Feature by: Jack Foley
IT'S been three years since Renée Zellweger first put
on weight, donned those big knickers, and captured the hearts
of cinema-goers everywhere as everyone's favourite singleton,
Yet in spite of the overwhelming box office success of Bridget
Jones' Diary, there was some speculation, mostly in the tabloids,
that the Oscar-winning actress didn't want to return to the role,
for Helen Fielding's sequel, The Edge of Reason, due to the strains
it placed upon her body.
But this wasn't the case, according to Zellweger, who clearly
holds the character with great esteem, and her fears about doing
a follow-up had nothing to do with the look of her character.
"It's a privilege, you know, to play a character like Bridget
Jones," she explained at a recent London press conference,
held at London's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in Knightsbridge.
"It's not martyrdom to change your body to play a character
that you love. It's quite a creative adventure to play Bridget
Jones and to have the opportunity to be expressive in that way.
So there was no hesitation in terms of the process.
"My fear came from being really, really scared to be something
that might compromise how people felt about this character, by
doing something cavalier, by doing something that was superficial,
by being part of something that might disappoint people.
"So every day, going to work was about, 'ok, have we paid
attention to everything that we can, that we should?'"
Zellweger was equally aware of getting the balance of the character
right, so that she remained as endearingly insecure as she did
in the first film, without becoming overly pathetic.
"We discussed it every day, the potential of where it could
all go wrong; so very wrong. Because it should be what you're
talking about, it should be about this woman whose vulnerabilities
are relatable, whose humanity and honesty is appealing, and something
that we can recognise in ourselves.
"It didn't need to be desperate, because that's not who
she is. She's a woman who compares herself to guidelines that
society sets, what she's supposed to have and what she's supposed
to look like in order to be perceived as successful and beautiful.
"But she is never someone who is disheartened by her own
failings, or self-pitying in any way. She can look at herself
and be humourously self-appreciating. Never self-pitying. That
was, I don't know, a non-negotiable point that we were so aware
of every day."
As The Edge of Reason begins, Bridget Jones appears to be in
a happy relationship with the man of her dreams, Mark Darcy (Colin
Firth), but as her insecurities get the better of her, it isn't
long before Bridget is single again, and desperately trying to
fend off the unwanted attentions of Hugh Grant's rogueish bachelor,
A trip to Thailand, however, as part of her latest work commitments,
lands her in far more trouble than even she could have anticipated,
after she gets stopped for attempting to smuggle drugs out of
Yet while there is scope for the film to become a more serious
affair, particularly later on, the makers of the film were keen
to continue the trend of placing Bridget in all manner of compromising
scenarios. Hence, the big knickers get another welcome airing,
as do to the mishaps and verbal gaffes that are something of a
trademark of the character.
And Renee was thrust in at the deep
end, almost literally, on her first day of filming, when she was
asked to complete a scene involving a parachute and a pig-sty.
"That was a very nice way to get to know your crew,"
she joked. "But it was hilarious, and it makes the day go
by really quickly, having dozens of pigs round you and learning
all sorts of things about pigs' social interaction and anatomy!"
Away from Bridget Jones, however, Renee Zellweger has become
one of Hollywood's most prominent stars, picking up a best supporting
actress Oscar for her role
in Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain,
and receiving another nomination for her performance in Chicago.
She most recently supplied one of the voices for the animated
hit, Shark Tale, and has just
completed filming The Cinderella Man, alongside Russell Crowe,
while there are also plans to play Janis Joplin in Piece of My
As busy as she seems to be, however, the actress intends to
take a break from the screen for a few months, due to some 'personal
responsibilities' that she needs to see through, and for her own
piece of mind.
"I've never felt that drive, to keep going, going, going
until I achieve something and then I could feel that I'm more
comfortable in what has happened and stop," she explained.
"There were a lot of projects that I'd been following for
a very long time that seemed to surface all at once, and so it
just sort of worked out that way. It hasn't been about filling
slots or keeping going.
"In fact, I'm pretty particular and I'm pretty cautious,
as I know what it takes from your life to commit to a film, so
I'm not flippant about making those decisions.
"So there are a lot of different reasons why I'm taking
some time off. I need to stay out of the make-up chair for a little
while, for a start.
"But I think that if you're going to be a creative person,
especially in this medium, we have to have human experience to
draw from, and most of the experiences that I've had in the past
seven years have been of a girl emulating someone else, and living
in a different environment and living a different lifestyle really.
"So I need to sit still for a second and find out, as a
woman, now, what it is that I would do with the day, and what
I'm curious about, having not promised the day away for professional
She may even choose to spend some of that time in England, a country
she has come to know and love during the time she has spent filming
in the UK.
"When I was making Cold
Mountain, I was reading about Gwyneth Paltrow and moving here
and she’s riding her bikes through the streets of London
and walking through the park, and I was very envious from afar.
"I enjoy myself so much when I come here, there’s
not much about the culture that I could nitpick and say I don’t
like and that’s the truth. I found when I came here the
first time that I just felt very American.
"It’s an elegant culture, it’s a refined culture
and I just felt very big, and broad and animated in my expressions,
and I remember having dinner by myself at this Italian eatery
– DeMarios Pizzeria - and it was towards the end of filming
on the movie and I’d been here for about nine months at
that time, I guess, and this family walked in and they were so
very American, and I knew they were American and they didn’t
even open their mouths yet.
"I just recognised them and - more specifically - I knew
they were from Texas! And they were, they were! And I had a really
nice chat with them and I was happy to see them and I hadn’t
realised how I had tempered my normal, I don’t know, way
of carrying myself in the world to fit in to the English culture,
but it was really noticeable!"