ZELLWEGER' S SENSE OF OPTIMISM.Renee Zellweger/Bridget Jones Interview by Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.
Renee Zellweger looks different. Her hair is darkened, she is much thinnerthan usual and hence unrecognizable as she walks into a Los Angeles hotelroom promoting Bridget Jones, Edge of Reason, a sequel she once insisted shewould never make. But that was then, this is now, and here she is again,confirming that it took her three years to decide that she should revisitthe character, "probably because the first experience meant so much to me, Ihave so much respect for this character and also what she represents. Ididn't want to compromise that in any way by following up with a film thatmeant nothing, just because we could and I wanted to be certain that themotivation for making this film came from a creative place. I also wanted tobe certain that it was a film that was substantial enough that it couldstand on its own, regardless of what had happened with the first picture, Iwanted to be sure that it was a necessary film and that this character hadmore stories to tell. I was more comfortable with the idea of making thisfilm because it's not a sequel in the traditional sense, in that there is abook that has been written, so her journey has continued and I had nothingto do with it as it was obviously there already from Helen Fielding. So,that being said, it gave it purpose, but again, it was just being carefulthat we wouldn't do anything that might blasphemize the first or how peoplefelt about this character because we went forward irresponsibly with her,"Zellweger explains in great detail.
Then of course there is the thorny issueabout her putting on the weight again, with frequent media reports that herreal reluctance to do the sequel was re-gaining the weight, which theactress emphatically denies. "I don't know where the notion that I washesitant to have that experience in the first place came from, or that I hadnegative feelings about the experience the first time around. I read itmyself somewhere and I don't know where that surfaced but it didn't comefrom me. It wasn't a negative experience in any respect and contributed somuch to the experience of bringing Bridget Jones to life the first time, soI knew that it was essential in repeating the journey. It had to beauthentic to me, in that if you're not going to BECOME the character and BEthe character, then I don't really see the point in undertaking theexperience. I wanted to have that experience and people were suggesting tome, 'Oh, it might not be necessary.' Or, 'You shouldn't do as much as youdid last time because it's probably not healthy.' For me, then it wouldrender the experience pointless from a creative perspective and I wanted torevisit this character in every respect."
Bridget Jones, both the novels and film versions, have so becomeintrinsically entrenched in our culture, that women constantly look upon heras some kind of role model, despite her being overweight and desperate.Zellweger understands why this character has struck a chord with so manywomen and disagrees that she is as desperate as she seems. "I think womenlove her because of her humanity. I think it's that she's so honest abouthow she feels and I don't think that she's needy or desperate. See, you'reprivy to her inner dialogue as an audience member, or as a person readingthe book and privy to what it is that she's most afraid of, what sheanticipates might be her greatest failure or what her own shortcomings are,but she never fails to trudge forward and believe that she's gonna be fineand she always moves on. She always goes for what it is that she would liketo have happen in her life, and ultimately makes certain that it manifestsitself there and it's not for her about finding happiness in this antiquatedideology that a man and woman should be together in order for a woman tofeel complete."
But Bridget remains a romantic optimist and while Zellweger responds indetail about her fictional alter ego, she is less forthcoming when askedwhether she herself identifies with Bridget's idealistic sense of romance."I'm trying, and I do my best," she says, smilingly. "It's what I admiremost about her is her ever present optimism in the face of so muchadversity. I love that she's able to laugh at herself and get back up andkeep on trying." One is uncertain as to whether the actress is describingherself or Bridget. As for those other media rumours that Renee plans totake a year off, Zellweger offers a hearty laugh. "I can only imagine I'mlooking forward to tomorrow which might be an exciting morning, I have noidea. It'll be interesting. I seriously doubt it. I just haven't committedto another film and am not aggressively seeking one at this time. I think Ineed to take a little time and just be a girl and collect some experiencesas a person and not just as a person who's emulating someone else. To telllife stories, you have to have a little life to draw from and I'm a littletapped out in that department. I need to go and just be a girl for a littlewhile. I'm a woman now and I'd like to re-familiarise myself with what'simportant to me and what I like now as a woman," says the actress. "I'd liketo just kind of see where the day might take me if I didn't have it bookedup on behalf of some commitment or other. But I can't really take a year offbecause there's no such thing really. It's just different phases of thecycle of making a film. So now this one's finished and it's coming out, andthen Cinderella Man, which I have to finish up and do post production on andgo around with that. I think by that time, my year off will be up. But Idon't think I'm going to go hop in a makeup chair any time soon."
As for Cinderella Man, the story of Depression-era fighter and folk hero JimBraddock, played by Russell Crowe, Zellweger says playing Braddock's wifewas challenging in its own way. "It was difficult because she's not sopresent on the page. It's more internalized and it was about researching andcoming to understand who she was, to understand what society was like at thetime and so how that would make an impact on whom she was." Renee is not soforthcoming about her experience working with her intense co-star, whenasked if working with Russell was tougher than gaining the weight forBridget Jones. "Oh, tough for different reasons. Russell is very talented."But she did smilingly concede that Crowe gave her a hard time. "Heabsolutely did", but no further elaboration on the subject. And no, aBridget Jones 3 is unlikely, the actress insists. "Oh my Gosh, that's not upto me, is it? Ask Helen Fielding."
BRIDGET JONES, THE EDGE OF REASON, OPENS IN NOVEMBER