Reese Witherspoon Continues Push for Better Female Film Roles

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

On the heels of her Oscar-nominated turn in Wild, Reese Witherspoon is bringing the story of another inspiring woman’s life to screen. The actress is set to produce and potentially star in the film adaptation of the upcoming book, Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield.

Written by bestselling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (The Dressmaker of Khair Khana), Ashley’s War chronicles the true story of a groundbreaking team of female American warriors who served alongside Special Operations soldiers on the battlefield in Afghanistan­ in 2010. The unit, known as CST-2, brought together a handpicked group of women from the army including First Lieutenant Ashley White, who would eventually become the first CST member killed in action. The book chronicles the bonds the women formed in the face of adversity, danger, and the desire to serve their country.

Though the novel isn’t due for publication by Harper until late next month, the material still sparked a fairly competitive bidding war between several big studios. According to Deadline, Witherspoon and production partner Bruna Papandrea’s Pacific Standard banner teamed with Fox 2000 in order to win the film rights to the novel, beating out other offers from Sony and Universal.

In addition to producing the movie, Deadline reports that Witherspoon will have the first shot at portraying White, who was only 24 at the time of her death and is now remembered on the Army’s Special Ops Memorial Wall of Honor alongside the Army Rangers she served with.

If she does end up in the role, the project would continue the notable career resurgence Witherspoon has experienced as of late. After a string of regrettable rom-coms, the actress has turned things around with several well-chosen roles in dramas like The Good Lie, Inherent Vice and most notably, Wild. The latter, a film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir chronicling her 1100-mile hike through Pacific Crest Trail, earned her a spot in the center of awards season and the second Oscar nomination of her career. As another high-profile book with a strong female protagonist, Ashley’s War seems like an ideal choice to continue this winning streak.

Regardless of whether she stars in the film, the project is clearly part of Witherspoon’s effort to pursuing meatier, more well-rounded and diverse roles for women in Hollywood. The actress has spoken out about starting her production company partly out of a desire to create the kinds of roles for herself that she wasn’t finding elsewhere. It’s worked so far – Pacific Standard produced both Inherent Vice and Wild. But she’s also managed to help create defining roles for other female stars, most notably with the hit film based on Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl. Witherspoon produced the film and was originally expected to take on the lead of Amy Dunne, but director David Fincher decided he wanted someone else for the part – a choice Witherspoon ultimately supported. The role has since become a career-defining one for Rosamund Pike, who earned an Oscar nod for her performance.

Continuing this effort to produce noteworthy female-focused projects, the actress recently teamed with Nicole Kidman to buy the rights to Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. The two will reportedly produce and star in a TV miniseries adaptation of the bestselling book, although the project is not currently attached to a network yet. Next up, Witherspoon is set to star alongside Sofia Vergara in the comedy Hot Pursuit, hitting theaters on May 8.

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