It's about bloody time! While most Hollywood actresses feel pressured to trim down á la Kate Moss
to win roles, Renée Zellweger
actually was compelled to gain
weight to play the loveable leading lady in Bridget Jones's Diary
Based on bestselling author Helen Fielding's comic novel about an imperfect working-girl Brit named Bridget Jones, the film co-stars Hugh Grant and Colin Firth as two blokes who admire her curvy figure among other things. After reading the book, a normally rail-thin Zellweger knew she'd need to make an adjustment to faithfully portray the character. "I wanted for her to physically reflect the image that I had... in my mind," the actress tells TV Guide Online. "I wanted to physically represent her lifestyle."
As BJD readers know, that lifestyle entails an everyday Englishwoman's sometimes not-so-healthy diet of smoking, gulping Chardonnay and scarfing chocolate. "It's not so easy to go get a wheatgrass juice there," she laughs. "I had a very healthful eating program, but sometimes... there was some cheating involved. It was kind of fun to occasionally say, 'I'd better have garlic bread with this pizza cause it's for the good of the film,' or 'I'd better have a second Kit Kat cause it's my responsibility.'"
Far from bemoaning her weight gain, Zellweger insists she found it liberating. Enthuses the actress: "That was a thrill! Are you kidding? I had to upgrade three times at Victoria's Secret. It was very exciting for me. It felt great to be voluptuous and really womanly. More importantly, it felt right."
Another drastic change for Zellweger and no less crucial to the film's sense of verisimilitude was adopting an English accent. Three months prior to filming, the plucky actress moved to London, where she soaked up the culture by working at the office of Fielding's publisher and training daily with a dialect coach. "I didn't want [the accent] to feel fraudulent when it was coming out of my mouth," she says. "It would just get in the way of what we're really trying to do, which is tell a story."
And what of the worries about a Texan thesp playing Bridget instead of a bona fide Brit? "Renée really was doing the groundwork to get it all right as an Englishwoman," reassures Fielding. "When they see her up on the screen, she's got a perfect English accent. I think she's such an international figure that people will have just forgotten all about that."