The film’s director, Rupert Goold, understands their hesitancy. “I’m not sure I’d want to see a movie about my mother,” he says. “Not that I don’t love my mother or love filmmaking but because it’s a very personal relationship. I hope if they do get to see it, they’ll sense … the celebration and the love we have for her as a person.”
Ever since the film premiered at Telluride, Zellweger and Goold have maintained that the movie is a celebration of Garland, even if it does look at the tragic final chapter of her life. The film focuses on her long-term addiction to alcohol and pills while battling ex-husband Sid Luft for custody of their children, Lorna and Joey.
Research for much of the movie relied heavily on Rosalyn Wilder, Garland’s assistant while she was in London trying to make a comeback in an ill-fated concert series.
“They should know that everybody on that set was motivated by their love for her and their appreciation for … her work [and] her legacy that touched them,” Zellweger says. “We just wanted to do our best for her.”
Minnelli didn’t plan to comment on “Judy” when it was announced that Zellweger would play her mom in the film, an adaptation of the Tony-nominated play “End of the Rainbow.”
But then, a few months into production, a gossip website reported that Minnelli was coaching Zellweger on how to portray Garland. “I have never met nor spoken to Renée Zellweger,” Minnelli wrote in response on her Facebook page. “I don’t know how these stories get started, but I do not approve nor sanction the upcoming film about Judy Garland in any way. Any reports to the contrary are 100% fiction.”