At the Oscars, when Witherspoon and Phillippe present an award, Phillippe hands the envelope to her and cracks, "You make more money than I do. Go ahead." The stunt sparks rumors of jealousy.
Sweet Home Alabama, costarring Patrick Dempsey, grosses $127 million. Witherspoon, however, juggles motherhood with her work. "She doesn't pretend that it's all so perfect," Andy Tennant, a longtime friend who directed Alabama, says. "That's the refreshing part with her. She can actually come to the set and say, 'F---! This is hard being a mom!'"
Witherspoon delivers her second child, son Deacon. She discovered she was pregnant after returning from a family vacation in the Caribbean last winter. "Ryan's really excited. And I'm really excited," she told PEOPLE in May, adding, "And Ava's more excited than the both of us."
Cast as June Carter Cash, Witherspoon begins filming the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line with costar Joaquin Phoenix in Nashville. The decision to play the country crooner was a no-brainer. "I grew up in Nashville," Witherspoon tells PEOPLE. "I remember being on the playground and singing 'Nine to Five' and telling everybody I was going to be the next Dolly Parton."
Along with Jennifer Garner, Witherspoon tours the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and comforts young survivors. "I worry about these children," she tells PEOPLE. "No one has responded to their cries for help. Their families say, 'Tell our story. We've been forgotten.'"
On The Oprah Winfrey Show, Witherspoon lashes out at the Hollywood trend of women playing dumb: "The women who came before us fought so hard to overcome the stereotype of women being not smart enough to vote, not smart enough to go to higher education, not have great jobs. And to sort of single-handedly go out in a very public way and say, 'You know what? I don't really care about what they achieved, you know – I'm just going to be stupid and that's cute.' . . I just don't think it's a good message for young women."
Witherspoon takes home a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Walk the Line. "I'm so blessed to have my mother and my father, for being so proud of me. It didn't matter whether I was making my bed or making a movie," she says during her Oscar acceptance speech. "My grandmother taught me to be a real woman, to have strength and self-respect, and never give those things away."
Phillippe and Witherspoon separate after seven years of marriage. A rep for the couple releases the statement, "They remain committed to their family and we ask that you please respect their privacy and the safety of their children at this time." In 2008, they finalize their divorce.
Witherspoon, 31, quietly spends time with Rendition costar Jake Gyllenhaal, 26, PEOPLE reports. A source close to Witherspoon tells PEOPLE, "[Reese] is still very, very hurt by Ryan and it will take a long time to get over that. [But she and Jake] have a mutual interest. They are taking it slow and getting to know each other."
Witherspoon graces the covers of Harper's Bazaar and Elle with the new look she debuted at the Golden Globes: "I felt like I looked different than I've ever look. I don't know why. I just did." In May, her sexier look pays off, with PEOPLE naming her one of its 100 Most Beautiful.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): John McCoy/WireImage; Everett Collection; Lucky Mat; 20th Century FOX; Robert Gallagher; Sthanlee B. Mirador/Shooting Star; Bauer Griffin