Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe Divorce: He Once Said Age Was a Factor in Their Split

In the early 2000s, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe were a Hollywood It couple. After marrying in 1999, the Cruel Intentions stars had two children. But by 2006, the romance had fizzled out. The pair divorced, with Witherspoon eventually going on to marry agent Jim Toth and Phillippe having romances with several women, including actors Abbie Cornish and Alexis Knapp.

So, why didn’t the relationship last? Both Phillippe and Witherspoon have indicated that getting married when they were fairly young played a role in the split. 

Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon married young 

Ryan Phillippe with his arm around Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe in 1998 | SGranitz/WireImage

Phillippe and Witherspoon met at her birthday party in 1998. The attraction was immediate. 

“I met him at my 21st birthday party,” she recalled to JANE magazine. “I don’t know what came over me – maybe the seven Midori sours – but I told him, ‘I think you’re my birthday present.’ He thought it was so flattering, and now that I think about it … how embarrassing!” 

Soon after, Phillippe landed a starring role in the future teen cult classic Cruel Intentions. He and the film’s director Roger Kumble thought Witherspoon would be perfect for the part of Annette, the principled high school student who is seduced by Phillippe’s manipulative Sebastian Valmont. Though it took some convincing — and Kumble’s agreeing to let Witherspoon rework the Annette role — she eventually signed on. 

Not long after the Cruel Intentions premiere, Witherspoon and Phillippe said “I do” in Charleston, South Carolina. She was 23; he was 25. A few months later, their daughter Ava was born. Their son Deacon arrived in 2003. In 2006, they announced the marriage was over. The divorce was “very humiliating and very isolating,” Witherspoon said in a 2009 interview with Elle.

The ‘Big Sky’ star explained why he and Witherspoon divorced

In a 2015 interview with Larry King, Phillippe reflected on his breakup with Witherspoon. He said that their high-profile careers in Hollywood weren’t a factor in the divorce. But getting married in their early 20s was. 

“I think more of the problem was age. We got together so young,” he said. 

While Phillippe said being in the spotlight didn’t cause the split, he understood how it could negatively affect a relationship. 

“I think it can create issues, two people in this industry, because there’s so much noise that goes along with it,”  he said, adding that he and his ex-wife were “very much” friends. 

The ‘Big Little Lies’ actor hinted that age played a role in the end of her first marriage’

Reese Witherspoon at The Hollywood Reporter's Power 100 Women in Entertainment event
Reese Witherspoon | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter

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In a 2017 appearance on ITV’s Lorraine, Witherspoon also implied that getting married young contributed to the end of her relationship with Phillippe.  

“I got married when I was 23,” she said. “I had two kids by the time I was 27. Sometimes it’s good to know yourself.” In the interview with Elle, Witherspoon talked about feeling isolated as a young mother, when she was far away from family and the only one of her friends who had a baby. But Witherspoon has made it clear she doesn’t regret her life’s path.

“I would never change anything,” she said during her Lorraine interview. However, it sounded like she’d discourage her own children from marrying young. “I’ve said to my daughter, ‘[by age] 25, you start to know yourself a bit better.’” 

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