[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 3 November 2006, 16:58 GMT
Faces of the week
Faces of the Week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Reese Witherspoon (main picture), with MICHAEL STONE, LIZ HURLEY, VLADAMIR LUXURIA and ADAM SMITH.

REESE WITHERSPOON

The American actress Reese Witherspoon and her fellow actor husband Ryan Phillippe have announced that they are to separate after seven years of marriage. A spokesman said that they remain committed to their family - Ava, aged seven, and Deacon, three.

No sooner has the sweetheart of America walked off with a best actress award for her feisty performance as June Carter in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, than she and her husband, whom she described as "wonderful" in her acceptance speech, have called it a day.

The curse of the Oscars has struck again.

Soon after receiving her Academy Award for Million Dollar Baby in 2005, Hilary Swank split from her husband, Chad Lowe.

The same happened to Halle Berry after she won her gong for Monster's Ball in 2002. She had left hubbie Eric Benet within two years.

Kim Basinger only won a best supporting actress for LA Confidential in 1998. But it didn't stop her breaking up with husband Alex Baldwin.

Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon pose for the cameras.
Ryan and Reese have separated after seven years of marriage
And Helen Hunt's Best Actress award for As Good As It Gets in 1998, put the mockers on her marriage to Hank Azaria which lasted but a few months.

But in career terms, there's nothing like an Oscar to boost your cache, let alone your earnings. Reese Witherspoon is reportedly commanding $29m for her new horror movie, Our Family Trouble, an apt title under the circumstances.

This makes her the highest paid woman in Hollywood, overtaking Julia Roberts.

Until now her image has been almost too perfect for a Hollywood star. She is a southern belle from a grounded middle-class family who prefers being a stay-at-home mum to a fixture on the celebrity circuit.

There has been none of the wild living or spells in rehab that we've come to expect from Hollywood royalty.

Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1976, Witherspoon is a descendant of one John Witherspoon who left Scotland for America in the 18th Century and became one of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence.

Reese Witherspoon's father was an army surgeon, her mother a registered nurse who would later gain a PhD in paediatric nursing.

June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash
The real June Carter (left), played by Witherspoon, and Johnny Cash
After four years at an army base in Germany, she spent her childhood in Nashville Tennessee, an experience that was to prove invaluable later for Walk the Line.

Having inherited her ambitious streak from her parents, she landed her first acting role at the age of 14 in Robert Mulligan's Man in the Moon. Other parts followed.

Witherspoon put her career on hold to study English at Stanford University, but the offers of work proved too tempting and she dropped out after a year. Then, on her 21st birthday, she met actor Ryan Phillippe. They worked together on the set of the 1999 movie Cruel Intentions, were married that year and had their first child four months later.

"Obviously, this isn't the time in my life that I would have chosen to do this," she said at the time. Yet being a young mother didn't hold her back.

In the same year Witherspoon caught the critics' eye as the ruthlessly ambitious high school student Tracy Flick in Election. But it was for her part as the dizzy Elle in the 2001 Legally Blonde that saw Reese Witherspoon really hit the big time.

Emotional depth

Other successful chick flicks followed including Sweet Home Alabama.

She returned to more serious work in Vanity Fair. Even though her interpretation of the Becky Sharp character received mixed notices, the depth of her range became more universally apparent.

Reese Witherspoon holds her Oscar
Reese Witherspoon with her Oscar for Walk the Line
It was not a complete surprise then when she was asked to venture into deeper and darker waters with her portrayal of June Carter, a character that demanded a greater pull on her abilities in having to deal with the troubled Johnny Cash in Walk the Line.

What's more, Reese Witherspoon had to spend an unnerving six months learning how to sing. She'd been repeatedly told that she couldn't sing and the songs in the movie were all performed in front of a live audience.

The experience unlocked insecurities and she even begged her lawyer to get her out of the film contract. She says she has always worried about her looks, seeing herself as too short, too flat-chested and not sexy enough for Hollywood. For years, she'd been told she was too cute and girlie for many more serious roles.

Two years ago, she announced that she wouldn't ever be seen again wearing a bikini on screen. This has much to do with what she described as a prudish southern upbringing in which wearing bikinis and even the colour black were frowned upon.

But all that is now behind her and not only is she appearing in front of the camera, but also behind the scenes. Her company, Type A Films, has produced the Legally Blonde sequel, as well as a modern-day fable entitled Penelope starring Christina Ricci, with Witherspoon playing a supporting role.

She's still only 30 years old and, until now, appears to have had her cake and gobbled it. But the pressures on Hollywood stars are remorseless, and her marriage breakdown has become a small dent in her wholesome image.


Michael Stone
MICHAEL STONE

Former Ulster Loyalist paramilitary hitman Michael Stone says he came within three days of assassinating the current Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone when the politician was head of the Greater London Council in the 1980s. Mr Livingstone was hated by Loyalists after he gave support to Gerry Adams and other northern Irish republicans. Stone said his plot had to be abandoned amid fears that it had been infiltrated by a Special Branch informer.

Liz Hurley
LIZ HURLEY

Liz Hurley has told friends to keep a week free next year for her wedding festivities. The actress and model has officially set a date of 3 March to wed Indian businessman Arun Nayar. It will be a Hindu wedding held in the city of Udaipur, known as the Venice of the East. It will attract Mumbai's elite as well as guests from the UK that are expected to include former boyfriend Hugh Grant and his partner Jemima Khan.

Adam Smith
ADAM SMITH

The Bank of England is, for the first time, putting the face of a Scotsman on its 20 pound note. It's the 18th century economist Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations. A champion of the free market, Adam Smith described for the first time concepts such as the functioning of markets, the division of labour and the virtue of free trade. Next year, a statue of Adam Smith will be sited on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

Vladamir Luxuria
VLADIMIR LUXURIA

The Italian transgender MP, known as Vladimir Luxuria, has been involved in a row about which toilet she should use. Ms Luxuria wears women's clothes but has not had a sex-change. An Italian opposition MP said meeting Ms Luxuria in the women's toilet made her feel ill. Luxuria says she's been using the women's toilet for years and that using the men's would create bigger problems. There's now talk of a separate transgender toilet.

Written by BBC News Profiles Unit's Bob Chaundy



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific