Renée Kathleen Zellweger (/rəˈneɪ ˈzɛl.wɛ.ɡər/; born April 25, 1969) is an American actress, producer and voice artist. Her film debut was in the well-received romantic comedy-drama Empire Records (1994). She first gained widespread attention for her roles in the romantic comedy-drama sports film Jerry Maguire (1996) and for Nurse Betty (2000), for which she won her first Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. She subsequently received two nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress, the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for her critically acclaimed roles as Bridget Jones in the comedy Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), and as Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago (2002).
She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for her performance in the epic war drama Cold Mountain (2003). In 2010, she starred in the road movie My Own Love Song. After this performance, she took a 5-year hiatus from screen acting.
She has won an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards; was named Hasty Pudding's Woman of the Year in 2009; and established herself as one of the highest-paid Hollywood actresses as of 2007.
Renée Zellweger was born on April 25, 1969, in Katy, Texas. Zellweger is of Norwegian, Kven (Finnish), Swiss, and Sami ancestry. Her father, Emil Erich Zellweger, is from Au, a small town in the canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and is a mechanical and electrical engineer who worked in the oil refining business. Her mother, Kjellfrid Irene (née Andreassen), is a native of Norway. Kjellfrid grew up in Kirkenes and Ekkerøy, and is a nurse and midwife who moved to the United States to work as a governess for a Norwegian family in Texas. Zellweger has described herself as being raised in a family of "lazy Catholics and Episcopalians".
While in junior high school, Zellweger participated in several sports, including soccer, basketball, baseball, and football. She attended Katy High School, where she was a cheerleader, gymnast, speech team member, and drama club member. After high school, she enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, where she graduated with a B.A. in English in 1991. While at university, Zellweger took a drama course as an elective, which initially sparked her interest in acting. During this time, she supported herself by taking jobs as a waitress in Austin, Texas, and earned her Screen Actors Guild card doing a Coors Light beer commercial while in college. Also while in college, she did "a bit part ... as a local hire" in the Austin-filmed horror-comedy My Boyfriend's Back, playing "the girl in the beauty shop, maybe two lines. But the beauty shop scene got cut." Her first job after graduation was working in a beef commercial, while simultaneously auditioning for roles around Houston.
Early work: 1992-2000:
While still in Texas, Zellweger appeared in several films. One was A Taste for Killing (1992), followed by a role in the ABC miniseries Murder in the Heartland (1993). The following year, she appeared in Reality Bites (1994), the directorial debut of Ben Stiller, and in the biographical film 8 Seconds, directed by John G. Avildsen.
Zellweger's first main role in a movie came with the 1994 horror film Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, alongside Matthew McConaughey. She played Jenny, a teenager who leaves a prom early with three friends who get into a car accident, which leads to their meeting a murderous family, led by the iconic Leatherface. Her next movie was Love and a .45 (1994), in which she played the role of Starlene Cheatham, a woman who plans a robbery with her boyfriend. The performance earned her an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. She subsequently moved to Los Angeles, winning roles in the films Empire Records (1995) and The Whole Wide World (1996). Zellweger first became widely known to audiences around the world with Jerry Maguire (1996), in which she played the romantic interest of Jerry, Tom Cruise's character, receiving a nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role.
Zellweger later won acclaim in One True Thing (1998) opposite William Hurt and Meryl Streep, and in Neil LaBute's Nurse Betty (2000) opposite Morgan Freeman. In the film, she plays a Kansas waitress who suffers a nervous breakdown after witnessing her husband's murder, and starts obsessively pursuing her favorite soap actor. She won her first Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, but she was in the bathroom when future co-star Hugh Grant announced her name. Zellweger later protested: "I had lipstick on my teeth!"
In 2000, Zellweger starred with Jim Carrey in the comedy Me, Myself and Irene, directed by the Farrelly brothers. The film is about a Rhode Island state trooper with split-personality disorder named Charlie, played by Carrey, who is assigned to escort Irene Waters, played by Zellweger, from Rhode Island to Massena, New York, to face what she believes is a false hit-and-run accusation set up by her mob-connected ex-boyfriend.
Critical success: 2001-2006:
In 2001, Zellweger gained the prized lead role as Bridget Jones, playing alongside Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, in the British romantic comedy film Bridget Jones's Diary, based on the 1996 novel Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. The choice came amid much controversy since she was neither British nor overweight. During casting, Zellweger was told she was too skinny to play the chubby Bridget, so she quickly embarked on gaining the required weight (20 pounds) and learning an English accent. Her performance as Bridget received praise from critics with Stephen Holden of The New York Times commenting, "Ms. Zellweger accomplishes the small miracle of making Bridget both entirely endearing and utterly real." This role won her first Academy Award for Best Actress, BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role nomination and her second Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy nominations. Along with receiving voice coaching to fine-tune her English accent, part of Zellweger's preparations involved spending three weeks working undercover in a "work experience placement" for British publishing firm Picador in Victoria, London.
In 2002, she starred with Michelle Pfeiffer in White Oleander. The same year, she appeared as Roxie Hart in the critically acclaimed musical film Chicago, directed by Rob Marshall, co-starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, and John C. Reilly. The movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Zellweger received positive reviews. The San Francisco Chronicle 's website SFGate commented, "Zellweger is a joy to watch, with marvelous comic timing and, in her stage numbers, a commanding presence." The Washington Post noted that even though Zellweger couldn't dance well in real life, the audience "wouldn't know it from this movie, in which she dances up a storm." She earned her second nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress and for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, winning her second Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.
In 2004, Zellweger won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain, as well as winning the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, opposite Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. Zellweger has since starred in the sequel to Bridget Jones's Diary, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, receiving her fourth Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy nomination, lent her voice to the DreamWorks animated features Shark Tale and Bee Movie, and starred in the 2005 Ron Howard film Cinderella Man opposite Russell Crowe and Paul Giamatti. On May 24, 2005, Zellweger received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She produced and appeared in Miss Potter, based on the life story of acclaimed author Beatrix Potter, with Emily Watson and Ewan McGregor, released in December 2006 and earned her fifith Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy nomination. Zellweger was awarded the Women in Film Crystal award in 2007.
Recent roles: 2008-present:
In 2008, Zellweger starred in the western Appaloosa with Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen and the period comedy Leatherheads with George Clooney. The same year, Zellweger produced a film, Living Proof, starring Harry Connick Jr., about the true story of Dr. Denny Slamon. The film, produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, premiered in October 2008 on Lifetime Television. The next year, she starred alongside Chris Noth and Kevin Bacon in the feature film My One and Only, as well as in the film New in Town, and a cameo role in the animated film Monsters vs. Aliens. She appeared as a social worker in the psychological horror film Case 39. In 2010, she played a former singer suffering from paralysis in the road movie My Own Love Song. After this performance, she took a 5-year hiatus from screen acting.
In 2013, Zellweger co-created and executive produced Cinnamon Girl, an original drama series set in the Hollywood movie and music scenes of the late '60s/early '70s, but the Lifetime network passed on the pilot.
In 2015, Zellweger is set to star in the upcoming drama thriller film The Whole Truth as Mike's mother. This will be Zellweger's first screen acting role since her 2010 film My Own Love Song.
In 2016, Zellweger is set to star and feature in the film Same Kind of Different as Me as Deborah.
Zellweger is currently in talks with producers and directors to make a third film in the Bridget Jones franchise along with Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. The working title of the film is Bridget Jones's Baby.
Zellweger had a much-publicized romance with her Me, Myself and Irene co-star Jim Carrey, to whom she was engaged from 1999 to 2000. In 2003, Zellweger had a brief but highly publicized romantic relationship with musician Jack White, whom she met while filming Cold Mountain. Their split became public in December 2004.On May 9, 2005, Zellweger married singer Kenny Chesney in a ceremony at the island of St. John. On September 15, 2005, they announced their plans for an annulment. Zellweger cited "fraud" as the reason in the related papers. After media scrutiny of her use of the word "fraud," she qualified the use of the term, stating it was "simply legal language and not a reflection of Kenny's character."
On October 20, 2014, Zellweger appeared at the 21st-annual Elle Magazine Women in Hollywood Awards looking dramatically different from her earlier appearance, leading many in media to remark that she is hardly recognizable as the same person. Zellweger responded, "Perhaps I look different. Who doesn't as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I'm happy." Some plastic surgeons said they did not believe this "pretty remarkable change" was simply the result of aging and a change in mood, but rather resulted from "minor" or "subtle" cosmetic procedures.
Zellweger took part in the 2005 HIV prevention campaign of the Swiss federal health department.
Zellweger is one of the patrons for gender equality foundation The GREAT Initiative; in 2011 she visited Liberia with the charity. In April 2011, Zellweger collaborated with Tommy Hilfiger to design a handbag to raise money and awareness for the Breast Health Institute.
Dazed and Confused
Girl in blue pickup truck
My Boyfriend's Back
Prescott Buckle Bunny
Love and a .45
Shake, Rattle and Rock!
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
Low Life, TheThe Low Life
Whole Wide World, TheThe Whole Wide World
Price Above Rubies, AA Price Above Rubies
One True Thing
Bachelor, TheThe Bachelor
Me, Myself & Irene
Irene P. Waters
Bridget Jones's Diary
Down with Love
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Also executive producer
New in Town
Monsters vs. Aliens
My One and Only
My Own Love Song
The Whole Truth
Same Kind of Different as Me
Taste for Killing, AA Taste for Killing
Murder in the Heartland
Barbara Von Busch
Shake, Rattle and Rock!
Episode: Shake, Rattle and Rock!
King of the Hill
Episode: Ho, Yeah!
Awards and nominations:
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license