Renee Zellweger was one of the biggest stars of the late 1990s and early 2000s thanks to roles in films like Jerry Maguire, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago and Cold Mountain, but the actor seemed to have almost disappeared over the past decade. Slowly making her way back onto the big screen with challenging new roles, including playing Judy Garland in the upcoming Judy, which includes an album full of covers with Rufus Wainwright and Sam Smith, Zellweger is now better equipped than ever for the demands of fame.
Addressing her conscious decision to step away from Hollywood and her return years later, Zellweger is sitting down with Vulture for one of her only interviews in years. And yes, she’s talking about the plastic surgery rumors.
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“I think the majority of the films that I’ve made wouldn’t get made today … What I really love about it is that I’m still allowed to do it.” After Bridget Jones, after the Harvey-at-Miramax years, after a break from acting, #RenéeZellweger is ready to play Judy Garland. Tap the link in bio for our full @Vulture cover story. 📸 @amandademme
ON THE BENEFITS OF STEPPING AWAY FROM HOLLYWOOD
Zellweger notes that she’s recognized much less now after taking a break from Hollywood, a perk that allows her to lead a more normal life. “Six years,” said Zellweger on the length of time she went without filming a new project. “It was important, that time. You’re not in people’s consciousness anymore, so they don’t immediately make the connection. It’s a quieter life, and I love it.”
ON HER BEST ADVICE FROM SALMA HAYEK
Deciding in 2010 to take a break from working, Zellweger said that she began to see a therapist and realized she spent most of her adult life playing someone else. At the same time, she also ran into her friend and fellow actor Salma Hayek, who gave her a piece of advice. “She shared this beautiful … metaphor? Analogy? ‘The rose doesn’t bloom all year … unless it’s plastic,’” said Zellweger. “I got it. Because what does that mean? It means that you have to fake that you’re okay to go and do this next thing. And you probably need to stop right now, but this creative opportunity is so exciting and it’s once-in-a-lifetime and you will regret not doing it. But actually, no, you should collect yourself and, you know … rest.”
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“There was so much that was not allowed for. You’re not allowed to be human. There’s no room on the schedule for her sanity—the choices that were made for her and how she was exploited and … robbed, basically.” Renée Zellweger talks about playing Judy Garland in the new @judythefilm and why Garland was such a misunderstood figure. Link in bio for our full Renée Zellweger cover story. 📸Pathé Productions
ON THE PLASTIC SURGERY RUMORS
In 2016, Zellweger was back in the headlines when she made a public appearance with what some publications saw as an altered face. Zellweger wrote about the incident in the Huffington Post and touched on it again in her new interview. “That makes me sad. I don’t look at beauty in that way. And I don’t think of myself in that way. I like my weird quirkiness, my off-kilter mix of things. It enables me to do what I do. I don’t want to be something else. I got hired in my blue jeans and cowboy boots with my messy hair. I started working like that. I didn’t have to change to work. So why was I suddenly trying to fit into some mold that didn’t belong to me?”
ON SURVIVING PUBLIC SCRUTINY
After failed film and TV roles and headlines about her changing appearance, Zellweger said she understandably entered a period of depression. “Nothing like international humiliation to set your perspective right!” she says with a laugh. “It clarifies what’s important to you. And it shakes off any sort of clingy superficiality … that you didn’t have time for anyway. One of the fears that maybe, as artists, we all share — because we have this public experience of being criticized not just for our work but as human beings — is when it gets to be too much, when you learn that your skin is not quite as thick as you need it to be, what is that gonna feel like? Well, now I know. I got the hardest kick. And it ain’t the end.”
ON HER RELATIONSHIP WITH HARVEY WEINSTEIN
Some of Zellweger’s biggest films, including her Oscar-nominated roles in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago, and Cold Mountain, were produced by Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax. Following the #MeToo movement, Weinstein said that Zellweger exchanged sexual favours for movie roles, which she denies. Zellweger says that talking about Weinstein is difficult, because although she was around the infamous producer, she missed seeing the abuse. “It was a very hard thing to hear about. And it was hard to accept the surprise of that. And I’m sorry that it’s hard to talk about, because this is a person that I did not know well, but I thought I knew him as I knew him. It was red carpets and a hotel lobby in passing or ‘I’ll see you at this after-party’ and ‘I’ll be there to make sure you go to promote our movie’ and ‘I’ll see you at Cannes’ or ‘I’ll see you at the French premiere’ or ‘I’ll see you in the editing room so we can pick these things apart.’ And that’s a lot, when you talk about how we worked during that decade and a half …”