Crumpets and tea preparation pays off

OSCAR QUOTIENT

HITS: Likable actress delivers a feisty performance in a box office hit, complete with accent and physical appearance overhaul.

MINUS: Romantic comedies released in spring can certainly get overlooked.

For Renee Zellweger, the challenge of playing Bridget Jones wasn’t nailing the perfect British accent, gaining the appropriate amount of weight or even balancing the pressures of bringing a well-loved fictional character to the screen. It was more about getting her goof on.

“I’ve never had a character that is so broadly physical, and by that I mean her being all over the place all the time,” Zellweger says. “It was a lot of fun to do because most of the characters I’ve played have tended to be developed more internally. They’ve been a little more subtle.”

When Zellweger first read Helen Fielding’s enormously popular book documenting the exploits of Bridget and her other “singleton” friends, she enjoyed it but “never thought about it in terms of it becoming a film and didn’t think about it much afterwards.”

But from the moment she was cast, Zellweger was determined to immerse herself in British culture, relocating to the U.K. a good four months before production began in order to understand her character from the inside out.

“I spent a lot of time observing, watching, listening, picking up on how people there communicate, what the body language is, the cultural and socialis, the cultural and social references,” she explains. “To become part of another culture instead of just visiting made it extraordinary.”

Luckily, Zellweger had help in adjusting. Namely, first-time director Sharon Maguire, a friend of Fielding’s who was the model for Bridget’s friend Shaz in the book.

“She’s very brave, very gutsy and has a very precise idea of what she wanted to accomplish,” Zellweger recollects, noting how uncommon those characteristics are among first-time helmers.

“Sometimes I wondered if Bridget wasn’t more based on her.”

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