celebrity

“I wasn’t healthy." In 2010, Renee Zellweger abruptly disappeared from the spotlight.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Renee Zellweger was everywhere you turned.

She became widely known after starring in Jerry Maguire, and then cemented herself as a household name with Bridget Jones’s Diary in 2001.

She’s received three Oscar and six Golden Globe noms, and won an Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA Award and SAG Award for 2003’s Cold Mountain.

In short, Renee Zellweger was a powerhouse.

Listen to Mamamia’s daily entertainment podcast The Spill where hosts Laura Brodnik and Kee Reece explain the disappearance of    Renee Zellweger.

But in 2010, after a series of films that didn’t hit the mark, Zellweger retreated from Hollywood. Her break lasted six years.

In a interview with Vulture, Zellweger has explained why she decided to take a step back.

It was, in part, thanks to some words of wisdom from her friend Salma Hayek:

“She shared this beautiful… metaphor? Analogy? ‘The rose doesn’t bloom all year … unless it’s plastic’,” Zellweger explained.

“I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities,” she said, explaining that around this time she saw a therapist for the first time.

“He recognised that I spent 99 percent of my life as the public persona and just a microscopic crumb of a fraction in my real life. 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.”

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Renee Zellweger at the Vanity Fair 2019 Oscars after party. Image: Getty.

This helped her realise that she was, for that first year, depressed.

"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."

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Thankfully, she said, her rough patch ended and she "had a good five-year period when I was  joyful and in a new chapter that no one was even aware of".

During her time away from the spotlight, Zellweger powered her energy into passion projects.

She created television series Cinnamon Girl, a 60s and 70s set coming-of-age drama that did not get picked up. She spent time travelling. She took classes at a Los Angeles university, to learn about international policy.

There was also, of course, that time in 2014 when she was back in everyone's consciousness.

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Renee Zellweger in 2014. Image: Getty.

When Zellweger walked a red carpet in October that year, after a four year acting hiatus, her appearance sparked, well, what can be described as a tsunami of opinions and hot takes about her face.

In countless columns and articles, the then-46-year-old was accused of having plastic surgery and was labelled 'unrecognisable'.

It was a question that began an onslaught: of commentary, of side-by-side photo comparisons. A question that sparked Zellweger to reply in an essay of her own.

"I can’t imagine there’s dignity in explaining yourself to those who trade in contrived scandal, or in seeking the approval of those who make fun of others for sport," she wrote.

"Not that it’s anyone’s business, but I did not make a decision to alter my face and have surgery on my eyes."

To Vulture, Zellweger addressed the speculation about her appearance, saying: "Well, because there’s a value judgement that’s placed on us. As if it somehow is a reflection of your character - whether you’re a good person or a weak person or an authentic person".

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"And the implication 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?"

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Renee at the premiere of Netflix's What/If in 2019. Image: Getty.

After six years, Zellweger returned to movies.

A lot had changed: Streaming (and superhero movies) now held great power. The man who had produced so many of her most critically-acclaimed films, Bridget Jones’s DiaryChicago, and Cold Mountain, had been accused of many, many sex crimes. Harvey Weinstein was gone, and the #MeToo movement was in full swing.

Zellweger said she was unaware of Weinstein's actions and denied that he was very inappropriate with her.

Her comeback movie was a successful, albeit safe, bet. In 2016, she once again played her most famous character for the third movie in the Bridget Jones series, Bridget Jones's Baby. 

She's also taken a leaf out of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman's book (Oh, and Meryl Streep's) by embracing television - and streaming - by starring in Netflix series What/If.

This year she's returned to the big screen as one of its most famous faces Judy Garland in biopic, Judy.

Discussing Garland, who battled addiction and died from an accidental overdose aged 47, Zellweger lamented how there was "no room on the schedule for her sanity". It's a sentence that seems familiar to Zellweger. She could very well have been talking about herself, circa 2010.

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