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Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason - It's a privilege to play a character like Bridget Jones

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, Bridget Jones.

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, Daniel Cleaver.

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 the country.

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 Heart.

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 obligations."
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!"

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