Since being diagnosed with lupus in August 2010, producer Bruna Papandrea started Pacific Standard Films with Reese Witherspoon, married producer Steve Hutensky, gave birth to twins and produced four movies including “Wild” and “Gone Girl.”
“I think most of us would be happy to have done that in a lifetime,” Witherspoon said while introducing her partner, an honoree at Lupus LA’s Hollywood Bag Ladies Luncheon Nov. 21 at the Beverly Hilton. “A great run for sure,” Papandrea agreed, “but then there’s the lupus thing. What’s life without a little perspective, right?”
“If everything happens for a reason, I believe I was meant to be an advocate and voice for this disease,” Papandrea said.
She detailed her condition, which started with symptoms in 2009 with a constant aching pain in her hand which quickly spread to other parts of her body. After some time without a proper diagnosis, she saw a new rheumatologist who saw that she’d ticked off many boxes in diagnosing this very complicated disease. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease which causes inflammation of various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood and kidneys. Ninety percent of lupus patients are women.
“Like most of my fellow Google MDs, I rushed home to find everything I could read online about lupus, and then I was scared out of my mind,” she said. “On a daily basis, I’m basically sore all over my body all the time, and there are regular occurring flare-ups where the symptoms pile on. Despite all of these conditions what really worries me most about lupus are the possible long-term complications.”
Witherspoon described the conditions on the set of “Wild,” which required hiking up mountains and being out in the cold on top of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Papandrea just “sat on top of a rock and called it our Pacific Standard satellite office,” Witherspoon said, and “never once complained.”
“She never sees her illness, she only sees what she is capable of doing,” Witherspoon continued. “And most importantly, she prioritizes her health and takes great care of herself even though she’s never been busier.”
Papandrea credited her husband as a “big reason I’ve coped so well with the condition.” But with lupus, she admitted needing a lot of help. As a mother to 2-year-old twins she called “virtual joy factories,” she struggled with feelings of guilt and inadequacy, because with lupus, “my heart and mind say yes, but my body says no,” she said. Her husband and children are “the inspiration that make getting healthy my lifelong determination and greatest priority,” she said.
Papandrea was introduced to the org by Fox Searchlight’s Nancy Utley (and Lupus LA board member).
Also honored at the luncheon was Lupus LA board member Kathy Gallagher. The event was hosted by Paula Abdul and featured a Roberto Cavalli fashion show. More than 250 designer handbags were donated for silent auction, and “The Bachelor’s” Bob Guiney and Lupus LA’s Adam Selkowitz auctioned four prize packages including a private screening on the Fox lot of “Wild,” donated by Pacific Standard, Fox Searchlight and 20th Century Fox. “There is Oscar buzz, but I don’t want to jinx anything!” Selkowitz said. The screening sold for $4,000. A New York Fashion Week prize package including tickets to six runway shows sold for $18,000. Money raised at the luncheon funds lupus research and to raise awareness for Lupus LA.