The cast of “Sweet Home Alabama”: Where are they now?

How about a little trip down south to visit Pigeon Creek with Reese Witherspoon and Josh Lucas?

<p> Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett</p> Patrick Dempsey, Reese Witherspoon, and Josh Lucas in

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett

Patrick Dempsey, Reese Witherspoon, and Josh Lucas in 'Sweet Home Alabama'

Coming off the heels of Cruel Intentions (1999) and Legally Blonde (2001), Reese Witherspoon was at a career-high when Sweet Home Alabama hit theaters on Sept. 27, 2002. But Witherspoon's Southern charm was just one of many aspects that audiences fell in love with about this movie.

Sweet Home Alabama became the first film to be shot in New York City following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with director Andy Tennant viewing it as a means to provide positivity in the aftermath of tragedy. "We thought of our movie as such a nice tonic," he told EW in 2002. "It’s a nice movie, it doesn’t hurt anybody, and people needed to get back to work.”

It grossed over $35 million on its first weekend, setting a record for the highest September opening of all time until it was dethroned by Hotel Transylvania a decade later. Sweet Home Alabama ultimately raked in $180.6 million worldwide and became one of the highest-grossing rom-coms of all time.

Love for the film has endured over the years, with many cast members (including Witherspoon) voicing their desire to return for a sequel. “That sounds fun,” Witherspoon told Today With Hoda & Jenna in October 2023, calling a follow-up “a great idea.”

While we await a potential sequel, let's see what the Sweet Home Alabama cast has been up to since gracing the silver screen together in 2002.

Reese Witherspoon (Melanie Smooter)

<p>Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Monica Schipper/FilmMagic</p> Melanie Smooter; Reese Witherspoon

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Monica Schipper/FilmMagic

Melanie Smooter; Reese Witherspoon

Launching her illustrious career in the early ‘90s, Reese Witherspoon made her big-screen debut as Dani Trent in the coming-of-age movie The Man in the Moon (1991). She then starred in a slew of now-cult classics including Pleasantville (1998), Cruel Intentions, Election (1999), and American Psycho (2000) before she got the role of Melanie Smooter — replacing then-casted Charlize Theron, who left the project due to a latent writers strike threatening to derail the production. (Tennant told EW they approached Witherspoon the week after Legally Blonde topped the box office.)

"When I read the script I was like, 'Do these people know my life story?' You want to leave home and then you realize that there's so many important things about the closeness of family or people who knew you before," Witherspoon said during a 2018 press conference promoting her book Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits. "And I feel really like that movie really encapsulated those ideas. And it was a lot of fun. It was so much fun. I had a great time doing it."

Post–Sweet Home Alabama, Witherspoon went on to win an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Walk the Line (2005) and was nominated for another for Wild (2014). She has earned credits for a myriad of movie and TV projects like Four Christmases (2008), Water for Elephants (2010), Big Little Lies, Little Fires Everywhere, and The Morning Show. In 2012, Witherspoon founded Pacific Standard (now part of Hello Sunshine), a production company that has produced notable titles such as Gone Girl (2014), Where the Crawdads Sing (2022), Daisy Jones & the Six, and The Last Thing He Told Me, among others.

From 1999 until 2007, Witherspoon was married to her Cruel Intentions costar, Ryan Phillippe, with whom she has two children: Ava and Deacon. She married talent agent Jim Toth in 2011, a year before they welcomed their son, Tennessee. After nearly 12 years of marriage, Witherspoon and Toth jointly announced their divorce in March 2023.

Josh Lucas (Jake Perry)

<p> Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; JC Olivera/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty</p> Jake Perry; Josh Lucas

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; JC Olivera/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty

Jake Perry; Josh Lucas

Following his supporting appearances in American Psycho, A Beautiful Mind (2001), and other projects, Josh Lucas got his big break with his first starring role as Melanie's estranged husband, Jake Perry, in Sweet Home Alabama.

Speaking to The Today Show in July 2021, Lucas expressed his desire to do a sequel — if only Reese Witherspoon could find time. "It's kind of on her," he admitted. “I mean, I've barely seen or haven't seen Reese since we made the movie. So we have this exchange every once in a while like, 'Hey listen, stop being so busy.'"

After starring in Sweet Home Alabama, the actor secured credits for films like Glory Road (2006), Life as We Know It (2010), The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), Ford v Ferrari (2019), and The Forever Purge (2021), as well as the TV series The Firm, The Mysteries of Laura, Yellowstone, and Palm Royale.

Lucas married freelance writer Jessica Ciencin Henriquez in 2012. She filed for divorce in 2014. They share one son named Noah.

Patrick Dempsey (Andrew Hennings)

<p> Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; James Gourley/Getty </p> Andrew Hennings; Patrick Dempsey

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; James Gourley/Getty

Andrew Hennings; Patrick Dempsey

A heartthrob since his early days, Patrick Dempsey broke out in 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love and has maintained a steadily accelerating career from there, appearing in films like Loverboy (1989), With Honors (1994), and Scream 3 (2000) until he secured the role of Andrew Hennings, the son of N.Y.C.'s mayor.

Sweet Home Alabama would come just three years before Dempsey spent a decade at Seattle Grace Hospital on Grey’s Anatomy, playing Dr. Derek Shepherd for 11 seasons. He also became known for his performances in the films Enchanted (2007) and its 2022 sequel, Made of Honor (2008), Bridget Jones's Baby (2016), Ferrari (2023), and Thanksgiving (2023). He's also a decorated race car driver in his spare time, having racked up accolades at Daytona and Le Mans.

In 1999, Dempsey married make-up artist Jillian Fink, with whom he shares three children. The couple announced they were divorcing in 2015, but they reconciled the next year and called off the proceedings.

Candice Bergen (Mayor Kate Hennings)

<p>Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Rob Kim/Getty</p> Mayor Kate Hennings; Candice Bergen

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Rob Kim/Getty

Mayor Kate Hennings; Candice Bergen

Candice Bergen had an extensive résumé before her role as Mayor Kate Hennings, Andrew's mother who disapproves of Melanie.

Beginning her Hollywood career in the mid-'60s, the legendary performer first gained recognition with the 1971 rom-com Carnal Knowledge, and then followed with other acting gigs in film (1975's The Wind and the Lion, 1979's Starting Over) and on Broadway (1984's Hurlyburly). She was the first woman to host Saturday Night Live (November 1975) and was the first woman to become a member of the Five-Timers Club. However, Bergen's most iconic role came with the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown, where she played the titular news anchor from 1988 to 1998 (and reprised the role for the 2018 revival) — which garnered her five Emmys and two Golden Globes. She then starred as the pageant director in Miss Congeniality (2000) before stepping into another position of power in Sweet Home Alabama.

After playing Mayor Hennings, Bergen earned other film credits for The Women (2008), Bride Wars (2009), Book Club (2020) and its 2023 sequel, and Let Them All Talk (2020). On the small screen, she played lawyer Shirley Schmidt on Boston Legal from 2005 to 2008 and guest-starred on shows like Sex and the City, House, The Conners, and And Just Like That.

Bergen was married to prolific French film director Louis Mal from 1980 until his death on Thanksgiving day in 1995. They shared one child. Since 2000, Bergen has been married to Manhattan realtor Marshall Rose.

Jean Smart (Stella Kay Perry)

<p> Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Astrida Valigorsky/Getty</p> Stella Kay Perry; Jean Smart

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Astrida Valigorsky/Getty

Stella Kay Perry; Jean Smart

Working in entertainment for more than half a century, Jean Smart first broke out on the sitcom Designing Women — which aired for six seasons from 1986 to 1991 — and followed with credits for The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) and The Pink Panther animated series, as well as a Golden Globe-winning 13-episode arc on Frasier. Her portrayal of Jake Perry's down-to-earth, bar-owning mother in Sweet Home Alabama is indicative of the roles she was offered for decades after Designing Women: the warm, reassuring, vaguely southern presence who ultimately isn’t given much to do.

Post–Sweet Home Alabama, Smart earned the range of roles she long deserved, gracing TV screens with memorable performances on the series 24, Samantha Who?, Fargo, Legion, Watchmen, and Mare of Eastown, before winning multiple Emmys (and a Golden Globe) for Hacks. On the silver screen, she continued to shine in films like A Simple Favor (2018), Wildflower (2022), and Babylon (2022), among other titles.

From 1987, Smart was married to her Designing Women and 24 costar Richard Gilliland until he died at age 71 in 2021. They shared two sons, Connor and Forrest.

Mary Lynn Rajskub (Dorothea)

<p>Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Emma McIntyre/Getty</p> Dorthea; Mary Lynn Rajskub

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Emma McIntyre/Getty

Dorthea; Mary Lynn Rajskub

Mary Lynn Rajskub plays Dorothea, a gossipy bank teller married to Sheriff Wade, in Sweet Home Alabama. Before her role in the film, Rajskub began her acting career in the mid-'90s by joining the original cast of Mr. Show With Bob and David. She later appeared in episodes of The Larry Sanders Show and Veronica's Closet, as well as films like Dude, Where's My Car? (2002) and Punch-Drunk Love (2002).

Following her gig in Andy Tennant's rom-com, Rajskub expanded her résumé with credits for films like Firewall (2006), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Sunshine Cleaning (2008), Night School (2018), and The Tomorrow War (2021). Additionally, she guest-starred on the TV shows It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 2 Broke Girls, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Dropout. However, Rajskub is most known for her seven-season stint as Chloe O’Brian — Jack Bauer’s (Kiefer Sutherland) dependable colleague and frequent lifesaver — on 24, alongside former Sweet Home Alabama costar Jean Smart.

She shares a son with personal trainer Mathew Rolph. They married in an impromptu Las Vegas wedding in 2009 before divorcing a decade later.

Ethan Embry (Bobby Ray)

<p>Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Jon Kopaloff/Getty</p> Bobby Ray; Ethan Embry

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Jon Kopaloff/Getty

Bobby Ray; Ethan Embry

Following his breakout role as Marc in Empire Records (1995) with other films like That Thing You Do! (1996), Vegas Vacation (1997), and Can’t Hardly Wait (1998), Ethan Embry landed the part of Bobby Ray, Melanie's not out childhood friend, in Sweet Home Alabama.

Embry went on to earn credits for the films Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004), Vacancy (2007), The Devil's Candy (2015), First Man (2018), and Last Seen Alive (2022), among other titles. He also held a seven-season stint on Netflix's Jane FondaLily Tomlin-starring series Grace and Frankie, and appeared on shows like Sneaky Pete and Gotham Knights.

From 1988 to 2002, Embry was married to actress Amelinda Smith, with whom he shares one son. He married actress Sunny Mabrey in 2005, and Mabry filed for divorce in 2012. However, in 2013, they began dating again and remarried two years later.

Mary Kay Place (Pearl Smooter)

<p> Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Chris Polk/Variety/Penske Media via Getty</p> Pearl Smooter; Mary Kay Place

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Chris Polk/Variety/Penske Media via Getty

Pearl Smooter; Mary Kay Place

Before portraying Melanie's estranged mother in Sweet Home Alabama, Mary Kay Place had already made a name for herself with her Emmy-winning role of Loretta Haggers on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. She also guest-starred on shows like M*A*S*H and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and acted in films such as Private Benjamin (1980), The Rainmaker (1997), Being John Malkovich (1999), and Girl, Interrupted (1999).

Post–Sweet Home Alabama, Place maintained a steady career with appearances in films like It's Complicated (2009), Diane (2018), The Prom (2020), and Sia's Music (2021), as well as on TV shows like Big Love, Grace and Frankie, Shameless, and 911: Lonestar. Off screen, she released three studio albums — including one recorded in the persona of Loretta — and directed episodes of Dream On, Friends, and other television series.

Fred Ward (Earl Smooter)

<p>Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Jason Merritt/Getty</p> Earl Smooter; Fred Ward

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Jason Merritt/Getty

Earl Smooter; Fred Ward

By the time he played Melanie’s warmhearted father in Sweet Home Alabama, Fred Ward was one of the most prolific members of its storied cast, having risen to prominence with performances in Escape from Alcatraz (1979), Silkwood (1983), and The Right Stuff (1983) before starring alongside Kevin Bacon and Reba McEntire in the cult-classic monster movie Tremors (1990).

In the years following Sweet Home Alabama, Ward continued to appear on TV shows like Grey's Anatomy, ER, and True Detective, and in films such as Armored (2009) and 2 Guns (2013).

In 1995, Ward married Marie-France Boisselle. They were together until he died at age 79 in May 2022.

Dakota Fanning (Young Melanie Smooter)

<p>Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; George Pimentel/WireImage</p> Young Melanie Smooter; Dakota Fanning

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; George Pimentel/WireImage

Young Melanie Smooter; Dakota Fanning

The then-8-year-old Dakota Fanning plays a younger version of Melanie in Sweet Home Alabama. Making her onscreen debut in 2000 on ER, the child star ascended to fame playing Sean Penn’s daughter in I Am Sam (2000), for which she received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, making her the youngest individual nominee in SAG history.

A year after playing a mini-Reese Witherspoon, Fanning played Charlize Theron's daughter in Trapped, which is ironically the now-critically reviled movie Theron left Sweet Home to make. The actress went on to star in films like Uptown Girls (2003), Dr. Suess' Cat in the Hat (2003), Man on Fire (2004), War of the Worlds (2005), The Secret Life of Bees (2008), three films of The Twilight Saga (2009, 2010, 2012), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), and The Equalizer 3 (2023). She also voiced the title character in Coraline (2009) and headlined TV projects such as The Alienist, The First Lady, and Ripley.

From 2013 to 2016, Fanning was in a relationship with Jamie Strachan, and in 2017, she began dating Henry Frye. She is also the older sister of fellow actor Elle Fanning.

Melanie Lynskey (Lurlynn)

<p>Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Randy Shropshire/Deadline via Getty</p> Lurlynn; Melanie Lynskey

Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett; Randy Shropshire/Deadline via Getty

Lurlynn; Melanie Lynskey

After making her film debut opposite Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures (1997) and appearing in the cult classics The Frighteners (1996), Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998), and But I’m a Cheerleader (1999), Melanie Lynskey landed the role of Lurlynn, Melanie's high school friend and a mother of four — who’s on the receiving end of Melanie’s “You have a baby…in a bar” line — in Sweet Home Alabama.

"I was, like, 21, I think, or 22. I did not have any babies at the time, and I had these five children that I was wrangling," Lynskey told InStyle in August 2022. "They were so sweet. I'm still in touch with two of them. And they're very cute, very sweet kids. I remember the little baby was so hot and unhappy and wouldn't stop crying. And Reese was like — because she was a mom — she was, like, holding the baby and doing all her tricks."

Lynskey then became a regular cast member on Two and a Half Men while appearing in indie hits like 2009's Up in the Air and Away We Go. Since 2021, the actress has headlined Showtime’s Yellowjackets, a role that has earned her critical acclaim and a pair of Emmy nominations. Other notable projects post–Sweet Home Alabama include TogethernessCastle RockMrs. AmericaCandy, The Last of Us (also Emmy-nominated), and The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

From 2005 until 2012, Lynskey was married to actor Jimmi Simpson. In 2020, she married actor Jason Ritter, with whom she shares a child, after seven years of dating.

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