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Renée Zellweger: What I Know Now

The film star returns to play Judy Garland in a role some say is her best yet

spinner image Renee Zellweger attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 24, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California.
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Taking a breather

I was always spoiled with the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve gotten to work with. But I got caught up in the cycle of obligations and pressures. The next project, the next product. It was time to learn something about myself, to do things for the sake of doing them.

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Lifelong learning

Public policy fascinates me, so I went back to school to study international law. I love it! I love understanding what motivates people. And unlike 18-year-old me in the classroom, I know that not everything hangs in the balance. You’ll be OK even if you don’t get an A. 

Watch the Trailer for 'Judy'

Keeping the change

In Texas, I worked as a cocktail waitress in a strip club. One gentleman would tip me $100 every time he came in, because I think he felt sorry for me. He saw me as a poor student. Did I

“So we gathered as a family that one night every year when The Wizard of Oz came on… Getting into her character felt like a quiet immersion into someone who was practically a relative.”

- Renée Zellweger on playing Judy Garland

feel sorry for myself? Never. Financing my own way through college was a defining marker for me. And now I overtip. I know the difference that can make in someone’s day.

All that glitters

The meaning of having an Oscar is mysterious to me. The feeling changes with time. It’s mercurial. Some days it feels like, Wow, what a blessing to have a career that’s led to that. Other times, I look at it and go, 'Did that really happen?' It feels like a story about somebody else. It somehow reflects back to how I’m feeling at the time.

Skip the tweets

There’s so much noise out there. People commenting on your every move, on how you look. My secret is ignorance! I’m not on Twitter anymore or any of that. I’m oblivious to it, unless someone points out something on social media that it’s absolutely essential for me to know. It has nothing to do with the truth of a person’s real narrative. 

At home with Judy

I’m from the generation who, if you missed something on TV, you missed it. So we gathered as a family that one night every year when The Wizard of Oz came on. My parents had a turntable and later a reel-to-reel for playing her music, so Judy‘s music was always playing in the background, too. Getting into her character felt like a quiet immersion into someone who was practically a relative. I never had formal dance or voice training—it was hours of makeup, singing, dancing. But there are certain things in life that you should never wait to be invited to try. At this stage, why count yourself out?

They say it’s your birthday

The best present I got for my 50th was a houseful of friends dancing the night away, to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, some Texas blues—until I couldn’t feel my feet. And I don’t call it aging; I call it winning. It’s just so much fun to say no and to do things you’ve wanted to try. You don’t have to be perfect at something; just start walking toward it and see where the adventure goes.

Renée Zellweger, 50, won an Oscar for her performance in Cold Mountain. and stars in the Netflix series What/If. The Judy Garland biopic, Judy, premieres on September 27. 

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