Her career took off in 2001 when Legally Blonde earned $142 million at the box office. And its sequel did equally well. She was suddenly an actress earning 8 figures and winning Oscars. But then she sort of disappeared. Her movies flopped. Her personal life was a mess. And it seemed like everyone had forgotten her.
So much so that in 2012, New Yorker featured her in a “where are they now” article that spoke about people who were big stars 10 years back. That was the kick in the butt Witherspoon needed.
She pushed her agent to start hunting for more women oriented roles for her. But nothing good came across. The only things she was offered were girlfriend roles. Or blond girl roles. Using her clout, she got meetings setup with the heads of the biggest 7 studios of Hollywood. And asked them if they had any leading women roles in the pipeline. Amongst all of them, only one studio had one movie where the main protagonist was female. And they were not planning to make a second one that year.
She chose the harder part and started her own production company. And started reading scripts and books. Two to three books a week that had strong female leads.