Spotlight By: Andrea Tuccillo
Renee Zellweger is one of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces, yet she would prefer it if that wasn’t the case. She’d much rather disappear into her roles, take on a new look, fully become someone else. The most noticeable example of this would be when she gained 30 pounds to play the title character in Bridget Jones’ Diary. In the new flick Leatherheads she doesn’t go quite that far, but she does get to don 1920′s style costumes and channel Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. She plays feisty reporter Lexie Littleton.
“I love it because I feel in my own personal experience the farther removed the character’s reality is from my own the more fun it and the easier it is to disappear within that alternate reality,” she says. “In fact I’m always more comfortable in a corset or those 20′s drop-waist dresses and the way of delivering that dialogue than just being the girl who might look like me and who might have the same clothes and the same wardrobe as I do. I don’t feel safe playing the girl who looks like me. There’s not enough to hide behind.”
She especially loved Lexie’s colorful wardrobe. “I loved that orange coat,” she says. “Boy it was hotter than Hades on that day and I didn’t care! And my purple scarf with the polka dotsâ€”I love that stuff! I loved how brave she was in terms of the combinations of things that she would just throw together. Like the blue shoes with the purple polka dotted scarf and this bright orange and gold jacket.”
Getting into the costumes was easy. Mastering that quick-talking dialogue and making it seem effortless? Not so much. “It was hard because she’s so confident and quick and she’s so witty and spot-on and doesn’t miss a beat and it’s hard to play that when you’re terrified that you’re going to be the
That friend she speaks of? George Clooney, of course! He directed Leatherheads and co-stars as smart-aleck football player Dodge Connellyâ€”the object of Lexie’s irritations, and eventually, her affections. Being in a movie about men’s football made Zellweger the lone woman on set. “It was terrible, but somebody had to do it!” she jokes. “I had a great time, are you kidding me? Those fellas are fantastic! And yeah sure, it was a boys club because most of his crew has worked together for years and years and he’s had the same friends for 20 years at least and so it’s really nice to be part of that, a big extended family.”
One of the boys on set was the tall and handsome John Krasinski, who plays college football star Carter Rutherford. Since both Krasinski and Clooney could potentially rival each other in the charm department, it’s no wonder their fan reaction on set was buzzing. “You’d drive to work and there’d be the cheering section for George and the ‘I love John K’ signs everywhere,” Zellweger says. “I think [John's] a wonderful person. He’s funny and smart and charming and he’s kind. I think he’s very special. I think he’s one those doesn’t come along all the time and I respect him. I think he’s really good at what he does so I enjoyed being at work with him a lot. It was just so fun. It was a lot of fun to watch him not be knowing how good he is. And the scarier part is knowing what’s in store for him and remembering what that might have been like a long time ago with Mr. Cruise on the set.”
Zellweger can obviously hold her own with the boys and she has that in common with her character. But she’d never be able to do what her character
Fame has shaped the course of Zellweger’s own life, and that’s where having a recognizable face can sometimes be a burden. “It’s the hardest part of my job,” she says. “I have the most difficult time with the days that people don’t see you or hear you or communicate with you but who they perceive you to be before they meet you. I have a hard time with that. I work everyday to negotiate and sort of neutralize it and just be the person that’s standing there. That’s all I know.”
She adds, “As an actor you draw on the truth of experiences and I can’t draw on the experiences from 20 years ago because that was the last real exchange that I had with a person,” she says. “I want to have real conversations and I want to be a fly on a wall in a room. I want to be able to people-watch and just have different sociological experiences that are becoming rarer and rarer. I know it sounds so crazy but boy I cherish it when somebody’s mean ’cause they’re just having a bad day and they don’t recognize
A celebrity who doesn’t want special treatment? Now that’s refreshing!