Hottest stars at the Em­mys

Emmy nom Reese rewrites the rules for 40-some­things

New York Post - - FRONT PAGE - JENNIFER WRIGHT

Show busi­ness has al­ways been hell for women over 40. That was true when Bette Davis be­moaned “the big 4-0” in “All About Eve” nearly 67 years ago, and it’s still largely true to­day. But just as baby boomers Jes­sica Lange, Su­san Saran­don and Kathy Bates have found a guardian an­gel in Ryan Mur­phy and his “Feud” and “Amer­i­can Horror Story” se­ries, Gen-X ac­tresses now have one in Reese Wither­spoon.

The 41-year-old star — up for Out­stand­ing Lead Ac­tress in a Lim­ited Se­ries at Sun­day’s Emmy Awards, for HBO’s “Big Lit­tle Lies” — founded a pro­duc­tion com­pany, Pa­cific Stan­dard Films, ded­i­cated to cre­at­ing meaty roles for women of a cer­tain age. Af­ter all, Hol­ly­wood is still OK cast­ing 33-year-old Sarah Wright as 55-year-old Tom Cruise’s wife in the new movie “Amer­i­can Made.”

Wither­spoon was driven to take mat­ters into her own hands fol­low­ing a grim pe­riod when she starred in such lame movie come­dies as “Four Christ­mases” and “This Means War.”

“I dread read­ing scripts that have no women in­volved in their cre­ation,” Wither­spoon said at the 2015 Glam­our Women of the Year Awards. “Be­cause, in­evitably, I get to that part where the girl turns to the guy, and she says, ‘ What do we do now?!’ ”

Rather than wait­ing for some­one to write a great part for her and her pals, Wither­spoon be­came as­sertive about ac­quir­ing the rights to books she could turn into strong TV and film projects: “Big Lit­tle Lies” and the movies “Gone Girl” and “Wild.” Among the tomes the ac­tress is said to have in some form of de­vel­op­ment are the thrillers “In a Dark, Dark Wood” by Ruth Ware and “All Is Not For­got­ten” by Wendy Walker; the non­fic­tion “Ash­ley’s War: The Un­told Story of a Team of Women Sol­diers on the Spe­cial Ops Bat­tle­field” by Gayle Tzemach Lem­mon; and “Truly Madly Guilty,” an­other who­dunit from “Big Lit­tle Lies” au­thor Liane Mo­ri­arty.

The Mo­ri­arty gam­bit is a smart one: “Big Lit­tle Lies,” which Wither­spoon ex­ec­u­tive-pro­duced, was nom­i­nated for a whop­ping 16 Em­mys — in­clud­ing for 50-yearold co-stars Laura Dern and Ni­cole Kid­man (also an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on the show).

The HBO drama about Cal­i­for­nia moth­ers and their dis­con­tent was full of fas­ci­nat­ing, com­plex women. De­spite the drama, it looked like real life: A char­ac­ter played by Zoë Kravitz, 28, had a kid in first grade, as did those played by Dern and Kid­man and Wither­spoon. The se­ries was also trans­for­ma­tive, get­ting peo­ple to talk about Kid­man’s com­pli­cated, heart-wrench­ing turn as a victim of do­mes­tic abuse — rather than her Botox. Mean­while, the ac­tress’ ca­reer has had a doozy of a resur­gence this year, with her roles in the movie “The Be­guiled” and TV’s “Top of the Lake: China Girl” (both helmed by women di­rec­tors).

Now, Wither­spoon is aim­ing to cre­ate a must-watch se­ries for her­self and her pal Jennifer Anis­ton, 48, whose ca­reer has all but fiz­zled out since she reigned as Amer­ica’s sit­com queen dur­ing the 1994-2004 run of “Friends.” She and Wither­spoon are team­ing up to star in and co-ex­ec­u­tive-pro­duce a new show about morn­ing TV; al­though it’s not adapted from a book, Jay Car­son of “House of Cards” will write the script — hope­fully in­di­cat­ing the se­ries will be more fraught than fun and frothy.

Woman over 40 spent too long in the Hol­ly­wood grave­yard, but now, hal­lelu­jah, they can rise again. All it takes is be­friend­ing Wither­spoon.

BOSS LADY: Reese Wither­spoon ex­ec­u­tive-pro­duced the HBO se­ries “Big Lit­tle Lies,” which was nom­i­nated for 16 Em­mys — in­clud­ing an act­ing nod for her.

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