Actress Renee Zellweger first gained wide-spread attention for her role in the film Jerry Maguire (1996) and later Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. She was nominated for another Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Chicago (2002), and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Cold Mountain (2003).
Early Life and Career
Born on April 25, 1969, in Katy, Texas, Renee Zellweger was raised in a small town outside Houston, and took up acting in college. She appeared in bit parts in mainstream movies like Dazed and Confused (1993) and Reality Bites (1994) before earning praise for her leading roles in the independent films Love and a .45 (1994) and The Whole Wide World (1996), co-starring Vincent D'Onofrio.
Director Cameron Crowe surprised many when he cast the relatively unknown actress as Dorothy Boyd, the single mother who is swept off her feet by Tom Cruise's soul-searching sports agent in Jerry Maguire (1996).
The film's critical and commercial success made Zellweger one of Hollywood's hottest new commodities. Instead of cashing in with another big-budget film, however, she took a risk and made several independent films, including Deceiver (1997), opposite Tim Roth, and A Price Above Rubies (1998), in which she played a rebellious wife in a Hasidic Jewish family.
Zellweger later turned in a critically acclaimed performance opposite Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998), an adaptation of Anna Quindlen's novel about a daughter coping with her mother's slow death from cancer.
In 1999, Zellweger starred with Chris O'Donnell in The Bachelor, and made headlines for her budding romance with actor and comedian Jim Carrey. In the comedy Me, Myself and Irene (2000), written and directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, Carrey played a character with two personalities, both of whom are in love with Zellweger's Irene. That same year, Zellweger won a Golden Globe Award for the black comedy Nurse Betty, co-starring Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear.
'Bridget Jones's Diary'
Renee Zellweger had a critical and popular success in 2001, when she starred as the neurotic British title character in the film adaptation of Helen Fielding's best-selling novel, Bridget Jones's Diary. The film, which also starred Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, earned Zellweger an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Bridget Jones's sequel, The Edge of Reason, was released in 2004, and the third film in the series Bridget Jones's Baby opened in 2016.
In 2003, Zellweger earned her second Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her performance in Chicago, the film adaptation of the 1970s musical. The film also starred Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta-Jones. That same year, Zellweger starred opposite Ewan McGregor in the retro-romantic comedy Down With Love. The following year, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Ruby in the Civil War drama Cold Mountain.
In 2005, Zellweger co-starred in Cinderella Man with Russell Crowe. The actress went on to work on the biopic Piece of My Heart, in which she starred as singing legend Janis Joplin. In 2006, she played Beatrix Potter in the biopic Miss Potter. Her next film projects included Leatherheads (2008), Appaloosa (2008), My One and Only (2009), Case 39 (2009) and My Own Love Song (2010).
Hiatus & Personal Life
After over a decade of making high-profile films, Zellweger took a six-year hiatus from acting. “I was fatigued and wasn’t taking the time I needed to recover between projects, and it caught up with me,” Zellweger said in an interview with Vogue U.K. “I got sick of the sound of my own voice: it was time to go away and grow up a bit.”
She explained that her break from Hollywood nurtured her personally and creatively. “I found anonymity, so I could have exchanges with people on a human level and be seen and heard, not be defined by this image that precedes me when I walk into a room. You cannot be a good storyteller if you don’t have life experiences, and you can’t relate to people.”
When the actress resurfaced in the limelight at an ELLE event in 2014, Internet rumors flew about whether she'd had plastic surgery. In response to the speculation, she told People magazine: "I'm glad folks think I look different. I'm living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows. I am healthy. For a long time, I wasn't doing such a good job with that. I took on a schedule that is not realistically sustainable. I kept running until I was depleted and made bad choices about how to conceal the exhaustion."
In September 2016, Zellweger returned to the big screen in Bridget Jones's Baby, in which her character, now single and in her 40s, discovers she is pregnant and must figure out if the father is Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) or Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey). The movie received mostly positive reviews from critics and fans of the series.
In her personal life, Zellweger was engaged to Jim Carrey from 1999 to 2000. She tied the knot with country music star Kenny Chesney on May 8, 2005, but filed for an annulment four months later. She dated Bradley Cooper, her co-star in Case 39, from 2009 to 2011, and has been in a relationship with musician Doyle Bramhall II since 2012.
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