Renée Kathleen Zellweger (born April
25, 1969) is an American actress and producer. Zellweger first gained
widespread attention for her role in the film Jerry Maguire (1996), and
subsequently received two nominations for the Academy Award for Best
Actress for her roles as Bridget Jones in the comedy Bridget Jones's Diary
(2001) and as Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago (2002), and won the
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama
Cold Mountain (2003).
She has won three Golden Globe Awards and three Screen Actors Guild
Awards, was named Hasty Pudding's Woman of the Year in 2009, and has
established herself as one of the highest-paid Hollywood actresses in
Zellweger was born in Katy, Texas, a western suburb of Houston. Her
father, Emil Erich Zellweger, is from Au, St. Gallen in Switzerland and is
a mechanical and electrical engineer who worked in the oil refining
business. Zellweger's mother, Kjellfried Irene (née Andreassen), is
Norwegian-born and of Sami origin, and is a nurse and midwife who moved to
the United States in order to work as a governess for a Norwegian family
in Texas. Zellweger described herself as being raised in a family of "lazy
Catholics and Episcopalians". She has an older brother, Andrew.
In junior high school, Zellweger actively took part in several sports,
including soccer, basketball, baseball and football. She attended Katy
High School, where she was a cheerleader, a gymnast, a member of speech
team, and a drama club member. Zellweger acted in several school plays and
was voted the "Best Looking" of her class before graduating from high
school in 1987. After high school, she went to the University of Texas at
Austin to major in English language. Zellweger was a good student, and
made the Dean's List several times. At the beginning she took a drama
class only because she needed a fine arts credit to complete her degree,
but the experience made her appreciate how much she loved acting. During
this time, she supported herself by taking jobs as a waitress in Austin,
Texas and worked maintenance at The Velvet Touch in Flint, Michigan. In
1991, Zellweger graduated from university with a BA degree in English. She
considered moving to Hollywood but decided to stay in her home state,
Texas, to seek more experience. Her first job after graduation was working
in a beef commercial, at the same time she started to audition for roles
While still in Texas, Zellweger appeared in several films. One was A Taste
for Killing (1992) as Mary Lou, followed by a minor role in ABC TV mini
series named Murder in the Heartland (1993). The following year, she
appeared in Reality Bites (1994), the directorial debut of Ben Stiller,
and in the biopic film 8 Seconds, directed by John G. Avildsen.
Zellweger's first main part in a movie came with the 1994 horror story
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, alongside Matthew
McConaughey. She played Jenny, a teenager who leaves a prom early with
three friends and ended up getting into a car accident, which leads to
their meeting a murderous family. 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. The performance earned her an
Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. She subsequently
moved to Los Angeles, winning roles in the films Empire Records (1995) and
The Whole Wide World (1996). Zellweger first became widely known to
audiences around the world with Jerry Maguire (1996), in which she played
the romantic interest of Tom Cruise's character. She won the role over
Mira Sorvino and Marisa Tomei.
Zellweger later won acclaim in One True Thing (1998) opposite William Hurt
and Meryl Streep, and in Neil LaBute's Nurse Betty opposite Morgan
Freeman. The role garnered the actress her first of three Golden Globe
Awards, but she was in the bathroom when future co-star Hugh Grant
announced her name. Zellweger later protested: "I had lipstick on my
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 and learning an English accent. She gained 20 pounds
in order to complete her transformation to Bridget Jones. Her dramatic
weight fluctuations became the subject of much media interest. 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." Along
with 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. As a result of her considerable efforts to effect author
Helen Fielding's character, Zellweger caught the attention of the Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and received her first Best Actress
Academy Award nomination.
In 2002, she starred with Michelle Pfeiffer in White Oleander. She played
an actress in the film, and a clip from her role in Texas Chainsaw
Massacre: The Next Generation was shown as she discussed her career with
the main character, Astrid Magnussen. The same year, she appeared as
"Roxie Hart" in the critically acclaimed musical film Chicago, directed by
Rob Marshall, co-starring Catherine Zeta Jones, Richard Gere, Queen
Latifah, and John C. Reilly. The movie received an Academy Award for Best
Picture, and Zellweger received positive reviews. The San Francisco
Chronicle's web site 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." As a result, she earned her second Academy Award
nomination as Best Actress, as well as the Screen Actors Guild and Golden
In 2004, Zellweger received an Academy Award, this time as Best Supporting
Actress in Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain opposite Jude Law and Nicole
Kidman. Zellweger has since starred in the sequel to Bridget Jones's Diary
in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, lent her voice to the DreamWorks
animated features Shark Tale and Bee Movie, and starred in the 2005 Ron
Howard film Cinderella Man opposite Russell Crowe and Paul Giamatti. On
May 24, 2005, Zellweger received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
She produced and appeared in Miss Potter, based on the life story of
acclaimed author Beatrix Potter, with Emily Watson and Ewan McGregor,
released in December 2006. In 2008, she starred in the western Appaloosa
with Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen and the period comedy Leatherheads with
fellow Oscar-winner George Clooney and John Krasinski (from The Office).
In 2008 she produced a film starring Harry Connick, Jr., about the true
story of Dr. Denny Slamon. The film, called Living Proof, premiered in
October 2008 on Lifetime Television. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron is also
She stars alongside Chris Noth and Kevin Bacon in the feature film My One
and Only, due for release August 21, 2009. The film is a 1950s-set comedy
in which the glamorous "Anne Deveraux" (played by Zellweger) embarks on an
eventually cross-country drive in a quixotic search for a wealthy man to
fund a new life for her and her sons. As of 2009, StudioCanal and Alain
Goldman's Legende are developing director Olivier Dahan's My Own Love Song
with Zellweger and Forest Whitaker.
In 2009, she starred in New in Town, a comedy about a corporate executive
from Miami who is sent to New Ulm, Minnesota, to oversee a small
manufacturing company making minimal profits producing and selling
pudding. She also had a cameo role in the animated film Monsters vs.
Aliens in which she voiced the character of "Katie."
Zellweger dated director Joshua Pate, whom she began seeing in November
1997 after working on his film Deceiver. She also was rumored to have
dated George Clooney. Her first high-profile romance was with
actor/comedian Jim Carrey. The relationship ended in December 2000. The
two were rumored to have been engaged, but Zellweger frequently denied
this claim. Zellweger poked fun at the prior relationship when she ended
her opening monologue on Saturday Night Live by reading an entry from her
own "diary", marked "Dear Diary, I can't believe I am dating Jim Carrey."
For two years, Zellweger dated The White Stripes singer Jack White. The
pair met while filming Cold Mountain, and later began dating after the
film wrapped. They broke up two years later, after schedule demands kept
them apart. Friends said the split was amicable.
On May 9, 2005, Zellweger married singer Kenny Chesney in a ceremony at
the island of St. John. They had met in January at a tsunami relief
benefit concert. Zellweger missed out on the engagement ring since the
wedding was planned over a short span of time. On September 15, 2005,
after only four months of marriage, they announced their plans for an
annulment. Zellweger cited "fraud" as the reason in the related papers.
After media scrutiny of her use of the word "fraud", she qualified the use
of the term, stating it was "simply legal language and not a reflection of
Kenny's character. I would personally be very grateful for your support in
refraining from drawing derogatory, hurtful, sensationalized or untrue
conclusions. We hope to experience this transition as privately as
possible." The annulment was finalized in late December 2005.
In 2002, Zellweger bought a US$6.8-million home in Bel Air, then sold her
previous home in the Hollywood Hills, bought for US$1.9M in 2000. Due to
the constant attention from the paparazzi, she purchased a home in
Connecticut and moved there in 2005. In January 2007, she admitted that
she gets scared at home alone due to security problems and fans who send
or leave mail at her homes; she said that she considered buying a gun for
reasons of personal security. She claims she rarely spends time there, and
keeps a small apartment in New York where she "stops over" to do laundry
before moving on to her next film.
Zellweger, and Marc Forster, took part in the 2005 HIV prevention campaign
of the Swiss federal health department. Zellweger maintains a residence in
the Roland Park area of Baltimore, Maryland.
On Los Angeles "It opens your
eyes in this town, it's amazing. It's taught me who I don't want to
Regarding the lifestyle of the people of Romania, she says, "I
learned how little in the way of material goods we really need, and
how beautiful a simple life can be. In Romania people work with
their hands every day, and you'll see an 80-year-old woman still
chopping wood because she's been looking after herself all her life,
and she still has the strength to do it."
"It saddens me every day when people come up and say, 'OK, how did
you lose that weight?' I can't speak about it because I am not an
authority on weight loss. I am just not. I am not challenged with a
medical situation that's weight-related and that I need to pay
attention to". [On the weight she lost after Bridget Jones's Diary
"It was very exciting for me to fill out Bridget's dresses. It felt
really great. I didn't feel any different. I didn't feel
uncomfortable, and I didn't feel as if it changed my life. I got
such positive responses from the fellows in my life while I looked
like Bridget Jones. I had a lot of friends who said I should think
about keeping some of the weight on. I have to say I agreed, because
there were certain things about it I liked very much. But, of
course, I'm a girl, and I thought, 'Ugh, no.' Like anybody, I want
to look my best."
"I see the Oscar [for best supporting actress in Cold Mountain
(2003)] in my bedroom, and it's like I bought it in a souvenir shop
on Hollywood Boulevard".
"My life has far exceeded what I might ever have dreamed of because
I would never have been so bold as to dream that these things might
happen to me."
"I wanted to be self-sufficient, I wanted to take care of myself,
and I wanted to learn. I wanted to travel, I wanted to see the world
and have my eyes opened. I wanted to be consistently challenged, and
I knew I needed to be creative in some way. When I got my job in a
bar and I could pay for my tuition and go on auditions and sometimes
get jobs that I loved and pay my rent, I knew that I would be all
right. That's when my dreams came true, long before the telephone
rang and someone said, 'Come and meet Tom Cruise'".
"It's great to be a brunet. I can sneak around downtown Los Angeles
and nobody knows it's me. I went to Starbucks to get my coffee in
the morning, and they said, 'What's your name?' I said, 'Oh, Renée.'
Nobody even looked at me twice. My friends even walk past me. It's
fantastic because I feel so free again. That's why I think the old
adage that blonds have more fun is a presumption!" [on dying her
"I think we can all relate to Bridget standing in a hallway wanting
to know, 'Do you love me or not?' She just blurts it out and maybe
that makes her seem like she's not strong. I think she's very brave
because she's speaking her mind. Ultimately, she knows that even if
she doesn't get the right answer from this man, she will still get
up and move forward. That's strength to me."
"What I admire most about Bridget is her ever-present optimism in
the face of adversity. I love how she has romantic troubles, but she
gets back up and even laughs at herself. Me? I do my best. I keep on
"Emotionally gaining the weight didn't affect me. In fact, I was
afraid that I didn't gain enough weight. We were working six days a
week, so my fear was that I'd lose a few pounds from the work, and
the fluctuations in my weight would show on the screen. But they
weren't noticeable." (On her weight gain in Bridget Jones: The Edge
of Reason (2004).
"People did suggest to me, 'Oh, it might not be necessary to gain
that much weight or as much as you did last time.' I thought the
weight was essential in repeating the journey. If you're not going
to be who she is, then what is the point?"
"I am very proud to be Norwegian." [1996 interview]