywood do to end gender discrimination?

It starts at a really young age. I wish more people were bringing girls in who are 19 and 20 for internships on sets and at production companies. It's such a bubble, and it's really hard to get your foot in the door, particularly if you're not from the same socioeconomic background. If we educate young gals and give them the opportunity to see what a wonderful business it is, we could, ultimately, guarantee their success.

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See photos of Reese Witherspoon through the years:

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Reese Witherspoon on her production company: "We support new female voices in film"
Actress Reese Witherspoon, right, and Shannon Rotenberg attends the 2015 CISLA Annual Gala in Los Angeles on Monday, May 18, 2015. (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 4: Reese Witherspoon at Good Morning America promoting her new film, 'Hot Pursuit' on May 4, 2015 in New York City. Credit: RW/MediaPunch/IPX
Reese Witherspoon seen at the New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Premiere of "Hot Pursuit" on Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Warner Bros./AP Images)
Reese Witherspoon, left, and Sofia Vergara arrive at the LA Premiere Of "Hot Pursuit" held at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Los Angeles (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Reese Witherspoon, left, and Sofia Vergara, cast members in the upcoming film "Hot Pursuit," pose together before the Warner Bros. presentation at CinemaCon 2015 at Caesars Palace on Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Sofia Vergara, left, and Reese Witherspoon arrive at the 50th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, April 19, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)
Reese Witherspoon arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
TELLURIDE, CO - AUGUST 30: Actress Reese Witherspoon speaks at a seminar at Elks Park at the 2014 Telluride Film Festival - Day 2 on August 30, 2014 in Telluride, Colorado. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images For Telluride Film Festival)
TELLURIDE, CO - AUGUST 30: Actress Reese Witherspoon attends the 2014 Telluride Film Festival - Day 2 on August 30, 2014 in Telluride, Colorado. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images For Telluride Film Festival)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 21: Reese Witherspoon is seen on August 21, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 08: Reese Witherspoon is seen on August 08, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 07: Reese Witherspoon is seen on August 07, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by GONZALO/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 06: Reese Witherspoon is seen in Beverly Hills on August 06, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 31: Reese Witherspoon is seen in Beverly Hills on July 31, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: Reese Witherspoon attends the 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: Reese Witherspoon, Stella McCartney and Kate Bosworth attend the 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: Reese Witherspoon, Stella McCartney and Kate Bosworth attend the 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: Actress Reese Witherspoon attends the 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 29: Actress Reese Witherspoon attends The Colleagues' 26th Annual Spring Luncheon at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on April 29, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
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