'Sweet Home Alabama' Cast: Where Are They Now?

·10-min read

Here’s what the stars of the 2002 rom-com have been up to since it was released


The early 2000s were a heyday for rom-coms, and Sweet Home Alabama is certainly one of the era's most memorable.

The 2002 film stars Reese Witherspoon as Melanie Smooter, a New York City fashion designer who returns to her hometown in Alabama to divorce her estranged high school sweetheart Jake, (played by Josh Lucas) in order to marry her wealthy fiancé Andrew (Patrick Dempsey).

The film grossed over $35 million on opening weekend and earned over $130 million domestically during its theater run. It made another $53 million at the worldwide box office, with a budget of $30 million.

Fresh off of her debut as Elle Woods in 2001's Legally Blonde, Witherspoon was well on her way to becoming a sought-after movie star when Sweet Home Alabama was released, and the film only furthered her success. She's since starred in many more successful movies and TV shows, won an Academy Award and started her own production company, Hello Sunshine.

"20 years ago Sweet Home Alabama came out and completely changed my life," Witherspoon wrote on Instagram in 2021 to celebrate the film's anniversary. She continued: "Incredible memories of shooting this movie with these amazing actors—Josh, Patrick, Dakota, Melanie, Jean, Ethan, Mary Kay, Fred, and Candace, of course!"

During a 2022 appearance on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna, Witherspoon said that a Sweet Home Alabama reboot would be "a great idea."

Shortly after, Lucas told Entertainment Tonight that he "would love to" participate in the sequel and that he's even spoken to Witherspoon about it, but that her busy schedule is a hindrance.

Reboot or not, Sweet Home Alabama certainly played a big role in many of the actors' careers. Here's what Witherspoon and the rest of the cast have been up to in the two decades since the rom-com's release.

Reese Witherspoon as Melanie Smooter

Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Leon Bennett/WireImage
Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Leon Bennett/WireImage

Reese Witherspoon was already known for her film roles such as The Man in the Moon (1991) and Cruel Intentions (1999), but she became a true rom-com star in the early 2000s. In 2001, she portrayed Elle Woods in Legally Blonde and reprised the role in the 2003 sequel. In between the two films, she stole hearts as Melanie Smooter in 2002's Sweet Home Alabama.

Witherspoon later revealed that the project hit a personal note for her. "When I read the script I was like, 'Do these people know my life story?' " she said in 2018, adding that the film reminded her of her own feelings of missing home. "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. 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."

After her sequence of rom-coms, Witherspoon was cast as June Carter in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line (2005), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Witherspoon later stepped into producing with the 2014 film adaptation Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild. She both produced and starred in the project, which earned her her second Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She's gone on to establish her own production company, Hello Sunshine, which focuses on women-led stories in the form of TV series (Big Little Lies, The Morning Show, Daisy Jones & The Six) and films (Gone Girl, Where The Crawdads Sing).

The star also owns a Southern-inspired clothing line, Draper James, which was founded in 2013 and named after her grandparents, Dorothea Draper and William James Witherspoon.

As for her personal life, Witherspoon married her Cruel Intentions costar Ryan Phillippe in 1999 the couple welcomed two children together, daughter Ava and son Deacon, before divorcing in 2008. In 2011, the actress married talent agent Jim Toth and after 11 years of marriage, Witherspoon and Toth announced their divorce in March 2023. They share a son, Tennessee James, who was born in 2012.

Josh Lucas as Jake Perry

Moviestore/Shutterstock ; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty
Moviestore/Shutterstock ; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Along with films like American Psycho in 2000 and A Beautiful Mind in 2001, Josh Lucas gained recognition for playing Jake Perry in Sweet Home Alabama. He went on to land roles in films like Glory Road (2006), Stolen (2009), Shadows and Lies (2010) and The Lincoln Lawyer (2011).

Lucas also appeared on television shows like The Firm and The Mysteries of Laura. From 2018 to 2022, Lucas had a recurring role on the Western drama Yellowstone, playing a younger version of Kevin Costner's character, John Dutton.

Lucas has also performed in theater productions. In 2018, he starred opposite Uma Thurman in the Broadway play The Parisian Woman.

In 2022, 20 years after the release of Sweet Home Alabama, Lucas told Entertainment Tonight that he "would love to" participate in a sequel to the romantic comedy and that he's even spoken to Witherspoon about the idea.

"I've campaigned her. I'm not going to say that she's the problem, but I think part of it is that Reese is so busy," he told the outlet.

As for his personal life, Lucas married writer Jessica Ciencin Henriquez in 2012 just six weeks after meeting. They welcomed a son, Noah, that same year, though the pair later divorced in 2014. Lucas and Henriquez continued to amicably co-parent together, and the former couple were reportedly rekindling their romantic relationship as of 2020.

That May, however, Henriquez accused Lucas of "cheating" while they were reconciled. By 2021, Page Six reported that Lucas had moved on with model Rachel Mortensen, though the new couple had seemingly split by that December.

Patrick Dempsey as Andrew Hennings

Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Michael Tullberg/Getty
Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Michael Tullberg/Getty

After playing Melanie's fiancé in Sweet Home Alabama, Patrick Dempsey starred in other romantic comedies like Enchanted (2007), Made of Honor (2008) and Valentine's Day (2010). However, he's probably best known for playing Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd on the long-running ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy. He also reprised the role in two episodes of the spin-off series Private Practice.

Since his departure from Grey's Anatomy, Dempsey reunited with his Enchanted costar Amy Adams for the 2022 sequel Disenchanted and underwent a shocking white hair transformation for the upcoming 2023 biological drama Ferrari.

As for his personal life, the actor married makeup artist Jillian Dempsey in 2002 and together they share three children; daughter Talula and twin boys, Darby and Sullivan. The couple filed for divorce in 2015 but called off the proceedings in 2016.

Candice Bergen as Mayor Kate Hennings

Peter Iovino/Touchstone/Kobal/Shutterstock ; Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty
Peter Iovino/Touchstone/Kobal/Shutterstock ; Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty

Candice Bergen was a critically acclaimed actress long before Sweet Home Alabama, where she played Andrew Henning's mother and the Mayor of New York City, Kate Hennings. She's known for her early roles on Murphy Brown and Boston Legal and also appeared in a string of rom-coms in the 2000s and 2010s such as Miss Congeniality (2000), Bride Wars (2009) and Book Club (2018). In 2022, it was announced that the actress would be starring in the Book Club sequel, releasing on Mother's Day 2023.

Bergen also starred in the Broadway revivals of The Best Man (2012) and Love Letters (2014).

In addition to acting, Bergen has a successful line of customized luxury handbags, BergenBags, which she began working on in 2016. In 2020, she expanded the brand to include affordably priced merchandise, including apparel, bags, phone cases, pillows, dishes and wall art.

In her personal life, Bergen has been married to philanthropist Marshall Rose since 2000. She was previously married to director Louis Malle from 1981 until his death in 1995.

Ethan Embry as Bobby Ray

Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Gregg DeGuire/WireImage
Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Before playing Melanie's hometown friend Bobby Ray in Sweet Home Alabama, Ethan Embry had worked with Witherspoon once before, in the 1993 live-action Disney film A Far Off Place.

Since starring in the 2002 rom-com, Embry appeared on TV shows like Brotherhood, Once Upon a Time, Sneaky Pete and Grace and Frankie.

As for his personal life, Embry married actress Amelinda Smith in 1998, and the couple welcomed a son, Cogeian Sky, the following year. However, they later divorced in 2002.

In 2005, the actor married actress Sunny Mabrey. The couple divorced in 2012 but remarried in 2015.

In 2017, Embry spoke out about his opiate addiction on Twitter and shared that he had been clean for six years.

Jean Smart as Stella Kay Perry

Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Rich Fury/Getty
Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Rich Fury/Getty

A seasoned actress since her days on Designing Women, Jean Smart played Jake's mother, Stella Kay Perry. She went on to star in TV shows like Samatha Who?, Watchmen, 24 and Hacks, racking up several Emmy nominations along the way. Most recently, she took home an Emmy and Golden Globe for her role in the HBO comedy-drama Hacks in 2021.

Smart has also appeared in films like Garden State (2004), The Accountant (2016), A Simple Favor (2018) and Babylon (2022).

As for her personal life, Smart was married to her Designing Women costar Richard Gilliland until his death in 2021. They have two sons together, Forrest and Connor. In 2022, Smart said that becoming a single mother after losing her husband unexpectedly was the "hardest thing" she's ever done.

Fred Ward as Earl Smooter

Peter Iovino/Touchstone/Kobal/Shutterstock ; Jason Merritt/Getty
Peter Iovino/Touchstone/Kobal/Shutterstock ; Jason Merritt/Getty

Fred Ward played Melanie's father, Earl Smooter, in Sweet Home Alabama. Prior to the rom-com, he was known for his movie roles in The Right Stuff (1983) and Tremors (1990). He later appeared in TV shows like Grey's Anatomy, ER, United States of Tara and Leverage and films like Management (2008), L'affaire Farewell (2009) and 2 Guns (2013).

In May 2022, Ward died at the age of 79. He is survived by wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward, and son Django Ward.

Mary Kay Place as Pearl Smooter

Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Michael Kovac/Getty
Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Michael Kovac/Getty

Mary Kay Place played Melanie's mother, Pearl Smooter. Prior to Sweet Home Alabama, Place was best known for her role as Loretta Haggers on the television series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, for which she won an Emmy Award, as well as appearances on M*A*S*H and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Her other TV credits include Big Love, Bored to Death, The Mentalist, Shameless and Grace and Frankie. She also starred in the 2018 drama Diane and the 2020 film adaptation of the Broadway musical, The Prom, directed by Ryan Murphy.

Dakota Fanning as Young Melanie Smooter

Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty
Walt Disney/courtesy Everett ; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

Portraying young Melanie was one of many of Dakota Fanning's roles as a child actor. After rising to fame as the youngest Screen Actors Guild nominee for her role in 2001's I Am Sam, Fanning also appeared in films such as Uptown Girls (2003) and War of the Worlds (2005).

Her later film credits include The Secret Life of Bees (2008), The Runaways (2010) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). In 2022, she portrayed Susan Ford in the Showtime series The First Lady.

As for her personal life, Fanning dated model Jamie Strachan from 2013 to 2016 and started dating Henry Frye in 2017. She is also the older sister of actress Elle Fanning, and the siblings have remained publicly supportive of one another throughout their careers.

Melanie Lynskey as Lurlynn

Buena Vista Pictures/courtesy Everett ; Dia Dipasupil/WireImage
Buena Vista Pictures/courtesy Everett ; Dia Dipasupil/WireImage

Melanie Lynskey played Melanie's high school friend, Lurlynn. The character is introduced when Melanie runs into Lurlynn carrying her infant in a bar and delivers the famous line, "Look at you! You have a baby … in a bar."

Lynskey, who is originally from New Zealand, went on to star in a wide range of films such as Shattered Glass (2003), Away We Go (2009) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012).

More recently, she appeared in the 2021 black comedy Don't Look Up and Showtime's thriller series Yellowjackets, for which she won a 2022 Critics' Choice Award and was nominated for an Emmy Award. Lynskey also gave a memorable performance as resistance group leader Kathleen in two episodes of the HBO apocalyptic drama, The Last of Us.

In her personal life, Lynskey is married to actor Jason Ritter. The couple started dating in 2013, welcomed a daughter in 2018 and were married in 2020.

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