She’s played camp in Chicago and love interest in Jerry Maguire but it’s the character of Bridget Jones in the film adaptations of Helen Fielding’s best-selling novels that has really connected Ren?Zellweger with audiences.
What people seem to love about Bridget is her normalness, her flaws. She’s not entirely confident or secure, she hasn’t got a horde of friends and, famously, she’s got a bit of weight on. But Ren?Zellweger says she didn’t do Bridget just to play diverse.
Clint Morris Do you think that Hollywood is too obsessed with looks?
Ren?Zellweger Yes. I have to be honest though and say that’s not what motivated my participation in the Bridget Jones movies initially. My interest in it came from my love of the book and the character and about wanting to be a part of it. I was so excited about being a part of that project and the shock of being invited to play her. I was fascinated by the concept. I think Bridget Jones is a beautiful character, because what she says is that you don’t have to conform in so many ways in order to be considered beautiful and successful. I love that about the character. But what I think you’re asking is the question I get asked on the street most days -“ which is how I put on and lost the weight, right?
CM That seems to be what everyone’s interested in, doesn’t it?
RZ It saddens me, because I don’t want to answer the question. I can tell you how to put it on, I can tell you how to alter your body slightly for a role -¦ but I don’t want to answer the question because I don’t want to involuntarily perpetuate the idea that it was a good thing putting on the weight. The concern about the character for me was, Am I going to look like the character should look by the time we need to film? I don’t want to say, The losing the weight thing, well, let me tell you -¦ I think about it, and I recall all the positive responses I got from the males in my life when I played this character. I was walking around, after the film, looking like Bridget Jones still, and they approached me and told me I should hang onto a bit of that Ren?.
CM What do you think is so appealing about Bridget Jones as a character?
RZ I think it’s her essence, I think it’s her humanity. I think it’s how honest she is and how she expresses herself. I think the fact that she can look at her shortcomings with humour and be self-deprecating about that is great. She’s also ever optimistic at the same time and never self-pitying, which is kind of inspiring. I think we root for her, because of that. She’s never down on herself, in a literal way, it’s always with a bit of humour.
CM Do you enjoy playing a character as different as Bridget, because she is different to the traditional Hollywood female roles?
RZ The experience in general is so unique. I can’t think of a character that I might draw parallels with, in respect to Bridget. It’s a privilege -¦ from a creative perspective to just embody someone who’s so completely different from myself. To play someone who is so broadly physically expressive just takes it to another level. A lot of the time you think the physical comedy thing is distracting, but with Bridget Jones that awkwardness is almost like an extension of her inner awkwardness. It’s almost necessary. I love it so much.
CM In a recent review of Bridget Jones, someone compared some of the slapstick to Lucille Ball. Who is your comic heroine?
RZ There are so many aren’t there? There’s Imogene Coco, from the Sid Caesar show. She wasn’t really slapstick, just honest. No vanity. That’s what gets me every time -“ the accidental comedy that comes from the truth in something.
CM What sort of imput did you have into the film?
RZ There were some things about her, that were non-negotiable. Then, there’s always room with the character for interpretation. It was a little different this time, as we weren’t discovering the character or finding out who she is. It was about what she must’ve learned the last time and not compromising that. Anyway, it’s always an amalgamation of many different things, with Helen Fielding’s words it wasn’t hard to imagine what she was like.
CM Do you think there’s universality between the American sense of humour and the British one?
RZ There’s always been that appetite for British humour. I use to have Monty Python parties when I was in high school and we’d have videos on rotation of Blackadder and Mr Bean.
CM Can I ask one quick question about your relationship status at the moment?
RZ No [laughs].
CM How has an Oscar changed your life?
RZ It’s almost like I’m a fraud or something, like I’m pretend. I’ve had some incredible experiences come along, beyond anything that I might even have imagined. I left the morning after the Oscars to be on a set so any residual effect was gone. All I recall was that I had a wonderful time on Cold Mountain.
CM Do you feel you’ve made it?
RZ It seems so weird to be talking about it like that after 15 years. I look at it differently now. For a long time, I thought it was just luck, but now, I can look back and realise that there was a certain amount of work and commitment put into it. I remember working for Rob Marshall on Chicago and not wanting to be the weak link, I didn’t want to disappoint him -“ so I guess feelings like that never leave you. At the end, when the film is finished, even if nobody else cares, I just want to feel that it was worth that period of time.