20 Facts About Renée Zellweger, Who Gave Up Her Career but Then Gloriously Returned and Proved Everyone Wrong
Some people associate Renée Zellweger with the funny and chubby Bridget Jones, who Renée portrayed in 3 movies. Others remember the actress for her part as Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago. And there are also those who know her for her most recent movie, Judy. But one thing is obvious, Renée Zellweger is a great talented actress who has played in dozens of movies, some of which are amazing, and some not so much, but it doesn’t really matter.
- Renée Zellweger’s parents didn’t belong to the artistic world. Her father is from Switzerland, he was a mechanical and electrical engineer who worked in the oil-refining business. Her mother is Norwegian of Sámi descent, she was a nurse and midwife, but when she moved to the United States, she began to work as a governess. Renée has an older brother named Drew. In an interview, Renée said that she was proud to be a Norwegian.
- Renée was a very active girl at school. She was a gymnast and cheerleader and played soccer. Even today, the actress is a huge fan of the English soccer club Chelsea FC. Renée was also in the drama club in high school, and that was when she realized she wanted to become an actress.
- After school, Renée enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. During her college years, she took a drama course as an elective and had to admit again that acting was her calling. By the way, when Renée was in her junior year, her father lost his job, so the future actress took a job as a waitress. She said about this period of her life, “I learned a lot. I learned not to judge people, and that things are not black and white.”
- One of her first acting jobs was in a beef commercial. Later, she appeared in a few low-budget projects, like A Taste for Killing (1992) and the miniseries Murder in the Heartland (1993). And in 1994, Renée got her first important role in the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. Even though the movie got a lot of negative reviews, critics praised Zellweger’s performance and even named her a scream queen.
- At the age of 24, Renée moved to Los Angeles. She tried to postpone her move for as long as possible because she thought she didn’t have enough experience and talent to be a competitive actress. In 1995, she played in the drama Empire Records. At the time, critics described the movie as a silly and predictable teen dramedy, but they did mention Renée’s strong performance.
- Renée gained wider recognition through her role in Jerry Maguire in 1996 where she starred opposite Tom Cruise. There was real chemistry between the actors on-screen. By the way, famous actresses like Cameron Diaz, Bridget Fonda, and Winona Ryder auditioned for the role, but the film director chose Zellweger. The actress was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance.
- In 1998, she played in the drama One True Thing, alongside Meryl Streep. The movie was a modest commercial success, but Renée received positive reviews from critics. 2 years later, the comedy Me, Myself & Irene was released and was a commercial success. By the way, the actress starred opposite Jim Carrey in this movie, and they soon began dating (they even got engaged).
At first the 2 denied their relationship but later admitted it. Some years later, Jim would say that Renée was a wonderful woman and the love of his life. In 2000, the actress said, “We didn’t see each other for a few months after we finished the picture, and I just noticed his absence significantly. It just felt like, ’Wow, I really miss him.’”
- Renée won her first Golden Globe for her performance in the movie Nurse Betty (2000) where she played a nurse who suddenly became the witness to a terrible crime. By the way, when Hugh Grant announced that she was the winner of the award, Renée was not there. She had gone to the toilet to remove lipstick from her teeth (as she said), and Hugh had to stall until the actress came back.
- Zellweger rose to stardom in 2001 when the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary entered theaters. The casting of Renée came amid much controversy. But the actress easily solved these problems: she gained the required weight (20 pounds) and learned to speak with an English accent. This role earned her a second Golden Globe nomination and her first Oscar nomination.
- Renée confessed that it was very exciting for her to fill out Bridget’s dresses. She said, “I didn’t feel uncomfortable, and I didn’t feel as if it changed my life. I got such positive responses from the fellows in my life, while I looked like Bridget Jones. I had a lot of friends who said I should think about keeping some of the weight on. I have to say, I agreed, because there were certain things about it, I liked very much. But of course, I’m a girl, and I thought, ’Ugh, no.’ Like anybody, I want to look my best.”
- In 2002, the musical Chicago was released, which won an Oscar for Best Picture. One of the newspapers commented on Renée’s performance in the movie, “Zellweger is a joy to watch.” And this is what the actress said herself, “Jack — my manager — spoke with Rob Marshall on the phone, and called me and said, ’You should read the script.’ And I did, and I didn’t understand it — at all. And I thought I should stay away.” However, everything changed when Renée met Marshall in person.
- By the way, before she was in this movie, she knew neither how to sing nor how to dance. She had to endure an exhausting training regime of vocal coaching and dance training for 10 months to achieve professional standards. Critics were amazed at how good her voice sounded in the movie. It’s worth mentioning that the actress didn’t see the stage musical because she didn’t want to have an idea of what it was supposed to be like in her head.
- In 2003, Renée starred in the movie Cold Mountain and won an Oscar for her performance. A year later, she played in the sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and was nominated for a Golden Globe. In 2005, Renée received a landmark star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to the movie industry. The same year, she married singer, Kenny Chesney. But this marriage only lasted for 225 days. By the way, it was the actress’s first and last marriage.
- Almost all of Zellweger’s following roles received mixed reviews. The movies Leatherheads (2008) and New in Town (2009) were poorly rated. One critic described Renée in New in Town like this, “Her rabbity, dimply pout — surely the strangest facial expression in Hollywood — simpers and twitches out of the screen in this moderate girly flick.”
- The actress was severely criticized for her role in the horror movie Case 39 (2009). By the way, she met Bradley Cooper on the movie set. In 2009, they began dating and broke up 2 years later. Cooper said, “I just love her. I loved coming to work. I love acting with her. I can learn so much from her.”
Renée even didn’t attend the Golden Globe Awards that year, in order to support Bradley, whose father died. She was close to his mother too. According to some sources, Cooper’s high career ambitions led to their split. By the way, at the 2020 Oscars, the 2 decided to sit next to each other, which made everyone think that they were back together again.
- After the release of the movie My Own Love Song in 2010, she decided to take a hiatus from screen acting. In 2016, Renée commented, saying, “I was fatigued and wasn’t taking the time I needed to recover between projects, and it caught up with me. I got sick of the sound of my own voice. It was time to go away and grow up a bit.”
- Zellweger’s victorious return happened in 2016, in the movie Bridget Jones’s Baby. The main heroine got pregnant and tried to figure out who the father of her baby was. The picture was a great commercial success and was positively reviewed by critics.
Then, Renée starred in the movies The Whole Truth (2016) and Same Kind of Different as Me (2017). The flicks received mixed reviews, but Renée’s performance was praised. In 2019, she played her first major television role in the miniseries What/If (2019).
- That same year, the movie Judy was released, where the actress brilliantly portrayed singer Judy Garland. Some critics agreed that this was the best work in Renée’s career. One of them said, “It is hard to tell where Garland stops and Zellweger starts.”
As for Renée, this movie became one of the most challenging in her career. She called it “a research project” because she had to learn a lot about Judy, including the way she moved and performed. For her portrayal of Garland, Renée won numerous awards, including the Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Academy Award. She was also nominated for a Grammy Award for the movie soundtrack.
- In 2022, Zellweger starred in the criminal miniseries The Thing About Pam. Both the series and Renée’s performance got mixed reviews from critics. By the way, Renée also produced the series.
She revealed that Pam intrigued her as a character, “How she presents herself is so completely far removed from the truth of who she is. It was like playing a role within a role. At the moment, Pam is one of my favorite characters I’ve played.” Perhaps, the actress will consider other television projects in the future.
- Zellweger once revealed that she likes to spend time alone. She likes to jog and says that jogging helps her remove unnecessary thoughts from her mind. The actress tries not to spend time on things that don’t really matter.
Renée says, “There are so many things that you can’t control, and I just leave them alone. When I’m working, for example, I always try to concentrate on something that is true, something that moves me in the context of the story that we’re trying to tell through the film, and just trust that.”
Do you have a favorite movie starring Renée Zellweger? Tell us about it in the comments below.