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Darling of the silver screen

RENEE Zellweger is perhaps one of America’s best loved stars. Someone who can do no wrong in an industry where everyone is under so much scrutiny sometimes and where it is hard to tell fact from fiction. 

In this world of star gazing and watching, it is always open season and somehow, Zellweger seems to remain above the fray. 

It’s easy to understand why, though. She is demure, very fair – white actually – and at 168cm she is much smaller than she appears on the big screen and has a very infectious laugh. 

Entertainment writers have always portrayed her well and have in a way openly rooted for her every time she has been nominated for an award. She has had three Oscar nominations and her third as Ruby in Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain won her the coveted golden statuette. 

Renee Zellweger with Russell Crowe (centre) and director Ron Howard on the set of Cinderella Man.
Make no mistake Zellweger is a fine actress – often overshadowed by bigger stars like Nicole Kidman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angelina Jolie – who can certainly hold her own in a big film. 

She is a very private person and doesn’t like to talk about her personal life. She had only just married country singer Kenny Chesney on May 9 on the Caribbean island of St John in the US Virgin Islands, when she faced the international media to promote her latest film, Cinderella Man.  

Even before the role of Mae Braddock was offered to her, Zellweger was already tracking the evolution of the project.  

“I knew it was special immediately. It was a story so simply and beautifully told. It is rare that they make love stories that are not sensationalised in any way,” she said. 

She fitted the role of Mae so naturally that it seemed that the part was made for her. 

She said that what was beautiful about Mae was that through her strength, she became boxer Jim Braddock’s purpose. She and the kids were his motivation – “they are what keep him hanging on no matter what,” she said. 

“Mae is Jim’s support system, but she’s also a woman who has an unconventional sense of herself, never afraid to tell Jim what’s in her heart, even when it’s not what he wants to hear. In many ways, she was at the helm of the Braddock household, very progressive for the times and an interesting dynamic to explore.” 

Zellweger had read the story of Braddock sometime in 1978-79. To her, playing the role was worth waiting for.  

“I am spoiled for riches in terms of creative experiences that I have had opportunities to work with people. I feel really lucky to do what I do and making a living out it. 

“I have my fingers crossed every time go to work that something might go right. I can’t promise you I would be good but I can promise you that I will work hard,” she said. 

Zellweger said the movie gave her different perspective of boxing. Being an athlete, she didn’t dislike the sport, but never had an occasion to see a fight. 

“I understand it better watching what the guys go through, seeing them spar and seeing how complicated a skill it is. It is not violent people just pummelling each other randomly. There is a discipline involved in it, and it is not just physical discipline but mental as well. It takes years to acquire the skills.” 

Zellweger said director Ron Howard has the ability to bring humanity to everything he does. 

“I don’t think I have seen anyone do this in such a way.” 

When acting, she said, she was not thinking about the sport, but of Braddock and what he was thinking and feeling at those moments. 

I think that was an extraordinary achievement because it gave me a better understanding of why someone would participate in this sport.” 

Like most stars, Zellweger doesn’t pay much interest to reviews as her satisfaction comes from knowing what she has accomplished.  

Pointing to her heart, she said: “What someone else perceives of my success or failure does not matter, it is what I feel here.”  

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