Renée Zellweger recently walked the yellow brick road in the performance of her career, portraying the iconic Old Hollywood actress Judy Garland in Judy, a biopic depicting the Wizard of Oz actress in the final months of her life. Recently, Zellweger discussed her transformation into Garland. As you can imagine, it was a difficult and time-consuming process.
Depicting Her Dark Days
Fans love to remember Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, or as the charming singer-actress who starred in several films throughout the 1940s and ‘50s, including Meet Me in St. Louis, Easter Parade, Summer Stock, A Star Is Born, and more. She was America’s sweetheart, and that’s how fans will always want to remember her as—a gorgeous singer-actress who never failed to dazzle a crowd.
But Judy doesn’t showcase Garland’s beautiful early career in Hollywood. Instead, the film (directed by theater veteran Rupert Goold) depicts Garland at her lowest point. She sings several of her most cherished songs, including “Over the Rainbow,” but Garland isn’t always happy. She’s broke, unemployed, and struggling to find a place to live. She was forced to leave her children behind in Los Angeles in the winter of 1968 while she performs shows at London’s Talk of the Town nightclub.
However, a year later on June 22, 1968, Garland died of an accidental overdose, devastating her family and fans. Zellweger admitted she didn’t know this information about Garland prior to beginning the film project. She commented, “I didn’t know about any of the challenges that she was grappling with later in her life.”
“I found it fascinating that a woman who began working at 2 could find herself living under such stressful circumstances after so many years of work,” Zellweger added. She also knew there was more to tell about Garland’s story. “And then to see her lampooned in a lot of the retelling of her story—you know, from my little experience with it, I know that there’s more to it. That there are omissions.”
Stepping Into Judy’s Ruby Slippers
Zellweger has had her fair share of memorable movie roles, including Jerry Maguire, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago, and Cold Mountain, for which she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. However, even though she’s a seasoned actress, she had her challenges preparing for the role of the one and only Judy Garland.
For instance, learning to speak in Garland’s distinctive voice and sing her iconic songs were the more difficult challenges. “I never tried to hit any of those notes before. So, I started the vocal training and the practical training that I could, just to see what that felt like and to see what was necessary in order to actually make that sound.”
Zellweger worked tirelessly to match the pitch and raspiness of Garland’s voice in 1968, where years of alcohol and drug abuse affected her voice. While Garland experienced pain and heartache, darkness didn’t completely consume her life. Zellweger said, “Her joy and her wit and her kindness and her humor never left. She was wildly funny.”
Generating Oscar Buzz
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences tends to favor biopics about famous celebrities. For example, Rami Malek won the Academy Award in 2019 for his portrayal of Queen’s Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. In 2004, Jamie Foxx won the Academy Award for Ray (portraying Ray Charles). In 1980, Sissy Spacek won the same award for her portrayal of country music icon Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that fans and critics already predict Zellweger will be nominated for the Academy Award for her performance in Judy. A critic at The Hollywood Reporter commented about Zellweger’s performance: “She captures sides of Garland’s personality that not everyone acknowledges, particularly her self-deprecating sense of humor.”
As for Zellweger, she’s ignoring the awards buzz. “I’m just not aware of this stuff,” she shared. Zellweger isn’t thinking about her potential next Academy Award. Instead, she prefers living in the moment and taking one day at a time. She likes to stay home. Perhaps she learned that from Garland, who always said, “There’s no place like home.”
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