Rene Zellweger is no stranger to the red carpet, from her humble beginnings at the Jerry Maguire premiere in '96 (she was just 27!) to the established actress attending the 2020 Oscars this Sunday as a nominee for Best Actress in a Leading Role for "Judy." There's no doubt the 50-year-old star will be asked what shes wearing, while that's still a tightly guarded secret, we know she'll look amazing.
When she is inevitably asked about her appearance this Sunday, keep in mind that Zellweger has long encouraged Hollywood not to define women based on their appearance. This is in part because she battled depression over media scrutiny in 2014. Here's a look back at Zellweger's evolutionary perspective on wellness, and don't forget to tune into the Oscars this Sunday, February 9 at 6:30 p.m. ET.
When Zellweger was cast as Bridget in Bridget Jones' Diary, the then 31-year-old had to gain a great deal of weight31 pounds, to be specific.
"I was very successful until we started to do night shoots," she told CNN. "They just leave you so fatigued and with absolutely no appetite and I was repulsed at the thought of those obligatory Snickers bars." Zellweger went from a size two to a size 14 with a diet of French toast, pizza, milkshakes, and chocolate. By the 2001 Oscars, she dropped the weight, spurring rumors about her health.
"It was so silly," she told the NY Post of the tabloid talk about her weight. "The 20-doughnuts-a-day rumors, and the 'Does she look better Bridget-y or bony?' questions. "I didnt understand the fascination with it. Its just my job. Youre supposed to look like the characters you play, and thats all I was doing."
If you thought gaining 30+ pounds for a role was difficult, Zellweger did it again for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. This time, she sought help from a doctor to safely put on weight until she reached 140 pounds. She quit exercising in May 2003 and ate a "high-calorie diet with a lot of flaxseed-oil salad dressings and 'delicious' protein weight-gain shakes," The Post reported. When shooting finished up in January 2004, she began exercising again. "It feels good to finally go to the gym after nine months of not getting to," Zellweger told Oprah Winfrey, according to The Post.
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In 2009, Zellweger starred as George Hamilton's mother Anne in My One and Only, which explores gender roles and complicated ways women are perceived. She spoke with CNN about the role. In the film, Anne was often judged by her appearance, which Zellweger could relate to. "I'm not an actress who made her way based on physicality," she told CNN. "I think quite the opposite, in fact. I sort of disappear a little bit, with respect to my looks. I'm lucky. I'm not a standout, kind of knockout kind of girl that, you know, it's all about my great hair or something."
Speaking to Glamour, Zellweger said that running is her workout of choice. "It's my outlet, the one thing I do during the day that's mine and mine alone," she said. "I don't want to work with a trainer, and I don't want to go with friends to the gym. It's my solitude, and I need it." The actress also said she feels like she has no regrets at age 40. "I'm grateful for the experiences I've accumulated. Of course, there are certain things you wish were not on anyone's list of life experiences, but it's a life. It's a good life. And I like what's there."
In 2013, Zellweger publicly addressed her weight. "When you read reports that you are starving yourself or that you are anorexic, it's very unfair and disappointing," 44-year-old actress told Daily Express. "It's not very pleasant to read reports which say you've gone too far or this or that." The actress said she loves to workout, which is why she has a lean figure. "I have a lifestyle that involves keeping my sanity by going to the gym."
She credits her lean workouts to regular workouts, particularly running. "It's my outlet, the one thing I do during the day that's mine and mine alone," she later told Glamour. "I don't want to work with a trainer, and I don't want to go with friends to the gym. It's my solitude, and I need it."
Despite the success she'd reached in notable films throughout the early 2000's, Zellweger decided to take a breaking from film in 2010. She emerged from her entertainment hiatus to make a red carpet appearance at Elle's Women in Hollywood event in 2014, only to be trolled online with rumors that she'd undergone plastic surgery. This hit her hard for an entire year.
Zellweger sought help through a therapist and was diagnosed with depression. "I wasnt healthy. I wasnt taking care of myself," she recently told Vulture of the experience before her break. "I was the last thing on my list of priorities ... I spent 99% of my life as the public persona and just a microscopic crumb of a fraction in my real life."
"Nothing like international humiliation to set your perspective right!" she said of the plastic surgery rumors. "It clarifies whats important to you. And it shakes off any sort of clingy superficiality." She continued to explain how artists have the tendency to be criticized for their work and also as human beings, and how they have a fear of getting pushed to the edge.
"When it gets to be too much, when you learn that your skin is not quite as thick as you need it to be, what is that gonna feel like? Well, now I know. I got the hardest kick. And it aint the end," she told Vulture.
Zellweger returned to acting in 2016 with the films Bridget Jones's Baby and The Whole Truth. "I had a good five-year period when I was joyful and in a new chapter that no one was even aware of," she told Vulture, adding that her rough patch only lasted a year.
She addressed media scrutiny in a powerful essay titled We Can Do Better for HuffPost, advocating that "a womans worth has historically been measured by her appearance," and that's not OK.
Jimi CelesteGetty Images
Zellweger went on to star in Same Kind of Different as Me in 2017 and Here and Now in 2018, and in 2019, it was announced that she would play Judy Garland in the upcoming film, Judy. She told InStyle that filming was hard on her body and health. "I was tired and skinny when we finished [Judy]. The schedule is pretty punishing, but it's finite," she said. "You know that after this series of months, you can catch up a little."
As crazy as life can be, Zellweger emphasizes the importance of slowing down. She's not afraid of getting older and lives for balance. "I'd rather celebrate each phase of my life and be present in it than mourn something that's passed," Zellweger told InStyle. "I don't want to miss this moment to be something that I used to be."
"I'm not saying I'm canceling my gym membership anytime soon, because I'm not. I'd rather be a healthy, productive woman in each stage of my life than apologetic," she explained. "I also don't want to perpetuate the notion that somehow moving forward in your life is wrong."
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