ZELLWEGER, RENEE: BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY
WITH AN ACCENT ON BRIDGET
Becoming Britain’s darling Bridget Jones was a challenge for
Renee Zellweger, and involved acquiring a new accent, not to
mention several visits to Victoria’s Secret to get ever
larger bras, she confides to Jenny Cooney Carrillo.
It was only five years ago that Renee Zellweger ‘completed’
Tom Cruise in the hit comedy Jerry Maguire and became a household
name. But since then, the 32-year-old Texan has managed to avoid
the leading lady stereotype with some quirky performances first
in Nurse Betty, which earned her a Golden Globe for Best Actress
in a Comedy, and then risking outrage from the British film
community by playing their beloved Bridget Jones in the comedy
Bridget Jones’s Diary, based on the best-selling novel by
Helen Fielding about a pudgy, lovable British woman looking for
While the actress herself hasn’t been too successful in that
department, following the high-profile break-up of her romance
with Jim Carrey late last year, she’s clearly reveling in
her successful film career and had no qualms about putting on 7kgs
to play Bridget.
How did you react when you first heard about the role of
Bridget Jones and what did you learn about yourself when you
decided to gain weight for the part?
First off, I was surprised to learn that I was being considered
for the role. I was a fan of the book and had read somewhere ages
ago that they were planning to make a film of it would be an
English company, shot in England, with a list of English
actresses who would be contenders to play the part. That all made
sense to me, and that was the end of it. When I got the phone
call, it was a big surprise. In terms of putting on the weight,
it was really about the lifestyle that this character leads. The
lifestyle is different from mine, and I wanted her to physically
represent that lifestyle, I wanted it to be reflected in her
appearance. Also, I wanted her to look like the character I had
pictured in my head while I read the book. That was really
important because there was so much about this character that I
loved, found endearing, and I didn’t want to lose that in
the course of reanimating her in this film. And she wasn’t
my creation, she was Helen Fielding’s creation, so I felt a
certain responsibility to her as well. Gaining the weight was the
same as getting the right haircut, and the right accent. The more
involved and challenging it is to create a character, the more
satisfying the result is. I was looking forward to so much of
this project. I had never worked overseas. I had never worked
with a dialect coach as extensively as I did and I loved it.
Watching the whole process is an extraordinary experience,
evolving along with the character. Every time I went to Victoria’s
Secret to upgrade my bra size was a little success and it felt
Then why did you lose the weight after filming finished?
Of course everyone likes a woman with a little meat on their
bones, and if I had my choice I would take more trips to Victoria’s
Secret than I do. It was a program that was really boringly
technical. I went to see a physician and told him what we were
trying to achieve. So he did the math and he made a program for
me and told me I was going to have to add this much in order to
achieve this and we implemented that into the day along with the
dialect classes and learning lines and rehearsals. It was part of
creating a character and when I stopped going to rehearsals and
we stopped filming, I stopped putting on Bridget’s clothes,
and I stopped maintaining that program. I got back to being
myself and maintaining my own program.
How hard was it to get your British accent right?
I spoke with an accent from the time I got to England as told to
by my dialect coach. She wanted it to become a habit, and I
wanted to not feel like a fraud when I opened my mouth. I didn’t
want to be really self-conscious about the words and the way they
were coming out of my mouth. I didn’t want to be thinking of
how to say the words because that was going to get in the way of
what we were really doing which was trying to tell a story. That
was a part of wanting to move to England ahead of time, before we
started shooting, because I wanted to be around it and hear it,
pick up inflections and a little bit of slang in the meantime. I
loved the character and wanted to be as good as possible, so I
was just glad we had the time to do it.
What did you do to really become Bridget Jones?
Before becoming involved in a project or a character, I have to
feel that I have something to give it or there is no point.
Otherwise I think they would be better off working with somebody
else who does have those feelings about the project. It has to
inspire me in some way. Then it’s just work; it’s
understanding and learning and coming to get to know that
character as best I can, whether it’s technical or emotional.
It also involves observations from my personal life or a personal
experience from my life. When it came to Bridget, I loved this
character after reading the book. I could completely relate as I
suppose is the case with so many people considering the success
of that book internationally. As an actress to play a part like
this is a real learning opportunity because she is so different
in so many respects, including her background and culture and
that was where the work came in. I needed to do some learning,
life learning most importantly. I need to move, to look around
and watch, understand her social references and her background
and her history. Then go from there.
Were you more self-conscious than usual on the set
because of the extra weight?
That was more because of being in a room full of guys from the
crew! When you see me on the screen is one thing but what those
guys see is completely another story altogether! So for the first
couple of days it was ‘well where’s my robe, when can I
get dressed?’ and after that it was just, ‘which pair
of panties do I wear today?’ I immediately built a trust
between the crew and myself and they got a kick out of it all and
so did I. But I’m sure they were equally embarrassed to see
me running around in my knickers. I guess that is one of the most
incredible parts of this weird job. It was weird and wonderful at
the same time.
Published July 19, 2001
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Release Date: July 26, 2001
DVD/Video Release Date: Dec 5, 2001