It’s hard to believe, but it has been twenty years since Cruel Intentions hit theaters. The chemistry between Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe in the 1999 sexual thriller was electric, which makes sense because they were a couple in real life. They got married just four months after the movie premiered. But, according to a new docu-series, when Witherspoon became a superstar after starring in Legally Blonde just two years later, it ended up being too much for their marriage to handle.
In the new REELZ series Reese Witherspoon: The Price of Fame, biographer Lauren Brown says that when Witherspoon’s career started to outshine Phillippe’s, it caused some problems.
“Legally Blonde put Reese on another level that was just light years ahead of where Ryan was, and he was probably not handling it quite so well,” says Brown.
Witherspoon and Phillippe met in 1997 at her 21st birthday party, and she admitted in a 1998 interview that something came over her that night, and she told Phillippe that he was her “birthday present.” She says he found it flattering, but looking back on it, she finds it embarrassing.
The couple ended up getting engaged just one year later, and in 1999 they tied the knot when she was six months pregnant with their first child, a daughter they named Ava. Four years later, Witherspoon gave birth to their son Deacon.
But, by 2006, their marriage was over, and the couple announced in a joint statement that they had decided to separate, but remained committed to their family.
Phillippe told Larry King in 2015 that he thought the problem was their age, explaining that they got together when they were very young, and that can create issues when both people are in the entertainment industry.
Witherspoon gave a similar explanation in a 2017 interview, where she said that she was married by 23 and the mom of two kids by 27. And, it’s good to know yourself, but that’s not easy to do before your mid-twenties.
The former couple talked about Cruel Intentions with their kids during a walk through Central Park in 2014. Phillippe said that when he and Witherspoon were reminiscing about shooting the movie in different Central Park locations, Ava and Deacon were “tripping out” about their parents making a movie together before they were born.
Cruel Intentions will return to theaters nationwide for one week starting on March 22nd to celebrate the movie’s 20th anniversary.
Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe have stayed friends while they co-parent their children. The Big Little Lies star is now married to talent agent Jim Toth, and they share a 6-year-old son named Tennessee. And, Phillippe welcomed daughter Kai in 2011 with his then-girlfriend, Alexis Knapp.