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Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
How Renée became Bridget
Renee Zellwger as Bridget Jones
Zellweger was a surprise choice to play Bridget Jones
When Texan actress Renée Zellweger was chosen for the coveted lead role in Bridget Jones's Diary more than a few British eyebrows were raised.

The weight-obsessed, love starved, chain-smoking, wine-soaked Bridget could not - many thought - possibly be understood by a pampered product of Hollywood.

But Zellweger continued regardless and has - judging by the glowing reviews - more than proved her critics wrong.

In fact, Zellweger has made a habit of snatching plum roles from better-known, more glitzy stars.

I figured that this was a film that would be made in Britain and that it would be played by a British actress - and that was that

Renée Zellweger

As a virtual unknown she was chosen to play opposite heart-throb Tom Cruise in the Oscar-nominated smash Jerry Maguire.

The role threw her into the limelight. A subsequent high profile romance with screen funnyman Jim Carrey raised her into Tinseltown's higher ranks.

Yet no one was more surprised than Zellweger when she landed the role of Bridget Jones.

"It never occurred to me that I should even think about the part. I figured that this was a film that would be made in Britain and that it would be played by a British actress. And that was that."


Given the popularity of Helen Fielding's book, it was inevitable the movie version of Bridget Jones would be Zellweger's ultimate ticket to A-list success.

Renee Zellweger and Jim Carrey in Me, Myself & Irene
Zellweger met Carrey on the set of Me, Myself & Irene
But Zellweger, 32, looked beyond the fame and found the role's real appeal in its difficulty.

"I wasn't sure I could pull it off so I had to see what would happen. It required so much work, I couldn't not try it."

Part of the toil involved mastering an authentic upper middle class British accent. The other was putting on around two stones in weight.

Zellweger - now back to being toned and svelte - admits to finding it hard to force herself to eat to pile on the pounds.

But, she adds, that doesn't mean she is critical of women who live with a fuller figure.

It's so sad when people focus on being fat because that is not the word I would use at all - I felt voluptuous for the first time in my life

Renée Zellweger

"It's so sad when people focus on being fat because that is not the word I would use at all. I felt voluptuous for the first time in my life," she insists.

Zellweger, who hails from Katy, Texas, has been used to suffering a bit for her art. After graduation she decided she wanted to be a professional actress.

But she refused to change her "difficult" name - inherited from her Swiss father - despite the advice of several agents.

So she took a number of unenviable roles including that of a victim in the Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire
Zellweger made waves in Jerry Maguire

Things began looking up when she was unexpectedly cast in the critically acclaimed independent movie The Whole Wide World.

The role of the outspoken girlfriend to pulp-fiction writer Robert E Howard was meant for Olivia d'Abo but she pulled out when she found she was pregnant.


It was this role that brought Zellweger to the attention of Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe.

He was impressed by her down-to-earth manner in front of Hollywood hotshot Cruise.

The same praise came her way when she later acted alongside big stars Meryl Streep and William Hurt in One True Thing.

With this in mind, Zellweger's biggest star quality seems to be her shining normality. As such, her casting as Bridget Jones was perfectly fitting.

She is the sort of neurotic inner voice that we women have on so many subjects

Renée Zellweger on Bridget Jones

Zellweger openly admits to having no trouble understanding Bridget. Like her, she enjoys a drink (but moderates her alcohol intake).

She has also had her fair share of heartache, particularly when her relationship with Carrey broke down.

But more importantly, Zellweger stresses, she and virtually every women wherever they are from, is a closet, anxiety-ridden Bridget Jones.

"She is the sort of neurotic inner voice that we women have on so many subjects. It is fun to laugh with her because we have all been there," she concludes.

See also:

02 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Renee's box-office cure
24 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Renée wins Bridget role
10 May 99 | Entertainment
Writers slated for 'Bridget Jones' novels
12 May 00 | Entertainment
Bridget Jones star goes undercover
04 Apr 01 | New Media
Bridget Jones fans set to txt
04 Apr 01 | Film
Men, women and Bridget Jones
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