Page last updated at 07:53 GMT, Thursday, 26 January 2006

Renee Zellweger's universal appeal

Renee Zellweger
Zellweger has been a favourite with fans and Oscars voters
Renee Zellweger has become one of Hollywood's most popular and acclaimed actresses thanks to hits such as Bridget Jones' Diary, Cold Mountain and Cinderella Man.

From the weight-obsessed, wine-soaked Bridget Jones to a hard-up boxer's wife in Cinderella Man, the Texan star's abilities have made her one of Hollywood's most sought-after stars.

Now 36, she took acting classes at the University of Texas, where she decided to take it up as a full-time career after graduating in 1991.

She stayed in Houston and refused to change her "difficult" name - inherited from her Swiss father - despite the advice of several agents.

So she took a number of smaller roles, including playing a murder victim in 1994's Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and parts in Reality Bites and Empire Records.

Love and a .45 generated enough critical acclaim to persuade her to move to Los Angeles, where she was unexpectedly cast in well-received independent movie The Whole Wide World.

Jerry Maguire (1996)
Nurse Betty (2000)
Bridget Jones' Diary (2001)
Chicago (2002)
Cold Mountain (2003)
Cinderella Man (2005)
That role brought Zellweger to the attention of Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe.

The role, opposite Tom Cruise, threw her into the limelight - and she was praised for her down-to-earth skills.

A high-profile romance with screen funnyman Jim Carrey raised her into Tinseltown's higher ranks when they starred together in comedy Me, Myself and Irene.

Comedy thriller Nurse Betty followed - and she won her first major prize, a Golden Globe.

Superstar status - and her first Oscar nomination - beckoned when she landed the role of Bridget Jones, the neurotic British heroine of Helen Fielding's novels.

Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger in Cinderella Man
The actress appeared opposite Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man
The slim actress mastered Jones's middle-class English accent and mannerisms - and put on two stones in weight.

"I felt voluptuous for the first time in my life," she said at the time.

Film musical Chicago was a chance to demonstrate some new talents - she had never danced or sung on film before.

"Before Chicago, I wouldn't sing for anyone but my dog," she said. "I didn't understand the Chicago script and I have no background in musicals."

But the effort was worth it as she scooped a best actress Golden Globe and was nominated for another Oscar.

In 2003's American civil war drama Cold Mountain, Zellweger played drifter Ruby who helped Nicole Kidman's character manage her dead father's farm.

Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney
Zellweger's marriage to singer Kenny Chesney was short-lived
After another Oscar nomination came her way, it was third time lucky when Zellweger walked away with the statuette for best supporting actress.

Since then, she has been seen in the Bridget Jones sequel and opposite Russell Crowe in depression-era drama Cinderella Man.

As well as enjoying screen success, Zellweger has been pushed further into the spotlight by a string of relationships with fellow stars.

As well as Carrey, she was linked with George Clooney, rock singer Jack White and Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice.

After a whirlwind romance with country music star Kenny Chesney, the pair tied the knot in the Caribbean in May 2005.

But the marriage lasted just four months, with the couple saying there had been a "miscommunication of the objective of their marriage".


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