Actress Reese Witherspoon recently optioned bestsellers Gone Girl and Wild. Here, a look at these and the 15 other book adaptations in which she’s appeared.
Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest…
Cheryl Strayed’s powerful, Oprah-endorsed memoir about her weeks hiking through 1,100 miles of Northern Pacific wilderness after the death of her mother and the end of her marriage hadn’t even hit bookstores last March when Witherspoon announced she would produce and star in the film version. “I couldn’t be more thrilled,” Strayed said in an interview with The Oregonian. “[Reese] is such a wonderful combination of smart and charming. I really feel like she saw my vision and is the perfect person to bring it to the screen. If a genie gave me three wishes about who would play the part, she would be my first wish.” The film also has a dream screenwriter in About a Boy and High Fidelity author Nick Hornby, who wrote the screenplay for the 2009 film An Education. “Nick’s innate blend of humanity and humor are a perfect match for Cheryl’s raw emotional memoir,” Witherspoon told Deadline Hollywood.
Witherspoon and her Pacific Standard production company also grabbed the rights to this summer’s smash-hit thriller Gone Girl. She will take the lead as Amy Dunne, a woman who goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary with all eyes turning to her husband, who’s not the upstanding citizen he appeared to be. Author Gillian Flynn has signed on to write the script, with The Kids Are All Right’s Lisa Cholodenko directing. Flynn has been a fan of Witherspoon since her first film appearance, in 1991’s The Man in the Moon. “I was eating Dunkin’ Donuts and sitting on a smelly papasan chair,” Flynn told Word and Film. “That’s how well I remember that moment…[I]t will be a blast to see her take on all of Amy’s angles.”
Bret Easton Ellis
Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 savaging of Wall Street culture was so controversial that its original publisher, Simon & Schuster, cancelled its release. Director Mary Harron’s 2000 adaptation was no less so, with Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio all attached before Christian Bale stepped in to play corporate-raiding sociopath Patrick Bateman. Witherspoon plays Bateman’s unsuspecting fiancée Evelyn as he slashes his way through prostitutes and models while enjoying the tunes of Huey Lewis and the News.
If Only It Were True
Thirty-eight-year-old French author Marc Levy only started writing a year before the publication of his first novel, 1999 bestseller If Only It WereTrue—the basis for the 2005 romantic comedy Just Like Heaven, starring Witherspoon as a San Francisco doctor who haunts her apartment after slipping into a coma. Levy has since become France’s bestselling novelist worldwide, with 12 books selling more than 21 million copies combined.
Water for Elephants
“Dream cast…I can’t imagine better people for the parts,” said author Sara Gruen about Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, and the other actors who appeared in the 2011 film version of her bestselling 2006 novel about a Depression-era circus.
The Importance of Being Earnest
Witherspoon played Cecily Cardew opposite Rupert Everett’s Algernon Moncrieff in the 2002 film version of Wilde’s classic comedy about mistaken identity, town and country, and the battle of the sexes.
“Impressive,” The New York Times called 15-year-old Witherspoon’s performance—just her second-ever role—in Wildflower, the Diane Keaton-directed Lifetime Television adaptation of Sara Flanigan’s 1991 novel Alice. Flanigan, who died in 2006 at age 75, didn’t start writing until she was in her 50s.
In 1989, A.M. Wellman won Playboy’s College Fiction Award. Three years later, at age 21, he published the novel S.F.W., about an alienated suburban youth whose catchphrase (“So f*****g what.”) filmmakers couldn’t advertise but hoped would score with the trendy “grunge” market of the day. (There’s a possibly apocryphal story that the book’s publisher, Random House, chose the title without consulting Wellman.) The film included several young actors bound for big careers—Witherspoon, Stephen Dorff, Tobey Maguire, Joey Lauren Adams—but was roundly panned by critics.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
For the 1999 film Cruel Intentions, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ tale of sexual villainy in Louis XVI’s Paris was updated to modern-day Manhattan. The movie, which took in $76 million worldwide, wasn’t the only thing to catch fire: Witherspoon and co-star Ryan Phillippe married three months after the release and had two children before splitting in 2007.
Jack the Bear
In The New York Times Book Review, Larry McMurtry compared Dan McCall’s 1974 novel about a widowed, alcoholic father raising two sons to Huckleberry Finn and Catcher in the Rye. Seventeen-year-old Witherspoon’s role in the 1993 film version was hailed by Roger Ebert as “the best thing in the movie.”
In director Alexander Payne’s adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s 1998 novel Election, Witherspoon plays high school student Tracy Flick, whose quest to become class president spells calamity for her teachers and fellow students. “The movie was an amazing surprise,” Perrotta told Canadian talk show host George Stroumboulopoulos. “No one knew what Reese Witherspoon could do.”
A Far Off Place
Laurens Van Der Post
Disney’s 1993 film A Far Off Place blended Laurens Van Der Post’s 1974 African-adventure novel with its prequel, A Story Like the Wind. Witherspoon plays Nonnie, a gamekeeper’s daughter on the run from crazed poachers.
Made for just $18 million, the film version of Amanda Brown’s 2001 novel Legally Blonde grossed nearly $100 million and jumped the fee for Witherspoon—who starred as ditzy-seeming law school savant Elle Woods—from $1 million to $5 million. “[Elle’s] an interesting twist on the character because normally she would be the mean girl and she’s not,” Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Trumpet of the Swan
Witherspoon lends her voice to beautiful young swan Serena in the 2001 animated film The Trumpet of the Swan, based on E.B. White’s 1970 children’s novel.
William Makepeace Thackeray
In 2005, Witherspoon starred as the aptly-named sexual warrior Becky Sharp in director Mira Nair’s adaptation of Thackeray’s 19th-century magnum opus.
Mara Leveritt’s nonfiction examination of the West Memphis Three—teens wrongfully convicted of killing three children amidst a whirlwind of bad police work, paranoia, and panic about devil worship—hits screens in 2013 with Witherspoon starring as Pam Hobbs, mother of one of the murdered boys.
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
With more than 15 million copies sold, John Gray’s 1992 advice book is the bestselling relationship guide of all-time. So far, Witherspoon is the only actor attached to the film version, which is reportedly to begin shooting in January.
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.