It’s been 15 years (yes 15!) since big-knicker-wearing Bridget first leapt from Helen Fielding’s best-selling book to the silver screen, and it seems Renée Zellweger is just as excited about her character’s return as we are. “Coming back to Bridget was like coming home for me,” the Oscar-winning Texan says with a huge smile.
“It felt so right. It was a no brainer. I love her. To me she’s perfectly imperfect. She’s self-deprecating and humble. There aren’t enough characters like her to relate to. She’s inspiring in her misfortune and mistakes, and we cheer her on because they eventually turn into triumphs. I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for a character more.”
Like Bridget, Renée has been out of sight and out of mind for more than a while, taking a six-year break from Hollywood, a decision she explained this June when she confessed all to Vogue, “I got sick of the sound of my own voice. It was time to go away and grow up a bit”.
Thankfully BJB was the movie to coax the actress out of her self-imposed hiatus and return to her alter-ego role as the beloved neurotic Londoner who became a symbol of hope for all those looking for love. “There was a scariness to returning, a bit of imposter syndrome,” Renée told me.
At 47 she looks enviably, effortlessly glam, her signature blonde hair in loose waves, complimenting her chic outfit of a smart black sweater teamed with a polka dotted skirt. “Now they’re going to find me out’. But I feel like maybe I have a little more perspective after being away from it for a while. Which can only be a good thing.”
And also like Bridget, Renée’s love life has run anything but smoothly, although it does now seem like she has found her soulmate. Twenty years ago, just as Renée got her big-break in Jerry Maguire, her first love, musician Sims Ellison, tragically took his own life.
The petite star went on to date a succession of famous faces, including; Matthew Perry, Jack White, George Clooney, Damien Rice, Luke Perry, John Krasinski, Bradley Cooper and former fiancé Jim Carrey, but none of them turned out to be her own Mr. Darcy, although she got close in 2005 when she married country singer Kenny Chesney, but their union lasted just four months.
After kissing her fair share of frogs, albeit very handsome A-List frogs, Renée seems to have finally found her prince in her long term friend and boyfriend of four years, musician Doyle Bramhall II, also 47, gushing “Isn’t he cute? He’s a very sweet man. I’m very, very happy right now.”
The actress, who is notoriously very tight-lipped about her beau, opened up to Vogue about the man she first met as a student at the University of Texas. “There is a familiarity between us that sense you have when you’re with someone and you know you are home.”
Loved up like a smug-married was precisely how we left Bridget Jones’ at the end of the sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, as Mark “I like you very much. Just as you are” Darcy (played by the inimitable Colin Firth) finally popped the question.
But things have gone awry in her latest adventure as we find Bridget single once again. Moving on from the binge-drinking, chain-smoking, Celine Dion-wailing girl we all once knew, Renée reveals this time it’s Bridget 2.0. “We had to show that she’s matured, evolved, maybe become less naïve perhaps a little wiser but I’m very happy that she hasn’t become jaded.
“You know, that can happen after certain amount of heartbreak and disappointment so I was worried she might have lost her romantic, optimistic side but she is still as sweet and warm as ever. She’s changed and she hasn’t changed and I love that about her.”
And that’s not all that’s different, after her weight struggles Bridget is finally happy with her with the way she looks. “In Bridget’s mind for so long, she had a weight problem but from the outside perspective, she didn’t. Like when you say that to your friend and they have no idea what you are talking about.
“But Sharon [Maguire, director] wanted the change in her life to reflect her physicality, you know she takes better care of herself, she doesn’t drink as much anymore, she doesn’t smoke, she has a better wardrobe because she’s moved up the career ladder, she has a great, well-paid job and that needed to be reflected in how she looked because all of that would affect how she looked. It couldn’t not,” she laughs.
“What I loved about that, what I thought was interesting was this was an obsession for Bridget, something she talked and thought about all the time when she was younger, and Sharon wanted Bridget to have achieved a lifelong ambition, to be at her goal weight, something she’d dreamed about for so long.
“And then have it represent nothing, have it mean nothing – it doesn’t make her any happier. She was convinced for so long that this was the key to her happiness and after that, everything would fall into place. But it hasn’t.”
The crux of the movie navigates Bridget’s unexpected pregnancy and more importantly deals with the all-important question of ‘who’s the daddy?’ With womanizing Daniel Cleaver out of the picture the two men in contention this time around are original flame Mark and latest love interest Jack, played by star of Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey.
“There were several different outcomes, because you gotta work really hard these days to keep a secret,” Renée reveals with a smile. “There were like seven different scripts floating about and we shot three different endings which it’s not something you do on every movie. But you know, cell phones and social media are a problem to keep a secret. Also my own mouth too,” she laughs.
But with Bridget’s will-they-won’t-they history with Mark, surely the self-confessed romantic wanted Mark to be ‘The One’? “Honestly, I wasn’t swayed by that, I was happy for Bridget to end up with either because she’s not exactly fighting a losing battle here,” she giggles, trying hard not to give anything away. “I think we can say she was going to win one way or the other.” It seems that Renée, just like Bridget, will never give up on true love overcoming all.
Bridget Jones’ Baby in cinemas from 16 September