The highly anticipated third installment of the Bridget Jones franchise, Bridget Jones’s Baby, sees the forty-something and single again Bridget (Renée Zellweger) in a very unexpected situation. After deciding to focus on her job and surround herself with friends, Bridget thinks she has everything completely under control, until she finds herself torn between her longtime love Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and dashing American Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), not knowing which one is the father of her unborn child.
While at the press junket in London, the lovely and infectiously charming Renée Zellweger got on the phone with Collider for this exclusive interview about how actually getting to return to this character had begun to feel like the boy who cried wolf, the evolution of Bridget Jones, being caught between two men, shooting multiple endings, and what it’s meant to her to be a part of this world. She also talked about her upcoming film Same Kind of Different as Me and why it’s an important story to tell, how taking a few years off from acting has given her a new perspective, and being open to doing a role on TV.
Collider: Because there was so much talk, over the years, that never quite panned out, when and how did you learn that you would actually be returning to this character?
RENÉE ZELLWEGER: It was like the boy who cried wolf. I didn’t believe it! I heard from a girlfriend of mine, actually. She sent me a text saying, “Yay, yay, yay! I hear she’s back! Congratulations! Have fun!” And I said, “What are you talking about?!” She’s married to someone that was involved on the inside of that conversation, so I was the last to know. I didn’t believe it until we said, “Okay, that’s a wrap,” on the picture.
Was it a relief to get the script and find out that it was actually good and that you didn’t have to get out of it?
ZELLWEGER: Now that you mention it, you’re right! I hadn’t thought of that potential crisis! I don’t know if it was a relief, or just joy. I was so joyful when I was reading that script. I hadn’t realized how much those characters had endeared themselves. I love those characters. I love her parents, her friends and her world. I love this character, and it was a happy reunion reading this script. I didn’t want it to end. It made me smile. What I think I was happiest about was that it felt like this matters. Bridget means something to a lot of people, and me included, so I really wanted to be careful with her. With the script, it was just exciting.
Because it had been over a decade since you had last walked in her shoes, did going back to her feel like catching up with an old friend that it felt like you hadn’t been away from, or did you need some time to get reacquainted with who she was?
ZELLWEGER: Both! It was like a happy reunion, and then a really interesting, different kind of a challenge to be reunited with a character that I know on so many levels, but don’t at all, on so many others. I had to figure out how the evolution of this person manifests and, more importantly, how she doesn’t evolve. What does she hold onto that’s familiar? So, it was a different kind of experience, but boy, it sure was fun to figure out.
Some of the best and funniest moments in the film are the ones that you share with Emma Thompson, who’s just so terrific in this. What was it like to work with her? Did you have trouble getting through those scenes without laughing?
ZELLWEGER: Of course! I’ll recognize the little glimmer when I’m just about to break. She’s a genius! She’s electric in a room, and she’s just brilliant. She’s so much fun to play off of. I treasured those days.
Was it important to you that, with Bridget caught between two men, they both be great men that make a difficult choice for her?
ZELLWEGER: Yes, I liked that. It was a different slant on the triangles that she’s found herself in before. Colin [Firth] talks about how horrible it is to have a nemesis that’s actually a great guy. What Mark Darcy could always walk away with is that he’s the nice one and his moral compass is set correctly. But then, you’ve got this other fella who’s equally wonderful, and it makes for a different kind of rivalry. It’s interesting. I like it because I think it’s important that Bridget is not so naive as before. Maybe she has a little more clarity when it comes to the choices that she’s making, but maybe not with so much grace.
Bridget Jones has really learned to embrace who she is and she doesn’t apologize for it. Do you feel like you’re at that place in your own life now, or does that feel like something you’re always striving for?
ZELLWEGER: All of us, to some degree, are striving to be true to ourselves and appreciate our individuality, always. But certainly, that’s something that comes with maturity. You come to recognize that you’re doing all right, as you are, and you stop apologizing for your individuality. That’s what’s so wonderful. You get older and your values shift just a little bit. Hopefully, if things are going as they should in your growth as a person, they shift in the right direction.
Did you really shoot multiple endings for this, and when did you find out which one they were going with?
ZELLWEGER: At the screening. We didn’t pack up and go different places, or anything. They just moved babies and men around. And they didn’t print the scenes on the pages. The endings were never written. I guess that’s the extreme you have to go to, in order to keep a secret these days.
Do you feel like Bridget Jones has found her happy ending now?
ZELLWEGER: Yeah, one of them. I think there’s a “. . .” there about things that she still aspires to achieve. But, she’s had an unexpected happy ending. I don’t think it’s something that she had presumed was going to be part of her life experience, at the point that we find her, in this new incarnation. In typical Bridget fashion, things turn out in a very unconventional, not pretty, terribly messy, socially deviant manner.
When you originally signed on for Bridget Jones’s Diary, could you ever have imagined the effect that it would have on your career and your life?
ZELLWEGER: No, I could never have imagined, ever. I was curious to see if I could pull it off, but I didn’t know if I could do it. That was a day at a time. But it’s a pretty cool experience to have had, a few times now.
You have Same Kind of Different as Me coming out next year, which seems like quite a beautiful and emotional story. What was it about that script that spoke to you and made you want to get involved?
ZELLWEGER: I got a phone call from Michael Carney, who was directing the film, and it was his first film. He explained to me about the premise ‘cause I hadn’t read the book. I was glad that they were making the film ‘cause it’s an issue that’s pretty close to my heart. I love the work that Ron Hall and Denver [Moore] have done with Debbie Hall, and that they’re carrying the torch of her legacy by continuing to advocate for homeless children and people, around the country. They have raised millions of dollars to transform the lives of homeless people by investing in and improving the services that are available to them, and that matters. I love the idea that Debbie Hall embarked on, just because she believed that you can make a difference by just deciding to. I love that. Michael told me, “We’re not going to do this in the traditional Hollywood fashion, where you go in, you build the set, you tear it down, and you leave. We’re going to go to Jackson and we’re going to find a shelter that needs a financial investment and we’re going to refurbish it, so that it can better serve the homeless community there.” And I thought, “Well, there’s a reason to make a movie!” That made me happy. And we did it. It’s beautiful on the outside, but more importantly, they upgraded the electrical on the inside and they changed the kitchen completely, so now they can serve more people. It’s wonderful. It made me smile.
You took a few years off from acting, so was it refreshing, creatively, to return? Do you feel like you’re fully back now?
ZELLWEGER: Yeah, I guess so. I have a different perspective now. I worked on the other side of things for awhile, so I understand it a little bit better. Yes, I’m definitely back, but different.
Does it also feel like the things that you look for have changed? Obviously, the script and the character are always important, but do you place more or equal importance on who you’ll be working with, what the location might be, and the experience you might have, as a result?
ZELLWEGER: Those were always considerations, but more importantly, now my life comes first. I didn’t recognize the importance of that, not just as a human being, but as an artist. You can’t draw from nothing, as a storyteller. I have a different appreciation for it now and a different perspective.
You’ve played a lot of different types of roles, in various genres. Is there a role you’d still love to play, but it either hasn’t been right yet, or you just haven’t gotten the opportunity to do it?
ZELLWEGER: There’s probably tons! There are so many rich stories out there. Let’s say Ripley. Let’s do it! She is an extraordinary character that I love. That would be fun! That’s one of a hundred.
With so many tremendously talent people working in TV now, both behind the camera and in great roles. Have you thought about taking on a TV show? Is that something you’d be open to, especially for a limited series?
ZELLWEGER: Oh, sure, and always! Good is good. It’s so exciting. TV is a treat, these days, creatively speaking. For anybody who loves film and great storytelling, you can find it in television now. Everything seems to be explored now, in that medium. It’s so much fun. As a member of the audience, I feel spoiled rotten for the riches.
Bridget Jones’s Baby opens in theaters on September 16th.