Bridget Jones is back
Renee Zellweger on reprising her role as the comedic singleton, being an ageing actress, and how she feels 'very awkward' all the time
Everybody's favourite singleton Bridget Jones is back, this time in her 40s, having given up the cigarettes, cut down on the chardonnay, stopped obsessing about her weight and replaced the self-help books with political ones.
Oh, and she's pregnant.
And she doesn't know who the father is.
In romantic comedy Bridget Jones's Baby, the third iteration of the beloved British page-to-screen character that comes 12 years after the sequel The Edge Of Reason, Renee Zellweger reprises her famed role as the eternally optimistic, funny woman whose greatest fear is to end up alone.
The 47-year-old US actress, who has been in a relationship with US blues musician Doyle Bramhall II since 2012, describes Bridget as "perfectly imperfect, and that's why people relate to her".
Colin Firth is back as Mark Darcy, and there's a new love interest in Patrick Dempsey.
Unfortunately, Hugh Grant, who played the charming but caddish third party Daniel Cleaver in the two previous movies, declined to return.
Emma Thompson, who plays a supporting role, also co-wrote Bridget Jones's Baby, which opens here tomorrow.
After six years away from the limelight, perhaps what has overshadowed the movie so far are those persistent headlines about rumoured cosmetic surgery enhancements to Zellweger's dramatically altered face, something she denied in a Huffington Post article entitled "We Can Do Better", addressing the shaming of ageing movie actresses.
At the Claridge's hotel in London though, she somehow doesn't look that much different from the Zellweger of six years ago, though there are visible wrinkles and the roundness of her younger visage has disappeared.
Were you at all emotionally affected by the bad photo of you from two years ago at ELLE magazine's Women In Hollywood Awards that started the talk about your changing appearance?
I think those experiences are empowering. I think that when something challenges your character in such a substantial way, it enables a person to know herself better. And with that comes a whole lot of openness and enthusiasm about what's next with no fear.
My friend had been diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease) the month before and I had been living with her at her house.
And I went to that event because she wanted to go and be on the red carpet with me so that she could show that she wasn't being defeated by this terrible disease. And that's what I was thinking about that day. I wasn't thinking about what I looked like or what people thought.
LOVE TRIANGLE: (Above, left to right) Bridget Jones’s Baby co-stars Patrick Dempsey, Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth at their film’s premiere in Berlin. PHOTO: AFP
It's difficult for actresses in the public eye to age without public comment. Could you say something about that?
I think a woman only gets more interesting as she gets older. Youth and superficial beauty has its place and is understandably celebrated to a certain degree. But it's fleeting and it's only a tiny moment in your life.
As you mature, you are becoming more of who you are supposed to be and you are becoming the best version of yourself.
And at a certain point, that is more interesting than physical beauty, especially in this medium.
The stories that actresses tell as they get older are so much more interesting than the roles of the ingenue, in my opinion.
Speaking as an actress, I don't want to stay the same. I have done that and I am curious about what is next.
I want to tell stories about women who are sharing aspects of my life experience or who have been there, and I want to tell stories that women relate to in all stages of their life experiences.
And it's a different kind of beauty, a more powerful beauty, a more valuable beauty, in my opinion.
What have you been up to in the time you were away?
I wanted to keep some promises that I made to myself a very long time ago and I did. I spent a lot of time with my parents, my niece and nephew and my family who live on the East Coast.
I did a lot of travelling. We went to my mother's family reunion in Norway. I went to Liberia for a charity organisation here which advocates for women. We went to Monrovia and then out into the countryside.
The idea was to chronicle the successes of the women despite whatever hardship and advocating for women, and making a law that children of a certain age go to school and protecting them from rape.
It left an impression on me that will stay with me throughout my life.
How did you feel about coming back in Bridget Jones's Baby?
It was a little scary. I was nervous because I love this character and I didn't want to disappoint anybody, so I always feel a slight twinge of impostor syndrome whenever I go to work... I felt, like 'Oh, this time I am going to be discovered and fired'. Getting past that was interesting and joyful.
Tell us more about the pregnancy prosthetic.
It was time-consuming. It took a really long time to put on and more importantly, take off. So I wasn't drinking a lot of water during the day because everyone would have to wait 20 minutes for me to come back.
Have you ever felt as awkward and clumsy as Bridget?
I am always like Bridget Jones. If you could only know my inner dialogue when we are out at these events.
There's always something strange that happens that nobody knows about. The dress doesn't fit or the zipper broke and it's sewn up. My shoe breaks and then you go on stage and present at the Oscars anyway. I mean, there's a million silly things.
I am a really private person, so lots of the public attention feels unnatural to me and so I feel very awkward. All the time.