Renee Zellweger looks different. Her hair is darkened, she is much thinner than usual and hence unrecognizable as she walks into a Los Angeles hotel room promoting Bridget Jones, Edge of Reason, a sequel she once insisted she would never make.
But that was then, this is now, and here she is again, confirming that it took her three years to decide that she should revisit the character, “probably because the first experience meant so much to me, I have so much respect for this character and also what she represents. I didn’t want to compromise that in any way by following up with a film that meant nothing, just because we could and I wanted to be certain that the motivation for making this film came from a creative place. I also wanted to be certain that it was a film that was substantial enough that it could stand on its own, regardless of what had happened with the first picture, I wanted to be sure that it was a necessary film and that this character had more stories to tell. I was more comfortable with the idea of making this film because it’s not a sequel in the traditional sense, in that there is a book that has been written, so her journey has continued and I had nothing to do with it as it was obviously there already from Helen Fielding. So, that being said, it gave it purpose, but again, it was just being careful that we wouldn’t do anything that might blasphemize the first or how people felt about this character because we went forward irresponsibly with her,” Zellweger explains in great detail.
Then of course there is the thorny issue about her putting on the weight again, with frequent media reports that her real reluctance to do the sequel was re-gaining the weight, which the actress emphatically denies. “I don’t know where the notion that I was hesitant to have that experience in the first place came from, or that I had negative feelings about the experience the first time around. I read it myself somewhere and I don’t know where that surfaced but it didn’t come from me. It wasn’t a negative experience in any respect and contributed so much to the experience of bringing Bridget Jones to life the first time, so I knew that it was essential in repeating the journey. It had to be authentic to me, in that if you’re not going to BECOME the character and BE the character, then I don’t really see the point in undertaking the experience. I wanted to have that experience and people were suggesting to me, ‘Oh, it might not be necessary.’ Or, ‘You shouldn’t do as much as you did last time because it’s probably not healthy.’ For me, then it would render the experience pointless from a creative perspective and I wanted to revisit this character in every respect.”
Bridget Jones, both the novels and film versions, have so become intrinsically entrenched in our culture, that women constantly look upon her as some kind of role model, despite her being overweight and desperate. Zellweger understands why this character has struck a chord with so many women and disagrees that she is as desperate as she seems. “I think women love her because of her humanity. I think it’s that she’s so honest about how she feels and I don’t think that she’s needy or desperate. See, you’re privy to her inner dialogue as an audience member, or as a person reading the book and privy to what it is that she’s most afraid of, what she anticipates might be her greatest failure or what her own shortcomings are, but she never fails to trudge forward and believe that she’s gonna be fine and she always moves on. She always goes for what it is that she would like to have happen in her life, and ultimately makes certain that it manifests itself there and it’s not for her about finding happiness in this antiquated ideology that a man and woman should be together in order for a woman to feel complete.”
But Bridget remains a romantic optimist and while Zellweger responds in detail about her fictional alter ego, she is less forthcoming when asked whether she herself identifies with Bridget’s idealistic sense of romance. “I’m trying, and I do my best,” she says, smilingly. “It’s what I admire most about her is her ever present optimism in the face of so much adversity. I love that she’s able to laugh at herself and get back up and keep on trying.” One is uncertain as to whether the actress is describing herself or Bridget. As for those other media rumours that Renee plans to take a year off, Zellweger offers a hearty laugh. “I can only imagine I’m looking forward to tomorrow which might be an exciting morning, I have no idea. It’ll be interesting. I seriously doubt it. I just haven’t committed to another film and am not aggressively seeking one at this time. I think I need to take a little time and just be a girl and collect some experiences as a person and not just as a person who’s emulating someone else. To tell life stories, you have to have a little life to draw from and I’m a little tapped out in that department. I need to go and just be a girl for a little while. I’m a woman now and I’d like to re-familiarise myself with what’s important to me and what I like now as a woman,” says the actress. “I’d like to just kind of see where the day might take me if I didn’t have it booked up on behalf of some commitment or other. But I can’t really take a year off because there’s no such thing really. It’s just different phases of the cycle of making a film. So now this one’s finished and it’s coming out, and then Cinderella Man, which I have to finish up and do post production on and go around with that. I think by that time, my year off will be up. But I don’t think I’m going to go hop in a makeup chair any time soon.”
As for Cinderella Man, the story of Depression-era fighter and folk hero Jim Braddock, played by Russell Crowe, Zellweger says playing Braddock’s wife was challenging in its own way. “It was difficult because she’s not so present on the page. It’s more internalized and it was about researching and coming to understand who she was, to understand what society was like at the time and so how that would make an impact on whom she was.” Renee is not so forthcoming about her experience working with her intense co-star, when asked if working with Russell was tougher than gaining the weight for Bridget Jones. “Oh, tough for different reasons. Russell is very talented. “But she did smilingly concede that Crowe gave her a hard time. “He absolutely did”, but no further elaboration on the subject. And no, a Bridget Jones 3 is unlikely, the actress insists. “Oh my Gosh, that’s not up to me, is it? Ask Helen Fielding.”