Bloom time for Bridget
EMMA OUTTEN Our beloved Bridget Jones is back on the big screen in follow up film The Edge of Reason and she’s still wearing those big pants. But, as Emma Outten found out at the press conference, actress Renée Zellweger looks as though she would never naturally be in need of larger undergarments.
Academy Award-winning actress Renee Zellweger certainly knows how to put her mind, body and soul into a part. The star of Bridget Jones was prepared to bloom from a size six dress to a size 14 all over again for the sequel to Bridget Jones's Diary.
And at the press conference for Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason, there was very visible proof that she's lost it all over again as well.
The word petite was invited for actresses such as Renée. As she walked into the press conference room at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London with a cheery wave she looked half the size of her alter ego up on the big screen – and supremely svelte.
Not only that, she made an impression on the press pack by turning up with long brunette locks (she dyed her hair to match the wig she wore for forthcoming film, Cinderella Man). It suited her and also served to emphasise the point that Bridget Jones really is the American actress's polar opposite.
But playing Bridget is a “privilege”, so Renée had no hesitation about gaining weight for a second time. “It's not martyrdom to change your body a little bit to play a character you love,” she said.
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Later, Renée even claimed that it was “unfortunate” that she had to “retire” those larger undergarments at the end of it filming. After all, in both films, they tend to have an extremely positive effect on her former boss, the womanising heartthrob Daniel Cleaver (played by Hugh Grant)!
Renée's “weight work” as it is known, really is that: something she has to work at. “A girl can dream,” said Renée, wistfully. “But it really is a lot of work to make your body do something it just doesn't want to do. I've been waiting since sixth grade for it to do what I would like it to do. I see the amount of work that goes into making those assets a part of my everyday life experience. It's too much to do year round…”
If playing Bridget Jones is a “creative adventure” for Renée, it is the least of her concerns.
“My fear came from being really, really scared to do something that might compromise how people felt about this character by doing something cavalier, by doing something that was superficial, by being part of something that might disappoint people.”
Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason is all about what happens after you walk off into the sunset (or in Bridget Jones's case, after you walk off into a snow-set).
For six glorious weeks our favourite 30-something, self-doubting, self-analysing, career-minded, calorie-counting London singleton has been the girlfriend of the exquisitely flawless human rights lawyer Mark Darcy, played by Colin Firth – who, unfortunately for all the girls in the press conference, was not in attendance…
When asked if Mark Darcy existed in the real world, she simply said: “I've got some pretty great friends right now…”
The Academy Award winning actress had deliberated carefully over whether or not to return to the role.
Director Beeban Kidron, who first drew critical acclaim with her 1990 BAFTA award-winning television drama for the BBC, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, said that if the three principal actors (Renée, Hugh, Colin) had not reprised their roles, there would have been no The Edge Of Reason.
It was important for Renée to get it right once again. “It should be about this woman whose vulnerabilities we can relate to, whose humanity and honesty is appealing and something we can recognise in ourselves.”
“She is a woman who compares herself to the paradigms that society sets, in terms of what we are supposed to have, what we are supposed to look like in order to be successful or beautiful.”
How much of Bridget Jones was in Renée Zellweger, or vice versa? “I guess there are parts of yourself and your life experiences in all the characters that you play, but I wouldn't say that it's me in Bridget, it's the other way around.
“There's a lot of Bridget in me!” Particularly, it sounded, when the video cameras are on her, and when the potential for humiliation, as she put it, is “severely high.”
Renée has returned to the role, with hilarious results. One of the opening scenes involves Bridget parachuting into a pigpen in a garish yellow and orange flight suit, for example.
“It makes the day go by really quickly when you've got dozens of pigs around you and you are learning all sorts of things about pigs' social interaction and anatomy!” she said.
In other scenes, Renée also had to tumble down an Austrian ski mountain, and perform a vamping Madonna imitation in a Bangkok jail.
Renée felt she was returning to a role that was familiar to her but the character has evolved, thanks to the creative input of the stars. “When you get on set and Hugh will say 'well, what about this?' That's part of what's exciting about the job.”
And, of course, she re-assumes her flawless British accent. But Renée added: “I never take it for granted that 'oh yeah, I've got this covered'.”
She is something of an Anglophile. “I love coming here,” she said. “Even when I was making Cold Mountain I was reading about Gwyneth Paltrow moving here and riding her bike through the streets of London and walking through parks and I was very, very envious from afar,” she said.
“There's not much about the culture I could nit pick and say I don't like. I felt, when I came here the first time, very American, because it's an elegant culture and it's a refined culture. I don't know… I just felt very big and broad and animated in my expressions…”
Renée recalled having dinner by herself (very Bridget Jones's Diary) at an Italian restaurant, towards the end of the making of that first film, when a family walked in.
“They were so very American,” said Renée. “And more specifically,” added the Texan, “I knew they were from Texas. And they were! They were!”
She added: “I hadn't realised how I had tempered my normal way of carrying myself in the world to fit into the English culture.”
One person she singled out as being quintessentially English, during the press conference, was none other than Jeremy Paxman, who makes a cameo appearance in The Edge of Reason. She had watched him a couple of times beforehand and said of his time on set: “I tell you, I'm so glad I kept my mouth shut that day. I'm thinking 'he is a journalist and what if he's gathering information as we speak? Maybe I'll just sneak off and be by myself…'”
Then she came out with it, a show-stopping statement: “He is very charismatic,” before turning to director Beeban for back-up!
Her penchant for Paxman aside, we got the distinct impression that Renée wanted to take time out and be herself for a while, rather than be Bridget Jones, or anyone else up on the big screen for that matter.
“I've never felt that drive to keep going, going, going until I achieve something.”
“I'm going to stay out of the make up chair for a while,” she added. “The experiences I've had in the past seven years have been as a girl emulating someone else and living in a different environment and living a different lifestyle.”
“I need to sit still for a second and find out, as a woman, what I it is I want to do with the day.”
If she ever fancies the stage rather than the screen, there's one long running West End show that has her name all over it.
“Oh wow. I haven't been invited yet, but you never know.”
t Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason is out now.