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Welcome to Renée Zellweger Network, your newest resource for all things Renée Zellweger. Here you’ll find all the latest news, pictures and information. You may know Renée from movies such as Chicago, Cold Mountain, Jerry Maguire, and Bridget Jones's Diary. We hope you enjoy your stay and have fun!
Latest Pictures
Latest News
  • May 14 - A Taste for Killing Screencaps
  • April 14 - The Thing About Pam: 1.06 – “She’s a Killer” Screen Captures
  • April 07 - The Thing About Pam: 1.05 – “She’s Not Who You Think She Is” Screen Captures
  • April 05 - Judy Screencaps
  • Posted on March 26, 2022 / by RZ in Gallery Update, Interview

    Renée Zellweger’s rescue dog Chester needed a hip replacement. And so, just before the world shut down, the actor left her home in Topanga, a rustic canyon east of Malibu, and drove to the vet. Traffic can be notoriously unpredictable, and she passed the time listening to Dateline NBC’s The Thing About Pam—like all of us, relaxing to a murder podcast.

    Zellweger, 52, spent much of lockdown on her own, tending to endless projects around the house. “I was outside every day, building things and planting things,” she says. “Nature does what it does and, you know, the squirrels and I were at war. Like, ‘Why you gotta dig that big hole there?’ I’m out there every day with my shovel and my bucket. Then I’m inside tinkering. ’Cause you get quiet and you get creative. Busyness is the enemy of creativity.” She studied her mom’s native language, Norwegian, with one of those apps for your phone. (“Now my mom and I can have wonderful conversations about how dogs don’t eat spiders,” she says with a self-deprecating laugh.) Those pioneer-woman vibes remind me of something an ex-boyfriend of Zellweger’s, Jim Carrey, once said of her: “She thinks having a good time is renting a U-Haul and taking furniture to Texas. She’s real in that way.” Still is, apparently. Zellweger tells me about her 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid and how, before the pandemic, she took herself on a date to see the Avett Brothers play in Santa Barbara. Of seeing a concert alone, she says, “You can stay as long as you want! Dance as long as you want to, go to the bathroom—you don’t have to find somebody. Good luck!”

    The world is reopening, but the new normal, whatever that is, can make for some odd moments. The day Zellweger and I meet is no different; there we are, two strangers in a hotel suite in Beverly Hills attempting a face-to-face conversation after two very isolating years. In pre-pandemic times, this would have been a formulaic setting for one of these profiles: lunch at the Four Seasons, salads and French fries for us, a rice-and-chicken bowl for my pup, who was also invited. (His meal is an off-menu treat ordered by Zellweger.) But now, there’s no script. She is dressed in black workout clothes—the preferred armor of pandemic life—and she is at once guarded and warm, with a laugh that could fill a barn. What emerges is a thoughtful, revealing conversation about managing nearly three decades in the public eye, how fate brought her a new chance at love, and a very surprising new project.

    Chester made a full recovery, and it turns out Zellweger gained something too. The podcast she devoured on all those runs to the vet planted the seed for her latest role: starring as the murderous protagonist in the prime-time NBC miniseries The Thing About Pam, adapted from the podcast, which was itself adapted from five twisty Dateline NBC episodes.

    “I wanted to do something that was lighter, which sounds absurd,” Zellweger says, “because this is, ya know, based on a horrific crime.”

    Two days after Christmas in 2011, Betsy Faria was found dead at her home in Troy, Missouri. Her husband, Russ, discovered the body, and his 911 call was frantic. “My name is Russell Faria!” he shouted, wailing and sobbing. “I just got home from a friend’s house and my wife —my wife killed herself. She’s—she’s—she’s on the floor!”

    The jury would later use a recording of that call to convict Russ. He’d been so hysterical, the prosecution argued—so obviously over-the-top—that he must have been acting. Betsy had also been stabbed about 55 times. How could he think she’d killed herself? Besides, if we’ve learned anything from all of these murder shows, it’s that it’s always the husband! Case closed, right? Well, not quite. Russ’s alibi checked out. And after two years in prison, a judge overturned his conviction. By then, a new suspect had emerged: Betsy’s best friend, Pam Hupp, her coworker at an insurance company, who’d been the one to finger Russ. Curiously, she’d also been named the beneficiary of Betsy’s life-insurance policy just days before the murder. Nearly a decade passed, but Pam was eventually charged with first-degree murder. Though she denies the accusation and is awaiting trial, she is also currently serving a life sentence for the murder of another person, a man named Louis Gumpenberger. Oh, and her own mother’s cause of death was recently changed from “accidental” to “undetermined.”

    Hupp was a modern pop-culture fascination—a woman who maybe played everyone for a fool—and the TV series unspools like Desperate Housewives remixed with Fargo. It’s a delicious six-episode binge that Jason Blum, who executive produced the show, calls “heightened true crime.” It’s certainly the only show this season in which an Oscar winner plays a character who drunkenly berates a low-budget wedding DJ.

    “What makes Pam so fascinating is how benign she appeared,” says Zellweger. “Everybody feels like, ‘I know her. I know that lady.’ Someone who looks like your next-door neighbor or the lady who would babysit you turns out to make some choices that are, to put it kindly, illegal. This person was so outrageous, this sense of entitlement—I thought, okay, as an actress, that’s fun.”

    Fun, yes. But prime-time TV? Like, with commercials? “I was a little surprised,” says costar Josh Duhamel, who plays Russ Faria’s defense attorney, of Zellweger’s involvement.

    Blum echoes the point: “Yeah, I was surprised.” He’d pitched Zellweger The Thing About Pam in a general meeting. “Before we finish the sentence, she’s like, ‘I know the whole story, I know everything about it, I want to do it,’ ” he says. Blum was ecstatic but, again, you know, surprised. The actress had been in just a handful of roles over the previous several years (and between 2010 and 2016, she went on a six-year self-imposed hiatus from acting), only to emerge in 2019 playing Judy Garland in Judy, for which she’d go on to win an Oscar. Did she really want to play Pam Hupp? On Tuesday nights?

    “That makes me sound like we didn’t want her for the show,” Blum says. “We all wanted her. We were all thrilled that she would do it. But no one had any idea how well she would be able to connect to this part.”

    Renée Zellweger was a fixture in our lives for so many years—as the single mother Dorothy Boyd in Jerry Maguire, as the iconic everywoman Bridget Jones in three films, as the villainous Roxie Hart in Chicago—but then she disappeared.

    “I needed to not have something to do all the time,” she has said of that period, “to not know what I’m going to be doing for the next two years in advance. I wanted to allow for some accidents.” Zellweger’s retreat from the spotlight was meandering and fruitful. She took college classes in public policy and international law and traveled abroad (nursing her “wanderlust”). She also fell in love and weathered a breakup and took in a couple of dogs—some of those “accidents” she’d hoped for.

    And then, like a phoenix rising—in custom Armani Privé—she was right back on top, hoisting a golden statue from the podium, paying tribute to Garland, who somehow never won a leading-lady Oscar. Everyone wanted to know, what would she do next? We’d have to wait for the answer, as Covid-19 put a pin in the long-awaited Renée-sance. Of that Oscar night in February 2020, she says, “We danced the night away, went home, and locked the doors.”

    So much has changed since then—for all of us, including Zellweger. She lost a close friend of many years, the legendary publicist Nanci Ryder, to ALS in 2020. Then she sold her place in Topanga (more on that soon) and found herself in a new relationship with Ant Anstead, a handsome British TV host and unlikely American tabloid staple, thanks to his brief marriage to Flip or Flop’s Christina Haack. I wondered if the pandemic was somehow different, a forced retreat coming on the heels of such a triumph? Zellweger laughs. “It was heaven!” she says. “I was so blessed that I wasn’t directly affected by the plague. Outside of the horrific effect on society, I think I’m really cut out for a pandemic life.”

    Making Judy, Zellweger says, “was a really nice way to rekindle my love for the process,” likening it to “making a thesis film in college, where it’s a private experience. And you just sneak off and figure your way through it with your couple of friends.” Which is an odd way to describe a movie with a reported $10 million budget and a trove of scarves—so many scarves—but I see her point: She went off to London, slipped into Abbey Road to record, and against all odds resurrected the worn body of an icon in the last days of her life. So much has been made about Zellweger’s physicality in the film—how she held her frame, how she walked down a hallway, so obviously Judy. But what has stayed with me are the vocals, many delivered live on set. Zellweger had to sound like Garland, of course, but the performance wasn’t an imitation; when she sang songs like “The Man That Got Away”—“The night is bitter / The stars have lost their glitter / The winds grow colder / And suddenly you’re older / And all because of the man that got away”—the lyrics felt personal, lived-in.

    Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see Zellweger having a ball on NBC; what fun it must have been to shed the baggage and expectations of an icon to play a bloodthirsty busybody in prime time. And Zellweger tears into the role of Pam Hupp like it’s a porterhouse, giving full Midwest camp in big white snow boots and an oversize puffer jacket, gnawing on a Chill Chugz straw (the made-for-TV version of a Big Gulp) like an old-timey Hollywood villain twirling a mustache.

    That’s the thing about Zellweger: She’s always had a firm grasp on what material moved her, even if those choices sometimes looked surprising (or daunting). This is the woman who—hot off the success of 1996’s Jerry Maguire and just a few years removed from small-town Katy, Texas—reportedly turned down seven-figure offers for big studio films, choosing to wait for something that really grabbed her. What followed was a stunning run: three Oscar nominations in three years, a global franchise in Bridget Jones ($756 million worldwide), and a hunger to produce. At the time, she chased the rights to a not-yet-published novel called Cold Mountain, and while she lost out to a major studio, she got the last laugh: Director Anthony Minghella cast Zellweger in his 2003 adaptation, and she won her first Oscar for the role.

    Holding on to that fierce spirit over the past 25 years in the spotlight could not have been easy, especially in Hollywood, a place where—she found out years later—the character she played in 1994’s Reality Bites was referred to behind her back by some producers and crewmembers as “Tami Bimbo.” And while Zellweger is adamant that she was never a victim, her Hollywood story has not been without its battles. “There have been times I have been in, you know, on set,” she tells me, sharing a moment from early in her career, “where a producer’s ready for me to go ahead and take my clothes off. ‘Here, drink this wine, ’cause then you’ll do it.’ And, you know, I’m not gonna take that wine, but I would like a phone. ’Cause I have a phone call I need to make right now.”

    This is a woman who’s had her life pored over by the press, her relationships (Kenny Chesney, Jack White, Bradley Cooper) breathlessly reported, and her looks needlessly criticized. Her casting in Bridget Jones’s Diary somehow emboldened complete strangers to talk openly about her body, complaining she was too slight—or too Texas—to play the British heroine. Zellweger famously gained weight for the role, but when she shed the pounds, well, armchair pundits felt she’d lost too much weight. Now, all of these years later, they’re talking again—or tweeting, anyway—calling the padding and prosthetics she wears in The Thing About Pam “fatphobic.” It’s a fair point, but maybe Zellweger isn’t the best place to direct that anger.

    During another meeting, over Zoom, I notice a Melvin Sokolsky print from the ’60s hanging on her wall. The photograph was originally shot for Harper’s Bazaar, but that’s just a coincidence. It’s an image of a model inside a plexiglass bubble that’s been suspended over the Hudson River by crane—a paper doll for strangers to gawk at. When she first saw the photo, Zellweger tells me, “I felt like, ‘Oh, I understand her.’ ”

    By the time Jason Blum—whose company, Blumhouse, produced Ethan Hawke’s series The Good Lord Bird and who was himself nominated for a Best Picture Oscar for Jordan Peele’s Get Out—pitched Zellweger on The Thing About Pam, she was already intimately familiar with the material. Like Cold Mountain before this, she’d been obsessed with the source material and had actively pursued the rights, a testament to her instincts. Now that the project had come back around, she went all in, studying audio recordings of Pam Hupp’s interviews with police to get this woman’s vocal cadence and mannerisms down—the way Pam says “blah blah blah,” the way she changes the speed of her voice to “detract from a point she’s not landing successfully,” Zellweger explains.

    Blum likens Zellweger’s transformation to what Russell Crowe did with Roger Ailes in the The Loudest Voice. When Josh Duhamel first saw her in costume, he was shocked. “We were doing some camera tests,” he says, “and she comes walking in. I was like, ‘Oh my God, you are Pam.’ ” He adds, “I didn’t realize how Method she was. I didn’t know if I could talk to her as Renée, or am I supposed to treat you as Pam? Or am I supposed to just leave you be? Because the last thing I want to do is knock her out of whatever mindset she’s in and talk to her as Renée when she’s clearly Pam right now.” (Hearing this, Zellweger says with a laugh, “Well, that’s frightening.”) The Thing About Pam, which Zellweger also executive produced, is the first effort from Big Picture Co., an outfit she launched in 2019 alongside Carmella Casinelli (a producer on the Dakota Johnson film The Peanut Butter Falcon). This is no vanity play; Big Picture Co. has a first-look deal with MGM Television (the company behind The Handmaid’s Tale) and a slate of projects in development, including a historical drama for Peacock.

    Casinelli admits that the idea of Zellweger starring in a prime-time show (and not something for a prestige streamer) was “definitely a conversation,” but the pair felt confident in the new regime at NBC and “that we could thread the needle and do something very unique for broadcast.” But The Thing About Pam also hints at Zellweger’s ambitions for her production company. The Thing About Pam isn’t a limited series so much as a Trojan horse—a potential franchise disguised as an A-list one-off. “The hope is we can find the next The Thing About Pam,” Casinelli says, “and do a follow-up season. Or seasons.”

    Of the miniseries, Zellweger says, “It’s an event. It’s retro. Isn’t it cool?”

    Zellweger sold her house in Topanga in October of 2021; after staring at the walls for almost two years, she says, she needed a change. She was also still processing the loss of Nanci Ryder, a titan in the industry, known for her A-list clients and her flirtatious spirit. Ryder had been diagnosed with ALS in 2014 and succumbed to the disease in June 2020, with Zellweger by her side when she passed.

    But if you believe in serendipity, as Zellweger does, Ryder’s work was not done.

    “It was around Judy,” Zellweger explains, “late night, and I remember I watched the Property Brothers with Brad Pitt.” She’s talking about an HGTV show called Celebrity IOU, in which a famous person honors someone in his or her life—a family member, a beloved employee—by having the Property Brothers renovate their home. Gwyneth Paltrow and Melissa McCarthy have both appeared on the show, but Brad Pitt’s episode is a real tearjerker.

    Zellweger wanted to celebrate the two nurses who’d cared for Ryder in the last years of her life—twin brothers named Jerome Cowan and Jerald Cowan—and as luck would have it, a spin-off was in development. Celebrity IOU: Joyride would feature Ant Anstead—he of the salt-and-pepper hair, dimples for days, and black T-shirts tucked into cargo pants—rebuilding some truly beautiful classic cars. Zellweger leapt at the chance to participate. In the end, Jerome got a 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass and Jerald got a killer vintage Bronco. And Zellweger took home the host.

    It was an obvious match in some respects: Zellweger’s father was an engineer, and she is maybe the only Oscar winner who can confidently fix a gearbox (whatever that is). But in other ways, it was surprising. Anstead, 43, posts to Instagram almost daily and recently had to clarify to his 436,000 followers that his two-year-old son did not cut his own hair with a butter knife. Zellweger, on the other hand, eschews social media entirely, saying, “I don’t look at my phone sometimes until six o’clock at night.”

    And yet there’s that smile when his name comes up. Zellweger is reportedly renting a place in Laguna Beach, where Anstead lives. When I tell her that I’m about to visit a friend in New Orleans, she suggests a Middle Eastern restaurant called Saba that they enjoyed when she was there on location filming Pam, praising the spot’s homemade bread: “You can have 20 loaves of that stuff and it’d be fine!”

    Just before the interview ends—before she puts my dog’s harness back on, giving him a sweet rub-down goodbye—I ask if she thinks Anstead has somehow been a gift from Ryder. Has the powerhouse publicist somehow brought these two together? “Yeah, we do joke about that,” Zellweger says. “She’s always doing her best. It made me smile. It made me smile to think on this, yeah, the serendipity of it all.”

    Harpers Bazaar

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