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Friday, 6 April, 2001, 23:40 GMT 00:40 UK
US eager for Bridget Jones
Renee Zellweger as Bridger Jones
Texan Renee Zellweger plays the neurotic Englishwoman
By Peter Bowes in Hollywood

Bridget Jones's Diary is as eagerly anticipated in the United States as it is in Britain.

Much of the attention is focussed on whether Texan actress Renee Zellweger has managed to perfect an English accent.

The story of the neurotic single woman, obsessed by calorie counting, cigarettes and alcohol, is based on the international best seller by the author Helen Fielding.


It's a complete triumph - she's done it perfectly

Hugh Grant on Zellweger
Most of the well known US critics are holding back their reviews until the film is released next week.

However, Lael Loewenstein, who writes for the Hollywood bible Variety, believes the movie "misses its mark".

Surprise casting

Loewenstein expects the pre-release hype to guarantee the film healthy returns at the box office, but expects "it will inevitably disappoint some of the book's devotees".

The casting of Zellweger as the quintessentially English woman was, by common consent, a surprise.

Her co-star, Hugh Grant, says: "I admit, I raised an eyebrow and thought, 'it's a bit weird.'"

Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver
Hugh Grant: Glad to be the bad guy
But Grant, who plays Bridget's villainous boss, the love-rat Daniel Cleaver, believes Zellweger is more than up to playing the British character.

"She's a national icon," he says. "I think the British were feeling particularly protective and defensive.

"Having said that, we're all having to eat our words. I mean it's a complete triumph. She's done it perfectly."

Grant adds that by the end of shoot, he considered Zellweger to be the perfect Englishwoman.

"It was frankly sinister when she turned up at the wrap party with her Texan accent," he says.

"I wanted to call for security I didn't know who that girl was."

Transformation

For Zellweger, her transformation into the character of an obsessive English woman did not come easily.

She was forced to put on weight, work every day at a publishing company, endure rigorous training with a dialect coach and attend exhausting rehearsals.

The actress says she was well aware of the initial outcry in Britain over her being chosen to play Bridget. "I understood it," she says.

"Especially after having spent time over there and seeing how much smaller the film market actually is. I can understand that there would certainly be fewer opportunities.

Bridget Jones's Diary
The book has been a huge success
"And there are so many very talented English actresses as we all know."

Colin Firth plays Bridget's second love interest in the film - the snobby Mark Darcy.

Firth says he regrets the British press's obsession with the issue of Zellweger's accent.

"I think it's the most irrelevant and really inane thing to get fixated on that," he says.

"I don't see the American press getting up in arms every time an Englishman plays an American which happens frequently - and the whole of early Hollywood was based on that."

Focus on Grant

The US build-up to the film has also concentrated on Hugh Grant's portrayal of the movie's bad guy.

Most know the actor as an awkward, bumbling Englishman. Grant says it is a relief to break away from the stereotype - making the movie was "therapeutic".

He welcomes the opportunity to play a villain again. "I used to do a lot in the old days. That was my sort of staple, pre Four Weddings and a Funeral," he says.

"I certainly got sick to death of being Mr Nice Guy. And I suspect the audience has as well."

See also:

04 Apr 01 | New Media
Bridget Jones fans set to txt
04 Apr 01 | Film
Men, women and Bridget Jones
04 Apr 01 | Film
How Renée became Bridget
12 May 00 | Entertainment
Bridget Jones star goes undercover
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