Renée Zellweger on Returning to Film After a Six-Year Absence: “I needed to grow as a person in ways that didn’t revolve around my work”

Actress Renee Zellweger

Though another sequel to Bridget Jones’ Diary isn’t surprising — the first two films have a combined gross of over a half-billion worldwide — seeing star Renee Zellweger on screen is. After a half-dozen years away, Zellweger is finally returning to the big screen to play her most familiar character. Speaking with the New York Times, Zellweger talks about what prompted her six-year absence from Hollywood, what’s different about playing Jones again, and ageism in Hollywood.

Zellweger explains that playing Jones again twelve years after Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason was both familiar and challenging. She says, “Familiar because the process is similar, and I feel like I know her pretty well, and a different kind of challenge because I’ve never had to show the ways in which a person evolves in her life and the ways in which she doesn’t.”

In order to decide where the character stands now, Zellweger spoke with the direct about how Jones had changed. She reveals, “There were interesting conversations with Sharon Maguire, the director, about how [Bridget] might have gotten her life together — she’s a little bit more mature, she’s progressed professionally, moved into property ownership in London and has achieved her ideal weight. And still her life is a relative mess. I like the message in that: that we can tick off the boxes, and yet we still don’t quite have it together. And that’s pretty much the truth of growing up, isn’t it?”

Notably, Bridget Jones’ Baby marks Zellweger’s first film in six years — a break she said she took in order to connect with her family. She says, “I don’t think anybody is born with the faculties to know how to navigate what comes with it. One of the things that I learned is that I didn’t know how to establish a healthy balance. I felt an obligation to say yes, whenever I was asked to do something on behalf of my work. And the years go by, and your family and friends understand that you have responsibilities, but they’re going to have the barbecue anyway, and the wedding anyway, and the baby’s having a birthday anyway. I just missed out on a lot of things. I needed to stop so I could reassess and figure out how to allow for myself in my own life. I needed to grow as a person in ways that didn’t revolve around my work.”

Like many actresses over 40 (and even over 30), Zellweger realizes that there are fewer quality roles available. However, Zellweger argues that those stereotypical roles existed even when she was much younger. She explains, “I don’t think that’s specific to aging. There’s always been ‘the girlfriend,’ ‘the indiscretion’ — that’s always been in the mix. Is it something that I don’t think that’s specific to aging. There’s always been “the girlfriend,” “the indiscretion” — that’s always been in the mix. Is it something that I saw in the industry before I turned 40? Yeah. It’s rare to read a great story that a woman my age would find relatable anyway. But now it seems that there’s something else going on as well. There’s really an unprecedented reset happening in our business — a little bit of an identity crisis.”

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