After starring in some major hits — Chicago, Cold Mountain, and Cinderella Man, to name a few — René Zellweger pressed pause on her acting career while at the top of her game.
Now, following a five-year hiatus, the actress is resurfacing and doing so in a beloved role: Bridget Jones.
Ahead of Bridget Jones’s Baby, which hits theaters in September, Zellweger appears on the cover of British Vogue.
“I put on a few pounds. I also put on some breasts and a baby bump,” she told the magazine about how she prepared for the role, which sees Bridget expecting her first child.
“Bridget is a perfectly normal weight, and I’ve never understood why it matters so much. No male actor would get such scrutiny if he did the same thing for a role.”
And she’s right. When the first Bridget Jones movie debuted 15 years ago, Zellweger had to gain weight for the role, which caused a lot of backlash and negative press in Hollywood.
At the time, Zellweger transformed her movie-star-thin figure into a more “average” body type, one considered more closely resembling that of the character portrayed in the novels, an ice cream–bingeing, wine-loving, anti-exercise mild depressive.
This impression fed critics, many of whom called Zellweger fat, despite her average appearance.
Harper’s Bazaar reportedly even refused to use her on the cover because she was too heavy.
But it wasn’t just the media that was critical of her weight — Zellweger, now 46, felt the pressure too.
Rumors from the set back then were that Zellweger would wail “I’m so fat! I’m so fat!” and would compare her stomach to that of the costume designer, Rachel Fleming, who was eight months pregnant.
For the first film, she packed on 17 pounds, working with a dietitian and endocrinologist who came up with a diet plan consisting of three full meals a day, multiple snacks, and no exercise.
The yoyo dieting though was the worst part about the process of having to quickly slim down to fit the Hollywood archetype once again.
“I had a panic attack with all the specialists talking about how bad this is for you, long term, putting on that much weight in short periods of time, and they’re all saying, ‘You must stop this now or you’re going to die.’”
But social commentary should be different this time around.
The past few years, social media has given rise to a body-positivity movement, with fat shamers being called out for their judgmental and damaging opinions.
Women such as Ashley Graham and Melissa McCarthy are no longer pariahs in the industry; instead, they’re praised and held up as exemplars.
Interestingly though, at a time when being curvy or average onscreen would actually make a powerful statement, Jones isn’t “fat.” The film’s director, Sharon Maguire, told Entertainment Weekly: “We all really loved the notion that Bridget,15 years [since the first film], had finally reached her ideal weight … somewhere between a U.K. size 10 or 12 [U.S. 6 to 8] … but still hadn’t solved any of her issues about love and loneliness.”
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