SHE’S suffered heartache, break-ups and amazing career highs and lows but Renee Zellweger now has a date with destiny.
She is tipped to lift the Best Actress gong at the Oscars in two weeks for the biopic of Judy Garland.
Her turn as the Hollywood icon has seen Renee already triumph at the Golden Globes as well as the Screen Actors Guild, Critics Choice and British Independent Film awards.
Renee, 50, revealed the movie — chronicling the Wizard Of Oz star’s arrival in London in 1968 to perform sold-out shows shortly before her death — has taught her “courage, tenacity and the inevitability of carrying on”.
It is a far cry from when she scooped the Best Actress Golden Globe for Nurse Betty in 2001.
Then she had recently split from her fiancé, comedian and actor Jim Carrey, and felt so “heartbroken” and “uncomfortable” that she almost missed being presented her award — because she was in the toilet.
She recalled: “I’d just finished Bridget Jones, I’d gone through a break-up — a heartbreaking, break-up thing. And then it’s time to put on a dress and go and do your thing and you don’t even really feel like putting on jeans to go to the coffee shop.
‘I’m going to put on some lipstick – that’s the answer’
“It’s a skill you develop to compartmentalise, put your personal life aside and go and enjoy this moment that might never happen again.
“I got out on to the red carpet and there was condolence in the interviews like, ‘So it’s not about winning, right?’.
“I sat at my table and I was thinking about how uncomfortable I was at that moment.
“I thought, ‘I can just go for a little walk, I’ll go to the bathroom for a second.
“I’m going to put on some lipstick — that’s the answer.
“I went to the bathroom, I’m putting some lipstick on and then I thought, ‘That’s too much’ and I wiped it off and then I tried to close my purse and it wouldn’t close.
“I threw out the lipstick then realised I haven’t got enough lipstick on so I’m digging in the trash can.”
In the background she recalls hearing a man shouting, “Hey, come on Renee!” — it was actor Hugh Grant on stage, waiting to present her with the award.
'I found my voice in this'
Renee said: “A young lady came over to me, nudged me and said, ‘I think he’s talking to you’.
“I left the lipstick, poked my head out and they were like, ‘You’ve got to come now! You won!’
“And I think it would have come and gone if sweet Hugh hadn’t stretched out the moment.”
Renee will be planning her toilet breaks more carefully at the Academy Awards on February 9 after her career-defining role as Judy.
On playing the talented but tortured actress, who died from an accidental overdose in 1969, aged 47, Renee said: “Sharing the celebration of Judy Garland’s legacy will always be one of my greatest life blessings.
“It was a big experience. We all know that you take something away from every job you do and you learn something about yourself.
“That’s why we are artists, because we’re curious about the world and our place in it and how we define ourselves or recognise yourselves in the world. I found my voice in this.”
Just like Judy, who married five times, Renee has had a rollercoaster of high-profile romances.
Two years after splitting from Carrey, because they “wanted different things”, Renee was swept off her feet by Jack White, lead singer of rock band The White Stripes. But it was short lived.
Then, in January 2005, she met country singer Kenny Chesney and they embarked on a whirlwind romance. Five months later the couple tied the knot in the Virgin Islands but the marriage was over by November. Renee filed for annulment, citing “fraud”.
In 2006 she met actor Bradley Cooper on the set of psychological thriller Case 39, though they are not thought to have started dating for another three years. But by 2011 the couple had parted, with rumours that his rising career was to blame.
Things were looking up a year later when she started a relationship with rock guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, who Renee described as a “special person”. They were reported to have split in May 2019.
There have also been career knocks, including an audition for Woody Allen’s 1995 comedy — a year before she came to prominence — Mighty Aphrodite that ended up on the cutting-room floor. The part went to Mira Sorvino.
Renee recalled: “I got nervous, it was like, ‘This is premature, this is too soon, I’m not ready for this. What a loser’.
'I just needed to do it'
“I went into the projection room and there was celluloid and it was on the floor, there were splices of things everywhere.
“Mira is fantastic in this film so it didn’t matter if I did the best audition of my life, it would not have happened. She was amazing.” In 2009, following a series of relatively unsuccessful films,
Renee stepped out of the spotlight for six years. She said afterwards: “I just needed to do it.”
But her career highs before and since then have been plentiful, starting with her breakthrough role in 1996 when she starred alongside Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire.
Recalling her journey to the audition, Renee said: “There was a band, Everything But The Girl.
“My manager gave me the CD the day before and I remember popping it in and rolling all the windows down and laughing all the way to Sony. I was naive, I was green and I wasn’t looking for anything so there wasn’t any disappointment.”
She revealed that almost 25 years on, fans will still recite the film’s famous line, “You had me at hello” to her: “A couple of times a week”.
Renee adds: “It still touches me. What a cool thing that someone gave you a line like that.”
At last week’s SAG Awards, Renee gave a shout-out to Tom, who played Jerry, thanking him for his “example of professionalism on set and striving for excellence and generosity and unconditional kindness”.
As well as later capturing the hearts of the public as clumsy singleton Bridget Jones, Renee also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2004 for American Civil War drama Cold Mountain. Today — following her self-imposed exile and a reprisal of her most famous character in 2016’s Bridget Jones’s Baby — Renee is back at the top of her game.
To prepare for her role as Judy she had extensive training to transform her singing voice so that she could perform iconic tracks including Somewhere Over The Rainbow and The Trolley Song.
She had already shown her vocal range when she played Roxie Hart alongside Catherine Zeta Jones in 2003 musical movie, Chicago. Although Renee later admitted she found the experience intimidating.
She said: “I was nervous about that because these are proper hoofers. You know, Catherine starred on the West End when she was a little girl.” But Renee was a roaring success and the movie’s songwriter Sam Smith described recording with her as a “career highlight”.
Despite this, she has vowed never to try karaoke. Renee joked: “Can you imagine it? I’d be the most boring dinner party guest in the world! They’d say, ‘Oh no, don’t ask Renee, she’s going to do The Man That Got Away again’.”
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On her future, Renee hasn’t ruled out a fourth outing for Bridget Jones — if film bosses give her the chance.
She said: “What’s not to love about a woman who has so much joy clearly and who fearlessly goes forward despite her self-doubt?
“And she finds acceptance at different spurts of her life, like we all do, and to relate to a person who is imperfect but still has triumphs all the time. Because that’s the truth.”