Reese Witherspoon reveals she's had enough of being the only woman on set as she fights sexism

Oscar winner Reese ­Witherspoon is seething and she doesn’t mince her words.

After 55 films in a 26-year career she has had a bellyful of the ­Hollywood sexism that can condemn female actors to “terrible” roles.

Reese is furious that for many of her films she has been the ONLY woman on set.

Now the star is determined to turn that on its head after declaring: “I’ve just had enough.”

Her vow comes just after ­International Women’s Day – and as a top film site makes headlines for introducing an “F” rating for films which represent women fairly.

Reese Witherspoon stars in Wild

Reese, 40, tells the Sunday Mirror: “I’m passionate because things have to change. I constantly see women of incredible talent playing wives and girlfriends in thankless parts.

“I’ve had conversations with so many actress friends and you can’t imagine the level of ­exasperation that comes with having to compete for terrible parts in terrible movies.”

Reese – who became a household name with 2001’s Legally Blonde – is one of Hollywood’s top-earning actresses commanding £12million a movie, just below that of best pal Jennifer Aniston, 48.

But it’s her latest project, Big ­Little Lies, that made her proud as she co-produced it with fellow Oscar ­winner Nicole Kidman, 49.

The show, which centres on a trio of mums caught in a murder mystery, is tipped to be a big hit when Sky Atlantic puts it head to head with ITV’s Broadchurch from Monday.

But for Reese, the series – also starring Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley – is a good excuse to emphasise her point.

“For 25 years, I’ve been the only woman on set, so no other women to talk to,” she says.

“They call it the Smurfette Syndrome: There’s 100 smurfs around but she’s the only girl. So it’s refreshing to get to spend time with women.

“We have to start seeing women as they really are on film, we have to, and not just in movie theatres on a tiny budget.

“We need to see real women’s experience, whether it involves domestic violence, sexual assault, motherhood, romance, infidelity or divorce. These are the kinds of shows that shift consciousness.

Reese in Walk the Line, a role which won her an Oscar
(Photo: Reuters)

“I want to be able express myself, to show how important women are in our world. We should be telling more stories like this.”

For mum-of-three Reese it’s important to set a good example to her children – four-year-old son Tennessee by her agent husband Jim Toth, and Ava, 17, and Deacon, 12, from her previous marriage to her Cruel ­Intentions co-star Ryan Philippe.

Reese took doppelganger Ava to the LA premiere of her new show and she is particularly concerned the teenager doesn’t face the same prejudices.

She goes on: “I hope my children feel encouraged to work hard in life because I’ve tried to accomplish a lot in my career, which hasn’t always been easy for me. I also think it’s important as a woman to show what you can accomplish.”

Reese’s first showbiz job was in modelling. At 14 she landed a part in 1991 movie The Man in The Moon – and won rave reviews.

Reese with Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley in Big Little Lies
(Photo: HBO/Sky Atlantic)

Teen drama Cruel Intentions and her role as ditzy blonde lawyer Elle Woods in 2001’s Legally Blonde made her an even bigger name.

But apart from her 2006 Oscar-winning role as June Carter Cash in Walk The Line and a part in 2007’s war thriller Rendition, Reese quickly became pigeon-holed in rom-coms.

There was Sweet Home Alabama in 2002, Four Christmases in 2008, plus How Do You Know and This Means War – both in 2012.

Reese adds: “I wanted to play ­dynamic women and explore all the doubts and anxieties that I was ­facing in my own life and that most women go through.

“But I had to work very hard to get people to take me seriously and even after I had some success I still couldn’t find serious roles I was looking for.

Reese in her breakout role in Legally Blonde
(Photo: 20th Century Fox)

“For a few years I was a bit lost, not being able to find what I wanted and making choices that I wasn’t ultimately very happy with.”

Reese’s comments come as film site IMDB announced it is giving each of its 7,000 movies an “F” ­rating if they had a fair and strong representation of women.

Yet at the same time, a third of all mainstream films in 2016 failed the so-called Bechdel test which monitors sexism.

It requires a film to have at least two named women characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.

However, just four of 2017’s Best Picture Oscar nominees – Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures and La La Land – passed. Moonlight, Lion, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water and Manchester By the Sea failed.

Ava Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon
(Photo: WireImage)

For Reese, one of her main drives to fight sexism was her mum Betty, who rose up the career ladder and earned a PHD while bringing up Reese and her older brother John.

Now the actress, born Laura Jeanne Reese, wants to set the same example for her kids – which is why she set up her own production company, Pacific Standard.

It’s already had huge hits with Gone Girl and Wild. Reese says: “My mom was my inspiration and I get my work ethic from her.

“She’s very dynamic and strong-willed and was always very present for us. Her dedication as a working mother is something I’ve always respected and wanted to emulate. And I would like my kids to feel the same way about their mother.”

Reese Witherspoon with family
Reese Witherspoon with her family
(Photo: Instagram)

In Wild, Reese played a divorcee who packs up her bags to walk the 2,650-mile Pacific Coast Trail – after engaging in a lot of casual sex.

Which brings more fighting talk from Reese.

She says: “A lot of women grow up with the impression that casual sex is something to be ashamed about or that you can’t be as free about sex as men are allowed to be.

“Wild made a point that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with having sex with a lot of guys.

“There’s something liberating about being able to say that and women shouldn’t feel ashamed about an active sex life. Women should learn to own their sexuality as well as their aspirations in life.”

Reese can’t rule out rom-coms in the future. But playing a ditzy blonde again? Unlikely.

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