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Reese Witherspoon: 'Tough' Ryan Phillippe divorce led to career slump

Presenters Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe arrive at

Presenters Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe arrive at the 74th annual Academy Awards on Sunday, March 24, 2002, in Los Angeles. Credit: AP / Laura Rauch

"Wild" star Reese Witherspoon says her breakup with ex-husband Ryan Phillippe in the mid-2000s contributed to a career downturn from which she only now appears to be emerging.

"That was a tough year that followed" her Academy Award win for 2005's "Walk the Line," she told "60 Minutes" on Sunday. After Witherspoon, 38, and actor Phillippe, 40, announced their separation in October 2006 and finalized their divorce a year later, "I spent, you know, a few years just trying to feel better," she said. "You know, you can't really be very creative when you feel like your brain is scrambled eggs."

After that, "I was just kind of floundering career-wise," she conceded, "because I wasn't making things I was passionate about. I was just kind of working, you know. And it was really clear that audiences weren't responding to anything I was putting out there," including the poorly reviewed but reasonably well-performing "Four Christmases" (2008), "Water for Elephants" (2011) and "This Means War" (2012).

One low point she recalled was a New Yorker article on stars who were no longer good box office. "I was one of 'em," she said. "I thought I was reading, like, a profile on another actor. Then somewhere down at the end, it said, you know, 'The people who are washed-up,' and I think it included me. . . . I mean, it really hurt my feelings. . . . And my self-esteem. And made me feel like I contributed nothing. And that you're only as good as your last movie."

She and Phillippe have two children, daughter Ava, 15, and son Deacon, 11. Witherspoon married talent agent Jim Toth in March 2011 and they have a son, Tennessee James, 2.

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