Texan born Renée Zellweger confounded critics three years ago with her winning portrayal of oh-so-English diarist Bridget Jones. In fact the 35-year-old has enjoyed a varied succession of roles since her breakthrough in Jerry Maguire eight years ago, with highlights including the sublime Nurse Betty (2000), the award-winning musical Chicago (2002), an Oscar-winning performance in Cold Mountain (2003) and the quirky 60s homage Down With Love (2003). After Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason she will be seen starring opposite Russell Crowe in the Depression-era boxing drama The Cinderella Man.
This sequel has been mooted since the first film opened. Were you happy about returning to the role and once again gaining the required weight?
It's a privilege to play a character like Bridget Jones. It's not martyrdom to change yourself a little bit to play a character that you love. It's quite a creative adventure to play Bridget and to have the opportunities to be expressive in that way. So there was no hesitation in terms of the process. My fear came from being really scared of doing something that might compromise how people felt about this character, by doing something that was superficial or by being part of something that might disappoint the audience. Every day, going to work it was all about, 'Okay, have we paid attention to everything that we can?'.
Was there a moment in the production where you felt everything clicked and you were back in 'Bridget-mode' again?
No, it's always a work in progress for me. I'm never certain and I always feel that the jury is still out. I'm always really dependent on the people around me. Even up to a few weeks ago I was hoping that [dialect coach] Barbara Berkery would be there on the end of the line if we were adding some words for an advert here or there. I never take for granted that I've got this covered.
Were you concerned about treading the fine line between making Bridget endearingly insecure or just plain annoying?
Every day. We constantly discussed the potential of where it could all go wrong, because it should be about this woman whose vulnerabilities are relatable, whose humanity and honesty is appealing and is something that we can recognise in ourselves. That's what it needed to be. It didn't need to be desperate, because that's not who she is.
After a near constant round of making and promoting films for the past few years, we've heard you've got some holiday planned. Is that true?
I read that. I have some responsibilities that I need to see through that will probably take me to next March but I am going to take some time off. I think that if you're going to be a creative person, especially in this medium, you have to have human experience to draw from. Most of the experiences that I've had in the past seven years have been as a girl emulating someone else, and living in a different environment and a different lifestyle. So I need to sit still for a second and find out what, as a woman, I would do with the day.