INT: Renee Zellweger
This Friday, Renee Zellweger reprises her role as the neurotic, chunky Bridget Jones in BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON, the sequel to the 2001 hit Bridget Jonesís Diary. Zellweger caused quite a sensation in the UK when she took on the role in the first film, an adaptation of the wildly successful Helen Fielding novel. Though theyíd practically rioted when it was announced that a Yankee would play the coveted role, Britons quickly changed their tune when they glimpsed Zellweger on the big screen. Her performance garnered nearly unanimous praise from the critics, culminating in an Oscar nomination and enthusiastic pleas for a sequel.
As the law of sequels goes, everythingís got to be bigger the second time around, and Bridget is even chunkier and crazier than she was in the first film. Renee stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills a few weeks ago for a press conference to talk about her experience putting on the pounds and donning the accent for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. I hardly recognized her Ė sporting a new hair color (sheís a brunette now) and a slender physique, I first thought she was one of the publicists. Check out what she had to say about here latest project.
Were you reluctant to return to this role, especially considering the weight gain it would require?
About the weight issue, 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 don't know where that came from. I read it myself somewhere and I don't know what broughtÖI don't know where that surfaced but it didnít come from me. It wasnít a negative experience in any respect. It contributed so much to the experience of bringing Bridget Jones to life the first time. And so I knew that it was essential in repeating the journey. It had to be authentic to me. It had to be. And if youíre not going to become the character and be the character, then I donít really see the point in undertaking the experience.
I wanted to have that experience and people were suggesting to me, ďOh, it might not be necessary.Ē Or, ďYou shouldnít do as much as you did last time because itís probably not healthy.Ē For me, then it would render the experience pointless from a creative perspective. I wanted to revisit this character in every respect. Getting to that point, deciding to go forward and make a follow-up film, it took a while. Probably because the first experience meant so much to me and because I have so much respect for this character and also what she represents. I didnít want to compromise that in any way by following up with a film that meant nothing just because we could. I wanted to be certain that the motivation for making this film came from a creative place.
I 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
itís not a sequel in the traditional sense. There is a book that
has been written and so her journey has continued and I had nothing
to do with it. It was there already from Helen Fielding obviously.
So, that being said, it gave it purpose. But again, it was just
being careful that we wouldnít do anything that might blasphemize
the first or how people felt about this character because we went
forward irresponsibly with her.
Is it reasonable that she wants a marriage proposal after 6 weeks of dating?
Hmm, okay. I think that thatís a really good question because itís something that stood out for me in the filming process. It wasnít something that I found easy to justify on the day when we were standing in the hallway and I was trying to think to myself, ďWhy? Where does this come from?Ē And I think that itís made fairly clear afterward. And if not, Iím not sure which version of the film that youíve seen, but it was an issue that Iíve had. I was not comfortable with because I thought, ďDoes that imply that this is a character whoís a little bit unrealistic in her expectations and does it make her seem a little bit desperate for something that ultimately isnít at the core of what drives her?Ē
Yes, love is important to her obviously, but itís more specific. Itís love with this person. Itís not love period or just the idea of having that manifest itself in her life. I thought that okay, I understand this. I think she is aware that itís inappropriate. I think that at that desperate time, women, we all know that you donít even bring up ďAre you seeing other peopleĒ at six weeks, let alone ďSo, are we doing this for the long haul or not?Ē No matter how desperately you want to say, ďAre you calling other people because Iím not calling other people and I just wanna know if youíre committed to me,Ē you donít do it. Itís breaking the rules. And I think if anything that you can love Bridget for itís her inability to sometimes refrain from those outbursts.
And I found justification in that moment, in that particular quality of her essence, I love that she canít contain herself and not only is she not gonna say, ďYouíre just seeing me, right?Ē but ďSo, you wanna marry me or not?Ē And itís completely inappropriate and I think that after she leaves his house, I think it becomes pretty evident that she knows that sheís made a big mistake there. And that not only is it unreasonable, but it probably might have been the catalyst to the end of this relationship for having terrified the man with the outburst.
Was it hard to get the accent back and the
things about this character just feel right and in playing her, they
just sort of seemed to surface from somewhere. I don't know. You pay
attention to them, but they find themselves into the day, into the
reanimating of this character. The dialect on the other hand, boy,
that I had to pay a lot of attention to. It was like starting over
again. I was terrified of it because it was something that evolved
and became very colloquial in a very specific way last time. And so
it just sort of evolved in a really natural way and to try to force
that to come back was an interesting process because it is so
specific. †Bridget has
kind of a lispy thing that she does. So there was a lot to pay
attention to, but let me tell you, I had a lot of help.
Weíve heard that youíve decided to
take a year off.† Why?
No specific reason, no reason that exciting anyway. And I just havenít committed to another film and Iím not aggressively seeking one at this time. I think I need to take a little time and just be a girl. I need to, I don't know, collect some experiences as a person and not just as a person whoís emulating someone else. I think itís essential. To tell life stories, you have to have a little life to draw from and Iím a little tapped out in that department. I need to go and just be a girl for a little while. Iím a woman now and Iíd like to refamiliarize myself now with whatís important to me and what I like now as a woman.
Rather than becoming other characters?
Yeah, and living in somebody elseís apartment in somebody elseís country, in somebody elseís body. Iíd like to just kind of see where the day might take me if I didnít have it booked up on behalf of some commitment or other. And I canít really take a year off because thereís no such thing really. Itís just different phases of the cycle of making a film. So now this oneís finished and itís coming out, and then Cinderella Man, I have to finish that up and then do post production on that obviously and go around with that. And I think by that time, my year is probably up. My year off will be up. But yeah, Iím not going to go hop in a makeup chair any time soon I don't think.
How was it gaining the weight the second
It was a little bit different because I knew where I needed to go. And again, it was a question of can we do it in time? And again, I had a lot of help to get there, somebody else doing the math and putting the plate in front of me and saying, ďHere, eat this.Ē And ultimately, it worked out. Emotionally, it doesnít affect me. It didnít affect me except that I was afraid all the time that it would be not right, not enough because we worked so much. We did six days and the seventh day was committed to other work responsibilities. So I was constantly going, so my fear was that there would be fluctuations and those would disappear, yes, exactly. And then it would be noticeable. And I didnít want that. I didnít want to compromise on this film in any respect. It was so important to me that we come from a place of integrity in approaching this project, so everything about authenticating the characterís experience was unconditionallyÖnot mandatory, but essential. It just was.
What is Bridgetís biggest mistake with
itís that thing that we tend to do sometimes, just projecting our
fears or expectations of failure onto whatís actually good, onto
whatís really fine as it is. I think she also had unrealistic
expectations about the knight on the white horse. And no one can be
that all the time. And then normal is good enough. I think she comes
to learn that though. I think she comes to see that thereís
nothing wrong, that she should just leave it alone, let it be good.
How did you like shooting in Thailand?
Iím not really great in the sun, so that was hilarious actually. Youíll have to ask Hugh about that. Iím never going to live it down. I seriously look like I was wearing a pup tent the whole time I was down there. All the English folk who donít get so much sun usually, had their shirts off and were vary proud of the blaring da-glo white. And everybody half naked on the beach just loving it at Christmas time and I had at least 22 layers on, because I burn through the hotel wall. I do, honestly, so that was a challenge to shoot the scene out in the water for six hours and try to cover up the sun rash for the next week. That was the challenge. Iím not so great at it, but culturally in terms of what I learned, it was fascinating. It was fantastic. And the shrimp was really great on the beach too.
Did this film require any additional
was more. This was a little different this time. Obviously, I
couldnít snoop around in the office as easily so we didnít try
to do that and Iím pretty familiar with television stuff from the
work that I do. So I felt pretty comfortable in that respect. I felt
like I can remember enough from what we had done before that it
didnít just disappear. So I thought, ďOkay, Iíll be all right
in that respect.Ē This time it was more about preparing to go in
terms of script and in terms of being certain that nothing had been
left out and that it was as complete and substantial as it possibly
could be. But everything had been considered and that we were in no
way compromising these characters.
Did you do your own skiing stunts?
Yeah, it was awesome. Iíve never been on, whatís the race course called, the slalom? I did the slalom with two members of the Austrian ski team on each side. Crazy. No, crazier is the man who filmed the thing. He was an extreme skier and he filmed extreme sports Ė †the helicopter, snowboarding and things like that. He was skiing backwards down the slalom with the camera strapped around his torso, that he looked down into and held right here. He never looked up, never. And he was depending on me to tell him when he was about to be killed, by trees or veering off too far to the edge of the mountain never to be heard from again. So it was very exciting. Especially the sun was going down, you couldnít really see at that point but we had to get it because we were leaving. It was exhilarating and insane, and itís amazing the insane things that youíll just go ahead and do because youíre running out of light.
Should women be offended that Bridget is
portrayed as so desperate? What do women like about her?
So much. I think itís her humanity. I think itís that sheís so honest about how she feels and rememberÖwhat I find is that I don't think that sheís needy or desperate. I think itís her actions that are completely contrary to what youíre suggesting. See, youíre privy to her inner dialogue as an audience member, as a person reading the book. Youíre privy to what it is that sheís most afraid of or what she anticipates might be her greatest failure or what her own shortcomings are. But she never fails to trudge forward and to believe that sheís gonna be fine and she always moves on. And she always succeeds. 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 itís 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. This is very specific. In the first film, we see a woman whoís trying to come to terms with how she defines happiness for herself, as opposed to what it is that people project onto her. In terms of what they expect should make her happy, what she ought to do, what she ought to look like. Who she ought to be, what she ought to have in order to have a better life and be a better person and be happy. And by the end of that film, we see that sheís all right with who she is. And sheís figuring out what it is that she wants. She moves onto a job that she thinks will satisfy her. She stands up to a boss who belittles her and she finds love, because she believes that it can happen.
And in this film, itís more specific. Itís a more specific experience of not ruining the good things in our lives because of our fears and how ultimately, we have to find something wrong. But in the end, this is a woman who exposes herself to you and thatís what I think people find appealing is that we can relate to standing in the hallway, wanting to know, ďSo, do you like me like that or not?Ē And we love that she just goes ahead and blurts it out in this ridiculous way that makes her seem, like you said, not strong. And then ultimately, she never fails to get up and move forward. Thatís strength to me. Thatís not weakness and thatís not needy from my perspective.
Was Cinderella Man a tougher character for
was difficult because sheís not so present on the page. Itís
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 in who she was.
Do people really not notice you with your
new hair color?
my friends will pass me. Itís fantastic. I stand at the counter at
the coffee shop and I order a coffee and it comes just as I ordered
it and I pay for it and I leave.
Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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