Both actors were presenting together at the Oscars that year and were announcing the award for Best Makeup when Ryan caught Reese off guard.
After reading out the nominees, he went to open the envelope to announce the winner. When Reese asked if she could say the winner’s name, Ryan delivered an off-the-cuff remark in response.
“You make more than I do,” he said, handing over the envelope. “Go ahead.”
Reese let out a shocked noise and looked stunned, as the audience just laughed.
The one-time couple, who share two children together, officially divorced in 2007, five years after the awards show incident.
The Legally Blonde star revisited the remark during an appearance on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s In Conversation podcast, confirming the moment was indeed unplanned.
“Um, that moment? You’re reminding me of that! I forgot that ever happened,” the actor told HFPA journalist Margaret Gardiner. “But you’re right.”
“He did say that and no, it wasn’t scripted. And [he] didn’t tell me he was going to say that before it happened on air,” Reese explained. “Um, so I was a little bit flummoxed in the moment, too.”
Reese said she didn’t know what prompted her ex to make the remark at the time, but went on to discuss the issue of women who outearn their spouses.
“There are so few women who make a lot of money that sometimes they’re shamed for it,” she said.
“And sometimes they are expected to give more and do more and be more to others in the same position that, say, a male movie star would not be expected to. And that’s just the double standard that exists in our society.”
“But I do think gender norms have changed quite a bit since that moment in 2000 or something,” she said, adding that women should be talking about money and how they make it.
Reese also spoke about an incident in which her daughter, Ava, came home embarrassed and crying over her mum being one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood.
The actor and producer said that she told Ava she shouldn’t “ever feel ashamed of a woman making money”.
“There are women all over this world who don’t have an opportunity or an education or the ability to make money,” she said.
“And the more women who make more money, will give more money away, will take care of their societies, will take care of their communities, will do more with that money.”
“So don’t ever feel bad about your mom making money,” Reese added. “And don’t ever feel bad if you make money, and don’t be embarrassed or ashamed if it’s more than your partner.”
Listen to more of the actor’s interview below: