Words by Suzy Byrne.
She also talked about being diagnosed with depression during her six-year hiatus from Hollywood, and is sure to get the rumour mill going by referencing an ex-boyfriend of hers who is gay.
The Bridget Jones’s Diary actress, who portrays Judy Garland in the new biopic Judy, talked about the big to-do over her appearance – and whether she altered it – in 2014 at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards, which led to her penning an essay for HuffPost entitled “We Can Do Better”.
“There’s a value judgment that’s placed on us,” Zellweger said. “As if it somehow is a reflection of your character – whether you’re a good person or a weak person or an authentic person.”
The star, who was on a self-imposed hiatus from Hollywood at the time of the kerfuffle, said “the implication” was that “I somehow needed to change what was going on because it wasn’t working. That makes me sad. I don’t look at beauty in that way. And I don’t think of myself in that way.
“I like my weird quirkiness, my off-kilter mix of things. It enables me to do what I do. I don’t want to be something else. I got hired in my blue jeans and cowboy boots with my messy hair. I started working like that. I didn’t have to change to work. So why was I suddenly trying to fit into some mould that didn’t belong to me?”
Zellweger was pulled unwillingly into the Harvey Weinstein drama last year despite keeping silent about the disgraced movie mogul, who produced the three films she received Oscar nods for, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago and Cold Mountain.
That’s because, in a class-action lawsuit filed last year, actress Melissa Sagemiller claimed Weinstein had told her that he’d received “sexual favours” from Zellweger and Charlize Theron. Through her rep at the time, Zellweger said, “If Harvey said that, he’s full of sh*t.”
“It’s a hard thing to talk about in this context,” Zellweger said. “It’s such a big topic. And it’s personal and it’s not. And it’s something that’s always been there and the shift is overdue and you could feel it coming for a while and it was inevitable. And thank God. But, in some ways, I feel: Oh gosh, I allowed for the tiny cuts that just seemed like, ‘Oh, this is just how it’s always been.’ But I was never a victim of it.”
She continued: “I always felt that I knew what to do in those circumstances. I didn’t feel ... accostable. I never felt that I was being insulted, demeaned. I didn’t recognise it as that. It was jocular – it’s a joke. And then there’s that other side of it: that I love male-female banter, that playful dynamic.
“So, it’s a big conversation. I’m sure that I was on the receiving end of something that I don’t even know about, in conversations that I wasn’t privy to. But it wasn’t something that I felt, it wasn’t something that I was aware of. I was very surprised by some of the things that were unearthed. I didn’t know.”
Zellweger again discussed her hiatus from Hollywood, during which found herself again by taking classes and living an authentic life out of the limelight. She said the time was “important” to her – and that it led to self-discoveries, including her therapist diagnosing her with depression.
“He recognised that I spent 99% of my life as the public persona and just a microscopic crumb of a fraction in my real life,” she said. “I needed to not have something to do all the time, to not know what I’m going to be doing for the next two years in advance. I wanted to allow for some accidents. There had to be some quiet for the ideas to slip in.”
Thanks to that therapist, she came to the realisation that she was depressed, she said.
“Nothing like international humiliation to set your perspective right!” she said with a laugh. “It clarifies what’s important to you. And it shakes off any sort of clingy superficiality … that you didn’t have time for anyway.
“One of the fears that maybe, as artists, we all share – because we have this public experience of being criticised not just for our work but as human beings – is when it gets to be too much, when you learn that your skin is not quite as thick as you need it to be, what is that gonna feel like? Well, now I know. I got the hardest kick. And it ain’t the end.”
But she also wants to be perfectly clear: the rough patch only lasted a year. “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 she is nervous for some young actresses who go from set to set and have a lost look in their eyes as they pose on red carpets.
“You can see how vulnerable they are,” she said. “When you’re not grounded, how can you have boundaries?”
When the interviewer said it is hard to keep up that grind forever, she replied, “Well, you can. But then you’re really unhealthy and unbalanced and, you know, about to die. And then you look back on it and wonder what happened. And where are the relationships that you didn’t have a chance to nurture?”
The interview will likely cause rumours to fly with mention of an ex-boyfriend of hers who is gay. She mentioned it while discussing Garland being a gay icon – and how she’s been asked about her relationship with the gay community while promoting Judy.
“In England,” she said, “I was speaking with this gentleman who edits this wonderful periodical and he said to me, ‘What is your relationship to the gay community?’ And I thought, Oh gosh, here we go!
“Now I just sound like a jerk, because I don’t think about it, which kind of sounds like, Oh, you’re just indifferent to it. And it’s completely the opposite! I had a very hard time answering his question. And then I thought, Well, what isn’t it? I’m not a wife of, I’m not a daughter of, and I’m not a sister of or a mother of [any gay men]. But I’m everything else. Everything else!
“I’m the obvious: I’m an ex-girlfriend of, I’m a best friend of, I’m a mentor of, I’m a student of, I’m a client of, a partner of, I’m a neighbour, I’m a boss, a collaborator. I’m a patient. I’m a customer. I’m a constituent!”
She didn’t divulge who the ex was. She’s been dating musician Doyle Bramhall III since 2012, and her famous exes include Kenny Chesney, Bradley Cooper, Jim Carrey and Jack White, among others.
Watch a trailer for Judy below.