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Renee Zellweger Bio
Renée Zellweger (born April 25, 1969) is an American Actress and producer. She has received critical acclaim and many accolades, including an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards. She was named Hasty Pudding’s Woman of the Year in 2009; and established herself as one of the highest-paid Hollywood actresses as of 2007.
Zellweger’s first major film role came in the horror sequel Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994) which she followed with a critically acclaimed appearance in Empire Records (1995). She later gained widespread attention for her roles in the comedy-drama sports film Jerry Maguire (1996) and for Nurse Betty (2000), for which she won her first Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. She subsequently received two other nominations for the Golden Globe in same category as well as for the Best Actress Award at the Academy Awards, the BAFTA Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards for her performances in the romantic comedy Bridget Jones‘s Diary (2001), and in the musical Chicago (2002).
She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for the epic war drama Cold Mountain (2003). She starred in Cinderella Man (2005), where her part was applauded by critics, and later played author Beatrix Potter in the biopic Miss Potter (2006), which earned the Actress her sixth Golden Globe Award nomination. Several movie parts in low-key and limited release features such as Appaloosa (2008), My One and Only (2009), Case 39 (2009) and My Own Love Song (2010) led to a 5-year hiatus from acting work. Zellweger will return to the screen in the thriller The Whole Truth (2015) and the drama Same Kind of Different as Me (2016).
1992–95: Early acting work
While still in Texas, Zellweger appeared in several indie and low budget films. One was A Taste for Killing (1992), followed by a role in the ABC miniseries Murder in the Heartland (1993). The following year, she appeared in Reality Bites (1994), the directorial debut of Ben Stiller, and in the biographical film 8 Seconds, directed by John G. Avildsen. Zellweger’s first main role in a movie came with the 1994 horror film Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, alongside Matthew McConaughey. She played Jenny, a teenager who leaves a prom early with three Friends who get into a car accident, which leads to their meeting a murderous family, led by the iconic Leatherface. The movie opened in a limited theatrical release, to generally negative reviews. However, Zellweger’s portrayal had a better reception among writers; Janet Maslin of The New York Times, praised her and co-star McConaughey, stating it was clear that the two actors “were going places”. She also remarked that both leads “do show signs of what would soon make them famous. Ms. Zellweger, sweet and sprightly and a natural-born ditz, may be the only Actress who could point a gun bravely at a killer, then simply shriek and drop it and scamper away”. Joe Leydon for Variety magazine also lauded Zellweger, calling her “the most formidable Scream queen since Jamie Lee Curtis went legit”.
Her next movie was Love and a .45 (1994), in which she played the role of Starlene Cheatham, a woman who plans a robbery with her boyfriend. It received a release in selected theaters, garnering mostly favorable comments from critics. Marc Savlov of Austin Chronicle applauded the main cast saying they were “all excellent in their roles” and noted that “Zellweger’s character – all squeals and caged sexuality – seems a bit too close to Juliette Lewis’ Mallory Knox (of Natural Born Killers) to be as fresh as it should be”. The part earned her an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. She subsequently moved to Los Angeles, and appeared as a supporting role in the coming-of-age drama Empire Records (1995). The movie had a negative critical reception but Zellweger was considered a stand out among the cast members; website Rotten Tomatoes’ consensus was: “Despite a terrific soundtrack and a strong early performance from Renee Zellweger, Empire Records is mostly a silly and predictable teen dramedy.”
1996–2000: Jerry Maguire and breakthrough
Zellweger became widely known to audiences around the world with Jerry Maguire (1996), in which she played the romantic interest of Jerry, Tom Cruise’ character. The film, receiving critical and popular acclaim, marked the Actress‘ big break on screen. It was Cruise who chose her to play his love interest and later credited her with “revealing the core humanity of the movie”. Montreal Film Journal found her performance “fantastic”, adding that she was “good looking, funny and moving, too”. Roger Ebert, showing approval of Zellweger and Cruise’s chemistry in the picture, wrote: “The film is often a delight, especially when Cruise and Zellweger are together on the screen. He plays Maguire with the earnestness of a man who wants to find greatness and happiness in an occupation where only success really counts. She plays a woman who believes in this guy she loves, and reminds us that true love is about idealism”. She was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role.
She starred in 1998’s religious drama A Price Above Rubies, where she played Sonia Horowitz, a young woman who finds it difficult to conform to the restrictions imposed on her by the community. Opening at limited release, the picture gained mixed reviews, with Zellweger being applauded by some critics such as Ebert, who once again impressed by her, stated she gave a “ferociously strong performance”. During an interview, Zellweger was reportedly asked the question of why an Actress would “bother” working in a “small” film after the blockbuster success of Jerry McGuire, to which she responded that “she loved the idea of showing the public a more personal aspect of life” through roles like the one she played in the movie, according to entertainment website Pajiba.
The same year, Zellweger portrayed the character of Ellen in One True Thing opposite William Hurt and Meryl Streep. The movie tells the story of a woman (played by Renée) who is forced to put her life on hold in order to care for her mother who is dying of cancer. Although it was not a box office success, the picture gained an extremely positive critical reaction with Renée being once again acclaimed for her part; Robin Clifford, for Reeling Reviews noted that she gives “a solid, almost dour, performance as a serious young woman who grew up idolizing her father and denigrating Kate and her housewifely ways. Ellen undergoes a dramatic metamorphosis as she takes on the burden of helping her steadily declining mom over the months spanning the holidays”. On a similar note, Variety magazine’s Todd McCarthy stated about Zellweger: “Projecting Gravity and impatience that she hasn’t shown before, Zellweger is outstanding as the smart young woman who resents the interruption to her life’s momentum but ends up growing in ways she never would have expected”. For her work in both A Price Above Rubies and One True Thing, she tied with Central Station’s Fernanda Montenegro as runners-up for the Best Actress prize at the 64th New York Film Critics Circle Awards, but they Lost to Cameron Diaz for There’s Something About Mary.
She then played the lead in The Bachelor (1999), a romantic comedy in which Chris O’Donnell co-starred. The movie received mainly negative reviews and grossed $36 million, well below its budget $51 million. Zellweger next appeared as Irene Waters in the Farrelly brothers comedy Me, Myself and Irene, which was theatrically released in 2000. Co-starring Jim Carrey, the movie is about a Rhode Island state trooper with split-personality disorder named Charlie, played by Carrey, who is assigned to escort Irene from Rhode Island to Massena, New York, to face what she believes is a false hit-and-run accusation set up by her mob-connected ex-boyfriend. The film was a success commercially, premiering at number one at the box office charts on its opening weekend. It went on to gross $149,270,999 worldwide.
Her work in Me, Myself and Irene was followed by her role of Betty Sizemore in Neil LaBute’s Nurse Betty , a dark comedy co-starring Morgan Freeman, in which she played a Kansas waitress who suffers a nervous breakdown after witnessing her husband’s murder, and starts obsessively pursuing her favorite soap actor. Renée garnered unanimously positive comments from film reviewers. Urban Cinefile’s Richard Kuipers asserted: “Renée Zellweger’s ability to make us believe in what she’s doing on screen is the big plus of this uneven entry. Fresh from winning our hearts in Bridget Jones‘s Diary (although this was made well before it), Zellweger gives this comedy-drama a strong emotional centre that smooths over clumsy side-detail and an uncertain tone”. The San Francisco Chronicle called the Actress “skillfull” and concluded that she, as “a performer who emanates kindness and a pure heart”, is “worth celebrating”. She won her first Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, but she was in the bathroom when future co-star Hugh Grant announced her name. Zellweger later protested: “I had lipstick on my teeth!”.
2001–07: Critical achievements
In 2001, Zellweger gained the prized lead role as Bridget Jones, playing alongside Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, in the British romantic comedy film Bridget Jones‘s Diary, based on the 1996 novel Bridget Jones‘s Diary by Helen Fielding. The choice came amid much controversy since she was neither British nor overweight. During casting, Zellweger was told she was too skinny to play the chubby Bridget, so she quickly embarked on gaining the required weight (20 pounds) and learning an English accent. Besides receiving voice coaching to fine-tune her English accent, part of Zellweger’s preparations involved spending three weeks working undercover in a “work experience placement” for British publishing firm Picador in Victoria, London. Her performance as Bridget received praise from critics with Stephen Holden of The New York Times commenting, “Ms. Zellweger accomplishes the small miracle of making Bridget both entirely endearing and utterly real.” This role won her first Academy Award for Best Actress, BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role nomination and her second Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy nominations. The movie was also an international hit, earning $281 million worldwide.
She starred with Michelle Pfeiffer in White Oleander, which first premiered at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival and was later theatrically released in October that year. Along with Pfeiffer and Alison Lohman, Zellweger garnered a significant amount of critical acclaim; while The New York Times praised the cast, Entertainment Weekly pointed out the Actress for summoning “such lovely, tremulous warmth” as her character. For her role, she received a Satellite Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress – Drama. The same year, she appeared as Roxie Hart in the critically acclaimed musical film Chicago, directed by R&B Marshall, co-starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, and John C. Reilly. The movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Zellweger received positive reviews. The San Francisco Chronicle ’s website SFGate commented, “Zellweger is a joy to watch, with marvelous comic timing and, in her stage numbers, a commanding presence.” The Washington Post noted that even though Zellweger couldn’t dance well in real life, the audience “wouldn’t know it from this movie, in which she dances up a storm.” She earned her second nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress and for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, winning her second Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.
She was cast in Anthony Minghella’s war drama Cold Mountain, appearing, opposite Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, as Ruby Thewes, a woman who helps Kidman’s character work on her farm after her father’s presumed death. The film garnered several award nominations and wins for its actors; Zellweger won the Best Actress Award at the 76th Academy Awards, the 61st Golden Globe Awards, the 10th Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the 57th British Academy Film Awards. She then provided her voice for the DreamWorks animated feature Shark Tale which, despite mixed reviews, made $367 million worldwide against its $75 million budget. Renée reprised her title role in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), that was also a box office success, grossing more than $262 million around the globe. Zellweger received her fourth Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy nomination for her part in the picture. She subsequently was cast in 2005’s Ron Howard film Cinderella Man opposite Russell Crowe and Paul Giamatti. The movie opened to generally positive reviews but was not a commercial success. As for the film, critical reception towards Zellweger was moslty favorable; While Empire magazine felt she did a “good work” in her “tricky supporting role”, David Ansen wrote for Newsweek that the Actress “has an uncanny ability to make us swallow even the most movie-ish moments”. On May 24, 2005, Zellweger received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
She played the lead in the biopic drama Miss Potter. Emily Watson and Ewan McGregor co-starred in the movie, which was based on the life story of acclaimed author Beatrix Potter. Zellweger also served as an executive producer as she was dis-satisfied with the script and wanted to get more involved in the production. Miss Potter had its world premiere in December 2006, garnering a positive feedback among critics; William Arnold, of Seattle Post-Intelligencer concluded that Renée “strikes just the right chord of inspiration, eccentricity and uncompromising artistic drive”, and Houston Chronicle critic Bruce Westbrook found Zellweger’s work “quietly passionate”, adding that the Actress played a “warm and winning performance” that utlimately made Potter “an unlikely champion of female empowerment”. For this portrayal, she earned her sixth nomination for the Golden Globe Award (and her fifth one in the category of Best Actress – Musical or Comedy). The following year, she landed her voice in the animated family comedy Bee Movie and was awarded the Women in Film Crystal award.
2008–14: Career slowdown and hiatus
Zellweger appeared alongside George Clooney in his directorial venture Leatherheads (2008), a period comedy about the early years of professional American Football. The film received largely mixed reviews and was considered a box office disappointment, with $41,299,492 grossed worldwide on a production budget of $51 million. MTV.com praised the Actress for “displaying an unexpected gift for drawling sarcasm” and stated she “shared a convincing romantic chemistry with co-star Clooney”. However, Kevin Williamson for website Jam! criticized her role, remarking that she, “as the kind of lippy heroine epitomized by Rosalind Russell, is miscast in a role that demands snark, not sleepy-eyed sweetness”. Later that year, Appaloosa – another project starring Zellweger – was released. She appeared with Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen in the movie. It opened in limited release, to critical acclaim but moderate earnings at the box office. Zellweger produced the made-for-television feature Living Proof, starring Harry Connick Jr., about the true story of Dr. Denny Slamon. It was co-produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, and premiered in October 2008 on Lifetime Television.
Zellweger’s first film of 2009 was New in Town, a comedy where she played a Miami high-powered consultant adjusting to her new life in a small Minnesota town. It was released on January 30, to mostly poor reviews. Sky Movies writer Ellion Noble felt Renée displayed an “infectious lack of enthusiasm, convincing only in capturing the look of someone who wishes they would rather be anywhere else”. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian was also critical of Zellweger, stating that her “rabbity, dimply pout – surely the strangest facial expression in Hollywood – simpers and twitches out of the screen in this moderate girly flick that adheres with almost religious fanaticism to the feelgood romcom handbook.” Besides the negative reception, New in Town made little interest commercially on its opening weekend, debuting at eight place at the box office charts to an estimated $6.75 million. It went on to become a modest success with a total gross of $29,010,817, given its budget of $8 million. Following her appearance in the movie, she provided her voice for a supporting character in DreamWorks’ computer-animated 3-D feature film Monsters vs. Aliens, released in March the same year.
She was cast to star as George Hamilton’s mother, opposite Chris Noth and Kevin Bacon in My One and Only, a comedy loosely based on Hamilton’s early life On the Road with his mother and brother. The movie was acclaimed by critics, with Zellweger gaining an equally positive response; Bill Gray, of Entertainment Weekly felt she played her part “to her strengths”, and reviewer Mick LaSalle found her performance to be a “standout”. Roger Ebert, describing her work, wrote: “This is essentially Renee Zellweger‘s picture, and she glows in it. We’ve seen the type before, but she’s able, beneath Ann’s pluck, to suggest her sadness, and the love she has for her boys”. The film received a release in selected theaters on August 21, 2009.
Her next movie was the horror thriller Case 39, that due to a lengthy post-production, was not released in the United States until 2010, four years after she filmed it. Nevertheless, it was first premiered in several countries throughout Europe in 2009. The feature was critically panned and a failure at the box office. She then played a former Singer suffering from paralysis in the road drama My Own Love Song. It was screened at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, and instead of receiving a theatrical release, it went directly-to-video in the U.S. Although critical response for the picture was mixed or average, Zellweger got positive notes from some critics, with Anne Campbell stating in her verdict for Film Gate Reviews that Renée was “perfect in the role”. Reel Film Reviews also found her performance “impressively commanding”. After her work in this feature, she took a five-year hiatus from screen acting; which ended with her role in the indie film The Whole Truth, for which production started in July 2014. In 2013, Zellweger co-created and executive produced Cinnamon Girl, an original drama series set in the Hollywood movie and Music scenes of the late ’60s/early ’70s, but the Lifetime network passed on the pilot.
2015–present: Acting comeback and upcoming projects
Zellweger is set to star in the upcoming drama thriller film The Whole Truth, directed by Courtney Hunt and co-starring Keanu Reeves. This film marks Zellweger’s career comeback and first acting work since last appearing in 2010’s My Own Love Song. Principal photography for the movie began on July 7, 2014 in New Orleans. It will be released in late 2015. She was also cast to appear as Deborah in Same Kind of Different as Me, a film adaptation of the novel by the same name. It tells the story of an art dealer who befriends a homeless man in order to save his struggling relationship with his wife. Djimon Hounsou, Olivia Holt and Jon Voight also appear in the project, which is scheduled to be released on April 29, 2016, by Paramount Pictures. Zellweger is also set to start production on Bridget Jones‘s Baby, a sequel to 2004’s Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and costarring Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey.
Renée Zellweger is an American actress known for Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Empire Records, Jerry Maguire, Nurse Betty, Bridget Jones's Diary, Chicago.