Inside Renée Zellweger's life in and out of the spotlight as fourth Bridget Jones movie is announced

Inside Renée Zellweger's life in and out of the spotlight as fourth Bridget Jones movie is announced

Renée Zellweger is a Hollywood legend, who won a legion of loyal fans for her portrayal of the beloved and ever self-deprecating Bridget Jones.

And it’s because of her iconic character that Zellweger's name has been making headlines again, following news a fourth installment of the film series, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, is going into production.

Alongside Hugh Grant, the Oscar winner will continue Bridget's journey, picking up four years after the events of the previous film, Bridget Jones' Baby.

This latest project is just another highlight in Zellweger's illustrious career. From her glamorous rise to fame in the '90s to her unexpected hiatus from acting for six years, followed by a triumphant return to the screen in 2016, her journey in the industry has been anything but ordinary.

The Standard takes a look at Zellweger's life and career in - and out - of the spotlight:

Road to Hollywood

Zellweger’s plans for a career in journalism were scuppered when she fell in love with acting while studying English literature at the University of Texas at Austin.

After dabbling in some amateur college dramatics, she found her acting feet in minor roles before landing her first leading role in 1995 slasher film The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre alongside Matthew McConaughey.

However, it was her role in the 1996 romantic comedy Jerry Maguire that catapulted her to stardom. Acting opposite Tom Cruise, the film grossed over US$273 million worldwide and earned her, her first SAG nomination.

And that was just the beginning of the accolades as Zellweger garnered much critical acclaim for her comedy roles opposite Jim Carrey in Me, Myself and Irene as well as 2000’s Nurse Betty alongside Morgan Freeman.

Six years after her SAG nom, Zellweger earned a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Roxie Hart in the hit 2002 musical film Chicago and her second Academy Award nom.

A mere two years later, she clinched an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the period epic Cold Mountain alongside Nicole Kidman, further cementing her position as a rising star in Hollywood's acting elite.

Bridget Jones success

 (Paramount Pictures)
(Paramount Pictures)

While the actor has certainly enjoyed an accomplished career, it's her portrayal of the relatable and endearing Bridget Jones from the book series written by Helen Fielding that has arguably garnered her the most global recognition.

In 2001, the 54-year-old landed the lead role in British rom-com Bridget Jones' Diary, alongside Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. The film follows Jones' personal and professional escapades as she navigates single life in her 30s.

Despite hesitations from producers and even co-star Grant about her casting, the inaugural film of the franchise proved to be a major success, grossing US$281 million worldwide.

Furthermore, her performance in the film earned her nominations for prestigious awards including a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, a BAFTA, and an Oscar.

Building on the success of the initial film, two sequels were released: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason in 2004, followed by Bridget Jones' Baby twelve years later in 2016.

At present, the star is gearing up for the fourth installment, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, slated to begin production in London in May and scheduled for release on Valentine’s Day in 2025.

Six-year acting hiatus

Arguably at the pinnacle of her career, with Chicago, Cinderella Man, two Bridget Jones films, and a plethora of awards under her belt, the Texas-born star disappeared from the spotlight.

After a decade and a half on-screen, the actress suddenly bowed out of the rat race for reasons unknown, taking a six-year hiatus to recalibrate and explore other interests.

In 2019, Zellweger reflected on her hiatus from the limelight and explaining how “crucial” it was to her mental health.

"I wasn't healthy. I wasn't taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities," she told New York magazine.

The movie star said she realised she was depressed, and that taking time away from the helped her figure out her priorities after her weight and appearance were constantly under scrutiny in the tabloids.

That said, she emphasised that her time away from acting was “joyful”, sharing with the outlet: “I had a good five-year period when I was joyful and in a new chapter that no one was even aware of,” she said.

During this time, Zellweger revealed that she had shifted her focus away from acting and returned to university to pursue studies in public policy.

“I snuck into UCLA for a little while to study public policy,” she told Today in 2022. “I needed to step away and grow as a person and learn some things that were not related to work.”

Except for a brief appearance in 2014 when she graced the red carpet at the ELLE Women in Hollywood Awards, her hiatus concluded in 2016 when she reprised her role in the third installment of the Bridget Jones franchise.

Second Oscar win


In 2019, Zellweger embraced a new challenge by portraying Judy Garland in the biographical drama Judy.

Her portrayal of the screen icon earned her widespread acclaim, leading to her second Academy Award win – this time for Best Actress.

She also earned a fourth Golden Globe, a third SAG, and a second BAFTA Award for her portrayal. Additionally, her vocal performance on the film's soundtrack earned her a Grammy.

Life away from the spotlight

 (Instagram/Ant Anstead)
(Instagram/Ant Anstead)

Having navigated a successful career, Zellweger's romantic life has drawn equally as much attention.

In the early 2000s, she was briefly engaged to fellow actor Jim Carrey, who branded her “the last great love of [my] life”. The pair were only together for two years and met on the set of the 1999 Farrelly brothers’ comedy Me, Myself & Irene.

Additionally, she had fleeting relationships with musician Jack White, Bradley Cooper, Doyle Bramall II, Irish singer Damian Rice and a four-month marriage to singer Kenny Chesney.

She is currently dating English television presenter Ant Anstead after they crossed paths in 2021 while filming Celebrity IOU: Joyride. Fast forward three years, and the couple are set to mark their third anniversary soo