Renee Zellweger opens up about Bridget Jones, 'hurt feelings' and TV
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — What happens when Bridget Jones grows up?
It's in line with the milieu of most modern singletons. Twelve years after Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason hit theaters, Bridget Jones's Baby finds our heroine on top of her professional game, with the same friends (except they all have kids) and a high-profile producing job (where she's surrounded by Millennials). “When I first read Bridget Jones I related to her as a 28-year-old woman, and at this point I feel like I’ve kind of grown up with her," says Renée Zellweger, 47.
There is one major change: Alarmingly, to some fans, Bridget has become svelte, after documenting her weight pound for pound in the last two film installments.
It was director Sharon Maguire (Bridget Jones's Diary) who pushed that plot point, Zellweger says. “Sharon’s explanation was, 'Let’s let her have this thing that she’d always hoped to achieve in her life, and yet show how little consequence it has on her happiness,’ ” says the Oscar-winning actress, tucked in an overstuffed chair at Hotel Casa Del Mar. “She never had a weight problem to my mind. It was just something that she had fixated on.”
In Bridget Jones's Baby a fresh love triangle has formed thanks to the disappearance of Daniel Cleaver (whose funeral launches the film; in reality actor Hugh Grant opted out of the film) and the arrival of Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), whom Bridget romances around the same time her old flame Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) pops up again. When Bridget finds out she’s pregnant, both men — rather amusingly — begin competing to be the father. (Emma Thompson, who co-wrote the screenplay with Helen Fielding and Dan Mazer, joins as her deliciously dry OB-GYN.)
Jack is the first role Dempsey, 50, took after leaving Grey’s Anatomy. "It was nice to start something new and fresh," he says. He and Firth “were a bromance at first sight,” says Zellweger, chuckling over a scene in which they both lug her character, nine months pregnant, down city streets when Bridget's water breaks.
Zellweger returns to the screen after a six-year break, and though her demeanor, athleisure and worn baseball cap inspire a casual vibe, it’s impossible to ignore the nasty headlines about her appearance. The actress has been relentlessly attacked for her looks through the years, prompting her recent Huffington Post essay titled "We Can Do Better."
Zellweger calls the laser-like focus on female appearance “a sad reflection of the current conversation and what we value.” And yes, it hurts. Today the actress says she doesn’t shield herself from the criticism. “I’m just a person. I don’t protect myself from it. You just get on with your day with hurt feelings or not,” she says.
Dempsey describes Zellweger as “Very shy. Very delicate. Very insightful and intelligent.”
And it's fun to spend an hour in her company. Zellweger's main focus these past six years has been on writing and producing TV projects, including a 2013 pilot for Lifetime. To absorb herself in the medium, “it’s crazy, I’ve watched more television in the last couple of years than in the rest of my life combined," she says.
She lights up trading recent favorites. “I just watched The Night Manager," Zellweger says. "It is so yummy! It felt like Bond but in short format. More please!" She leans forward and grins. "And directed by a woman.”