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 Joness 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 theyd 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, everythings 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 sporting a new hair color (shes 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 brought I don't know where that surfaced but it didnt come from me. It wasnt 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 youre not going to become the character and be the character, then I dont 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 shouldnt do as much as you did last time because its probably not healthy. 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 didnt 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.
And 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 its 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 wouldnt 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 thats a really good question because its something that stood out for me in the filming process. It wasnt 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, Why? Where does this come from? And I think that its made fairly clear afterward. And if not, Im not sure which version of the film that youve seen, but it was an issue that Ive had. I was not comfortable with because I thought, Does that imply that this is a character whos a little bit unrealistic in her expectations and does it make her seem a little bit desperate for something that ultimately isnt at the core of what drives her?
Yes, love is important to her obviously, but its more specific. Its love with this person. Its 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 its inappropriate. I think that at that desperate time, women, we all know that you dont even bring up Are you seeing other people at six weeks, let alone So, are we doing this for the long haul or not? No matter how desperately you want to say, Are you calling other people because Im not calling other people and I just wanna know if youre committed to me, you dont do it. Its breaking the rules. And I think if anything that you can love Bridget for its 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 cant contain herself and not only is she not gonna say, Youre just seeing me, right? but So, you wanna marry me or not? And its completely inappropriate and I think that after she leaves his house, I think it becomes pretty evident that she knows that shes 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 walk?
Certain 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.
Weve heard that youve decided to take a year off. Why?
No specific reason, no reason that exciting anyway. And I just havent committed to another film and Im 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 whos emulating someone else. I think its essential. To tell life stories, you have to have a little life to draw from and Im a little tapped out in that department. I need to go and just be a girl for a little while. Im a woman now and Id like to refamiliarize myself now with whats important to me and what I like now as a woman.
Rather than becoming other characters?
Yeah, and living in somebody elses apartment in somebody elses country, in somebody elses body. Id like to just kind of see where the day might take me if I didnt have it booked up on behalf of some commitment or other. And I cant really take a year off because theres no such thing really. Its just different phases of the cycle of making a film. So now this ones finished and its 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, Im not going to go hop in a makeup chair any time soon I don't think.
How was it gaining the weight the second time around?
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, Here, eat this. And ultimately, it worked out. Emotionally, it doesnt affect me. It didnt 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 didnt want that. I didnt 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 characters experience was unconditionally not mandatory, but essential. It just was.
What is Bridgets biggest mistake with Mark Darcy?
Well, its that thing that we tend to do sometimes, just projecting our fears or expectations of failure onto whats actually good, onto whats 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 theres nothing wrong, that she should just leave it alone, let it be good.
How did you like shooting in Thailand?
Im not really great in the sun, so that was hilarious actually. Youll have to ask Hugh about that. Im 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 dont 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. Im 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 preparation?
This was more. This was a little different this time. Obviously, I couldnt snoop around in the office as easily so we didnt try to do that and Im 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 didnt just disappear. So I thought, Okay, Ill be all right in that respect. 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. Ive never been on, whats 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 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 couldnt really see at that point but we had to get it because we were leaving. It was exhilarating and insane, and its amazing the insane things that youll just go ahead and do because youre 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 its her humanity. I think its that shes so honest about how she feels and remember what I find is that I don't think that shes needy or desperate. I think its her actions that are completely contrary to what youre suggesting. See, youre privy to her inner dialogue as an audience member, as a person reading the book. Youre privy to what it is that shes 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 shes 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 its 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 whos 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 shes all right with who she is. And shes 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, its more specific. Its 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 thats what I think people find appealing is that we can relate to standing in the hallway, wanting to know, So, do you like me like that or not? 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. Thats strength to me. Thats not weakness and thats not needy from my perspective.
Was Cinderella Man a tougher character for you?
It was difficult because shes not so present on the page. Its 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?
No, my friends will pass me. Its 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 email@example.com