• Golden Globe Awards

Actresses Who Have Turned Producers to Open Doors to Other Female Filmmakers

Reese Witherspoon at the premiere of "The Last Thing He Told Me"

Forbes’ 2023 list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women, which was released last week to rank the most successful female entrepreneurs and business leaders, features Golden Globe-winning actress and producer Reese Witherspoon in the 59th position and representing the only one in the entertainment category.


According to Forbes, Witherspoon sold a majority stake in her production company, Hello Sunshine, to a Blackstone-backed media company in August 2021. The deal valued the company at $900 million. The Morning Show star, who still owns an estimated 18% stake in the business, is currently the world’s richest actress.


Witherspoon’s transition from an actress – she dropped out of Stanford University in order to pursue the profession – to a producer commenced in 2012 when she started her earlier production house, Pacific Standard, which produced the Golden Globe-nominated Wild and Gone Girl. She founded Hello Sunshine in 2016 in order to tell women-driven stories, including the Golden Globe-winning Big Little Lies, and the Golden Globe-nominated The Morning Show.


Also a social media influencer with over 29M Instagram followers, and creator of Reese’s Book Club community, Witherspoon says: “I started this company to change the way all women are seen in media.” She has stuck with this ambition with the most recent titles she has produced, including the drama Where the Crawdads Sing, Apple TV+ shows The Last Thing He Told Me and Truth Be Told, as well as Hulu’s Tiny Beautiful Things and Daisy Jones & The Six for Prime Video.


Yet Witherspoon is not the only successful actress who has turned into a producer in search of a more significant presence behind the camera.

Jennifer Lawrence at the 76th Cannes Film Festival

Golden Globe winner Jennifer Lawrence captured the zeitgeist in the global media for her “fashion statement” in Cannes when she wore flip-flops for the red carpet; she was attending the film festival as a producer for the screening of Bread and Roses by Sahra Mani, the first ever documentary feature produced by her label.


Lawrence’s production company is called Excellent Cadaver, and it’s been functioning since 2018. When she talked to New York Times, she explained that the name of her production company is from an old Sicilian phrase for a Mafia hit on a high-profile personality.


The first feature debut produced by the label was Causeway, directed by Lila Neugebauer and starring Lawrence as a military engineer who returns home from Afghanistan after a traumatic brain injury.


An upcoming comedy, No Hard Feelings, also starring Lawrence, is the next release by Excellent Cadaver and Sony Pictures, coming to theaters on June 23. The list of other films in production includes Bad Blood, to be directed by Golden Globe nominee Adam McKay (who also co-produces) and starring Lawrence as the infamous Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos, as well as Die, My Love, an adaptation of the novel by Ariana Harwicz, to be directed by Lynne Ramsay, and a biopic of the powerhouse Hollywood agent Sue Mengers, in both of which Lawrence will star.

Jessica Chastain

Golden Globe winning actress and producer Jessica Chastain launched her label Freckle Films in 2016 with a promise to “offer some opportunities for women and also highlight the stories that perhaps have been unheard and invisible.” Her productorial debut took place in 2020, when Tate Taylor’s action thriller Ava, starring Chastain, was released. It was followed by The Eyes of Tammy Fay starring Chastain as televangelist Tammy Fay and Andrew Garfield as her onscreen husband; the label also released Simon Kinberg’s action spy thriller, The 355, in 2022.


In the same year, Freckle Films and Chastain executive produced the Golden Globe-nominated George & Tammy, a biographical miniseries for Showtime starring Chastain as the country singer Tammy Wynette and Michael Shannon as George Jones. Chastain and Shannon performed all 26 songs on the George & Tammy soundtrack: it was released on gold vinyl in a limited edition of 500.


In 2019, Netflix acquired distribution to Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division, an adaptation of the fastest-selling video game in history, with over 20 million players, which is currently in production by Freckle Films, stars Chastain and Golden Globe nominee Jake Gyllenhaal and is directed by David Leitch. And just recently, streaming acquired the rights for I Am Not Alone, Chastain’s new star vehicle, to be written and directed by Misha Green.

Viola Davis and Julius Tennon

Golden Globe winner Viola Davis started her production label JuVee Productions in partnership with her husband Julius Tennon back in 2011 – as she admitted in an her interview “out of necessity.” She has added, “This is our legacy – to create deeply and authentically while opening the door wider for the next generation.”


An artist-driven and LA-based production company developing and producing independent film, theater, television and digital content, JuVee Productions debuted with co-producing How to Get Away with Murder, starring Davis, and in 2014 produced their first feature film, Lila & Eve, starring Davis and Golden Globe nominee Jennifer Lopez. The most recent release by JuVee Productions is The Woman King, a drama that garnered a Golden Globe nomination earlier this year. And just recently, Davis’ production label signed a two-year, exclusive first-look television and new media deal with Entertainment One.

Tom Ackerley, Sophia Kerr, Margot Robbie and Josie McNamara

LuckyChap is another powerhouse partnership, that was launched by Golden Globe nominee Margot Robbie and her husband Tom Ackerley in partnership with Josie McNamara and Sophia Kerr back in 2014 with a focal point of female-focused film and television productions.


Its initial HQ consisted of a small office space located on the Warner Bros lot in Los Angeles, and in 2017 LuckyChap released their first motion picture production I, Tonya, based on the life of American competitive ice skater Tonya Harding, the role that brought Robbie her first Golden Globe nomination.


2020 was the year when the LuckyChap production Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) was released by Warner Bros. and became their highest-grossing production to date, while Emerald Fennel’s directorial debut Promising Young Woman earned four Golden Globe nominations. Their next project, Maid, released by Netflix in 2021 and starring Golden Globe nominee Margaret Qualley, received a Golden Globe nomination.


The most recent productions by LuckyChap include the historical crime drama Boston Strangler, starring Golden Globe nominee Keira Knightley, and Barbie, an upcoming fantasy film by Golden Globe nominee Greta Gerwig starring Robbie as the most famous doll in history. The in-development slate of LuckChap features Saltburn, the next film by Fennell, starring Golden Globe nominee Barry Keoghan, and a new adaptation of the iconic Tank Girl comic book.