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What Script Was So Bad, It Drove Reese Witherspoon to Start Her Own Production Company?

By Vivian Kane | Celebrity | June 8, 2017 |

By Vivian Kane | Celebrity | June 8, 2017 |

In a recent Hollywood Reporter Dramatic Actress Roundtable, Reese Witherspoon told a story about the incident that inspired her to start her own production company. Five years ago, she says she was sent the worst script she’s ever read in her life.

I called my agents and said, “This is such a terrible script.” They said, “Well, seven women want it so … you’re the only one who’s not vying for the part.” And I thought, “God, if this is what we’ve come to, I have to get busy.” Because you can either complain about a problem or you can be part of the solution.

That’s a nice story, but clearly we need to figure out what movie this was before I explode with curiosity. Vulture noted that she told the same story to EW last year, with a little more detail:

About four years ago I got sent an awful, terrible script. And this male star was starring in it, and there was a girlfriend part. And I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. No, I’m not interested.’ They said, ‘Well, this actress is chasing it: three Oscar winners and two huge box-office leading ladies.’ And I thought, Oh, that’s where we’re at? You’re fighting to be the girlfriend in a dumb comedy? For what? And by the way, two Oscar winners did it.

What movie was so bad it drove Reese Witherspoon to launch her production company? Vulture did a little investigating, and narrowed it down to three likely contenders:

The Dilemma: Definitely a “dumb comedy,” with Vince Vaughn and Kevin James as the leads, so clearly in the running for Worst Movie Ever. The two women’s roles ended up going to Jennifer Connelly (an Oscar winner and definitely a Reese Witherspoon type) and Winona Ryder (an Oscar nominee). But the movie came out in January of 2011, and Reese was specific with her language, saying it was five years ago, and last year saying it was four years ago. That doesn’t sound like an estimate. It sounds like she remembers the exact date she had to suffer through reading that script.

Mortdecai: Definitely dumb. Fits the time frame. Johnny Depp hasn’t won an Oscar, but he’s been nominated enough times she might think he did. The women were Gwyneth Paltrow (Oscar winner) and Olivia Munn.

A Million Ways to Die in the West: I fully believe this script could have been the worst she ever read. And it works in the time frame. There were three female roles, but she might not be counting Sarah Silverman’s character, just the girlfriend/wives played by Amanda Seyfried and Charlize Theron (who is an Oscar winner and I also bet she and Witherspoon have gone out for the same roles over the years).

Blind items drive me crazy. I get so pointlessly curious, and I’m super bad at actually figuring them out. I’d believe any of these, but I’m leaning toward A Million Ways to Die in the West. For sure, that’s a movie terrible enough to finally push Witherspoon to trust she could do better.

What’s really upsetting is that there are so many movies that fit the story. Impostor syndrome isn’t exclusive solely to women, nor is holding onto your ideas until you’re truly proud to share them. But these are mentalities that do affect women deeply and disproportionately. The belief that we can only present a truly perfect idea for anyone to care or take us seriously is a pervasive one. But, as you can see from the mountains of pure shit that get produced in Hollywood (and, honestly, every industry) every year, it’s clear not everyone suffers from it.

If there’s one positive aspect of the ego-driven blind ambition that allows Seth MacFarlane and Kevin James to become stars who can nab Oscar winners for their movies, it’s that once brilliant women reach their bullshit limit, white male mediocrity is one hell of a fuel.

What Reese is saying, we’ve also heard from other incredibly talented women. Like, for instance, Carrie Fisher, who’s not just a remarkable author and screenwriter, but one of the most prolific punch-up writers in Hollywood. It was her job to make other writers’ (including, presumably a lot of mediocre white dudes) work sound better. And as she described it, she got into this line of work because she couldn’t handle the awful writing she saw rising to the top of her field.

Specifically, in fact, this gem of a George Lucas line:


That’s the kind of terrible writing that can make a brilliant woman up her ambition.

Of course, this frustration at seeing banality rise to the top isn’t limited to the film industry. Talk about someone who in no way deserves his current status: what better example of infuriatingly successful mediocrity than the man in the White House golf course? That’s a man who just kept telling the world he deserved success until they handed it to him.

But if there can be a silver lining to his very existence, it’s that he’s spurred an unprecedented number of women to run for office. Women who might have held themselves back until they had more experience or more confidence are saying “fuck that” and stepping up. It’s not like they could be less experienced or do a worse job than the man currently holding the highest political office in the country. In fact, they could probably do a whole lot more good, and shift this country (as Fisher and Witherspoon wanted to do with their specific industry) toward the version of itself they want to see. And there’s nothing like seeing someone terrible shifting that dial in a terrible direction to make you realize your own potential.

All day, every day, play it on repeat in your mind: