Q&A: Renée Zellweger of ‘Judy’

Renée Zellweger delivers a powerful and heartbreaking performance as Judy Garland in the film Judy, currently playing in select theaters. The movie focuses during the time when Garland was performing at Talk of the Town nightclub in London close to the end of her life. Directed by Rupert Goold, Zellweger recently won both the Golden Globe and, just last weekend, a SAG Award for playing Judy Garland. She has also been nominated for a BAFTA Award and an Oscar for her riveting portrayal of the late singer at one of the most devastating periods of her life. An Academy Award winner for Cold Mountain, Zellweger has been nominated for four Oscars and Golden Globe Awards. She was recently back in Palm Springs to accept the Desert Palm Achievement Award for Judy at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The actress became a household name with the film Jerry Maguire, but even before that, Hollywood took notice with the film Empire Records. Over the years, she has continued to stretch herself, and has played eclectic roles in One True ThingMe, Myself and Irene, Nurse Betty, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago, Cold Mountain, Cinderella Man and Miss Potter.

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How did the experience of playing Judy Garland change you?
Renée Zellweger: I learned a lot about things I didn’t know about Judy’s life at that time. And I came to admire her even more deeply than I did before. I came to understand what she had to overcome, again and again, in order to continue to perform at the highest levels for such an extended period of time. Coming to know about that, you look at her differently. It’s not tragic, but triumphant. Judy Garland went toe-to-toe with the best of them. She was so quick, so smart and so tenacious. She had a slightly different set of rules. I don’t think the set of circumstances that she had to navigate at that time affected the beauty of her legacy. That is her talent and her tenacity.

Is there something you wish you could ask her?
RZ: Who was the love of her life? The ultimate love of her life.

Judy Garland had to fight against all these barriers at a time when women were fighting for a lot of rights. How is that different from what is happening today?
RZ: Looking back at her life and the things that she had to manage is quite different for women today. Thankfully, because of the trailblazers who came after Judy. I don’t know, a world where there wasn’t Barbara Walters on television. Or there weren’t female heads of companies. Or women who held a position of power and influence. I think it’s going to continue to evolve in the right direction. Sometimes it just takes a minute.

You have talked about how you moved from Austin to Los Angeles to really challenge yourself as an actress. And you had a very memorable stop in Palm Springs. What memories do you have of that 1993 trip?
RZ: On December 6, 1993, 9:45 p.m, I gassed up on the side of the highway for that last stretch of 1-10 from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles. (I was) standing there in the chilly air, the desert breeze next to that stuffed Honda with the CB radio in it, because my dad insisted on it. (I imagined) what adventure might be waiting up the road. I could never have imagined that I would be invited back under such special circumstances. (Zellweger was recently back in Palm Springs to accept the Desert Palm Achievement Award for Judy at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.) So, this town has always held a place in my heart as a very important marker in my life journey. I have a lot of history in this town. I have been coming here since I drove through the first time in 1993 from Texas. In the 1990s, it was my favorite place in the world to sneak off with my dog, to just chill for a while, and run in the summer heat and not perspire.

 

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