Being one of Hollywood’s hottest actresses means Renée Zellweger is seldom out of the headlines. Yet she tells Gabrielle Donnelly she’s happiest when she’s taking time out away from the spotlight
“I guess I was about 19,” says Renée Zellweger, remembering her first acting job. “I was in college, and I landed a role in a film that another student was making as his thesis. It was based on a short story by the US writer, Flannery O’Connor, and we shot it in a little tiny deserted town outside of Boston where the drugstore was the same as it had been for 50 years or more.
“It was closed, but you could look through the dirty, cracked, smoked-up windows and see the stock still in there in dusty boxes. We had no money, of course, so we had to drive ourselves to work, the hours were a little obscure and there were only five of us on the crew, so you’d be holding the mike while you were acting, and holding the light and leaning to the side so you could cut off the frame and not see that you were holding it – and I loved it!
“I loved sitting on the creaky front porch, with the spiders and the splinters and the nails sticking out and looking out at the remnants of the dirt road. I don’t know whether it was the romance of it, or the environment, or the cooperative effort of making something happen that at times seemed impossible. But I do remember thinking, ‘This is something that matters to me, and I hope that one day I’ll understand more about what it’s about.’ And that’s something I’m still learning.”