Amid the growing call for gender equality in Hollywood, Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon has been quietly leading the charge for women and the work they create – including herself. Toiling under the production banner Pacific Standard Films, Witherspoon and her producing partner, Bruna Papandrea have been the driving force behind films such as Gone Girl and Wild – both of which have arguably played a significant role in challenging the status quo regarding high profile female-led projects. The pair has now added a further title to their vast slate – Cold – which, though written by a man, will star and be produced by Witherspoon. This continues her apparent determination to create her own opportunities both onscreen and off, and to bring strong female-led stories to theatres.
The mysterious project, which is characterized as a dark thriller with supernatural elements, was pitched to Lionsgate by screenwriter Bill Marsilii – whose previous credits include several episodes of Courage The Cowardly Dog and the film Déjà Vu. The studio promptly snapped up the pitch, bringing Witherspoon and Papandrea on board to produce, with Witherspoon also attached to star. The last time the actress starred in her own production – Wild – she walked away with an Oscar nomination.
The news of this latest project cements Pacific Standard Films, and Witherspoon in particular, as champions of female creativity in Hollywood. Both Gone Girl and Wild are movie adaptations of the work of female authors, featuring complex female lead characters, while the future slate for the company continues to expand with projects of similar pedigree. Luckiest Girl Alive is an adaptation of the novel by Jessica Knoll, Ashley’s War is an adaptation of the novel by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, All Is Not Forgotten is an adaptation of the novel by Wendy Walker, and Big Little Lies is an adaptation of the novel by Liane Moriarty.
These projects represent agreements with multiple studios, including Fox and Warner Bros., as well as with HBO for the TV adaptation of Little Big Lies. Few other production companies have amassed such a specifically female-driven slate of projects, and spread them among such a range of studios. Like these other projects, however, Cold has yet to attract a director – something that can be expected once the script is complete. This will be the real test of Pacific Standard Films’ commitment to female talent. Gone Girl and Wild, though both based on material created by women, were directed by men. Will Cold see the production company push for a woman at the helm? We will be watching closely as the project develops.