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The film became a box office success and a cult classic.
Next came perhaps Witherspoon's career-defining role: starring with Matthew Broderick in Election, based on Tom Perrotta's novel; for her portrayal of Tracy Flick, she received vast critical acclaim and won the Best Actress Award from the National Society of Film Critics and the Online Film Critics Society, a first Golden Globe nomination and an Independent Spirit Award nomination.
In 2014, Witherspoon produced the thriller Gone Girl and received critical acclaim for portraying Cheryl Strayed in Wild, for which she earned her second Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and a fourth Golden Globe nomination.
In 2017, she co-produced and starred in the HBO drama series Big Little Lies, for which she received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie and Outstanding Limited Series, winning the latter as a producer.
I would audition for things and I'd always be the second choice—studios never wanted to hire me and I wasn't losing the parts to big box office actresses but to ones who I guess people felt differently about." The 2001 film Legally Blonde marked a turning point in Witherspoon's career; she starred as Elle Woods, a fashion-merchandising major who decides to become a law student in order to follow her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School. In 2002, after the success of Legally Blonde, Witherspoon starred in several roles, such as Greta Wolfcastle in The Simpsons episode "The Bart Wants What It Wants", and as Cecily in the comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, a film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play in which she received a Teen Choice Award nomination.
In 2005, she portrayed June Carter in Walk the Line, which earned her the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Critics Choice Award for Best Actress.Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon (born March 22, 1976) is an American actress, producer, and entrepreneur.She is the recipient of several awards, including an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, a BAFTA Award, and two Golden Globe Awards.USA Today considered the movie "plodding, unfunny and almost cringe-worthy", but also noted that "Reese Witherspoon still does a fine job portraying the fair-haired lovable brainiac, but her top-notch comic timing is wasted on the humorless dialogue." In 2004, Witherspoon starred in Vanity Fair, adapted from the 19th-century classic novel Vanity Fair and directed by Mira Nair.Her character, Becky Sharp, is a poor woman with a ruthless determination to find fortune and establish herself a position in society.
Also that year co-starred with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe in the drama film Cruel Intentions, a modern take on the 18th-century French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses.