Renée Zellweger: ‘The Secret To Bridget’s Success? Her Humanity’

renee zellweger bridget jones baby

by Katie Rosseinsky |
Published on

Meeting Renée Zellweger is a mildly disconcerting experience. Not because she’s a dragon of an A-lister (far from it) or because, these days, she’s unrecognisable, as tabloid headlines would put it (she isn’t). To put it simply, it’s because she is Bridget Jones.

As the big screen avatar for one of the most painfully relatable female characters, well, ever, she’s in our sitting rooms on ITV2 on a Sunday night in red penguin pyjamas; and – whether you like it or not – she’s become part of the way we think about being a ‘singleton’ (itself a phrase coined in Helen Fielding’s novel), and about being a woman.

Now she's back for a third film installment, the long-awaited Bridget Jones's Baby. Such is the anticipation - and secrecy - surrounding the film that three different endings have been filmed (though, as Renée later tells me, 'it wasn't written in the script, they didn't print it - we just moved men and babies around...') And, ridiculous though it may sound, such is the realness of her performance that on some subconscious level, I’m very much expecting her to speak in clipped Home Counties tones, rather than – of course – her own Texan accent. And as an unabashed devotee of Bridget, I'm worried that this interview will be conducted with all the slickness of a slot on Sit Up Britain.

It's reassuring to learn, then, that Renée is herself a bit of a Bridget fan girl - and that this fondness for her on-screen alter-ego made her nervous about coming back to the franchise (Bridget Jones's Baby is also the actress's first film since 2010). Returning to such a loved character, Renée says, was 'terrifying. I have a lot of affection for Bridget, so I didn't want to mess it up. But it was also exciting - I love her, and [making the films] is such a joyful experience that I couldn't wait.'

renee zellweger bridget jones baby
Renée Zellweger at the Paris premiere of Bridget Jones's Baby ©Getty Images

Once work began on the film, though, it seems that she quickly got into her stride - literally. 'She's so familiar to me and the process is familiar to me, even her walk and how she moves.' Directed by Sharon Macguire (who headed up the first film, and provided Fielding with the inspiration for straight-talking friend Shazza), the Bridget of Bridget Jones's Baby wears coats by Shrimps and has joined the cult of £20-a-go spinning classes - but, spoiler alert, she's still partial to the odd glass of Chardonnay. This posed an interesting challenge for the returning actress. 'She's different, she's moved on in her life - how could I show that she's changed?' The main shift, though, is in the character's self-belief, rather than in the much-publicised fact that Renée did not attempt her previous 20 pound weight gain for the role. As a top producer on a news show, Bridget is 'a little less naive [...] I think she's probably a little more self-possessed.'

Since appearing in Fielding's columns in 1995, Bridget has become part of our vocabulary, a short-hand for single women, so it's no surprise that Renée sees the third installment as doing far more than your average rom-com. 'Her secret is in her humanity. Bridget represents the truth of a person as opposed to what we might aspire to be [...] We're exploring social pressures about what your life is supposed to look like, or what you imagined it would be; as opposed to what it's like when you arrive there.' These are doubtless pressures that the actress is irritatingly over-familiar with: the Bridget Jones's Baby promo tour has already (eye-roll) seen the actress quizzed about the fact that - the horror! - she is child-free.

For Renée, the secret to Bridget's enduring success with readers and viewers lies in 'her humanity,' and in a brilliant cast. So, is being fought over on screen by Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey as tough as it sounds? 'What a treat - what is that? What kind of job is that?' she laughs. 'You have Colin Firth already and then you go to work with Patrick and Emma [Thompson.] Then Ed Sheeran shows up for a couple of days...'

Watch Grazia's full interview with Renée Zellweger below

Watch director Sharon Macguire and producer Debra Hayward discuss Bridget's enduring appeal in the video below

READ MORE: Bridget Jones: The Musical Is Happening

READ MORE: 27 Things You Didn't Know About Bridget Jones

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