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Renee Zellweger Biography



"Being horrible in a big film is a quicker nosedive than doing an obscure film and making no money."
-Renée Zellweger



Renée Kathleen Zellweger was born 25 April 1969, in Katy, Texas, a small town outside Houston, to Emil Zellweger, a Swiss-born engineer and Kjellfrid Zellweger, a Norwegian-born former nurse and midwife. The town was so small that there was no local movie theater, nor cable television.  She discovered her interest in acting whilst at high school in the drama club.  Renée didn’t see her first art film until she was enrolled in college.  “I have European parents”, says Zellweger… “so we never did the all-American moviegoing kind of thing.” [Los Angeles Times]  Renée and her older brother of two years, Andrew (nickname Drew) are the first Zellwegers in their family to be born in America; so don’t ask her to change her last name into something more pronounceable.  Zellweger (pronounced ZELL-wegg-er) is a challenge to say, but to Renée’s friends, she’s known as Renée Z., Zelly or just “Z”.


Attending Katy High School, Renée was member of the Thespian Society, the Drama Club (acted in several school productions); and was active on the track team, basketball team, was a football cheerleader, a KHS Homecoming Queen nominee in her Senior Year, and in her spare time practiced gymnastics.  Having hopes of participating in the Olympics, Renée became an athlete in track and gymnastics until the age of 19 when she discovered her vision of “Olympic Glory” would never happen.  After graduating from high school in 1987, Renée moved from her hometown of Katy to Austin, Texas.


She earned a living in Austin working as a waitress at “Sugar’s”, a popular Austin topless bar (though she herself was not topless) while attending the University of Texas, first majoring in journalism, then in English.  Renée lived in an off campus dorm in Dobie Mall in her freshman year, then moved into an apartment in her junior year. An excellent student (she made the Dean's List several times), Renée took a drama class only because she needed a fine arts credit to complete her degree. Her participation in drama while in college turned out to be much more than a requirement:  “So I took it, and I remembered that I loved acting, that it wasn’t just a part of my adolescence.  It’s part of who I am.” [The Dallas Morning News].  She acted in a few school theatre productions and found herself driving her red Honda Accord to Dallas to audition for film parts.  She worked on a few local commercials for beer companies and fast food restaurants.  In 1988, Renée got herself a pet, a dog she named Dylan, after the singer.  She was Labrador/collie mix and Renée gave Dylan a variety of nicknames such as Woof, Woofro and Woofer.  Woof was Renée's best buddy for the next 15 years!


Renée didn't plan on becoming an actress but, by the time she graduated from college, pursuing a career in acting had become a  real goal. Post graduation, Renée remained in Texas until she felt ready to break into Hollywood. She began auditioning for commercials and films that were being shot in Texas. It didn't her take long to get her first film roles in My Boyfriend's Back (1993) and Reality Bites (1994).


Though the roles she landed were bit-parts, the films did well and co-starred respectable actors such as Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke and Matthew McConaughey


An unaccredited role in 1993's Dazed and Confused as a high school senior was her first film role, and was followed by a role in The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (released in 1997). It was on the set of Chainsaw that Renée heard about another film that was in the midst of casting actors. As fate would have it, Renée auditioned for and got the lead. The film was Love and a .45, a film for which Renée received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Debut Performance.


Meanwhile, Renée appeared in other films such as The Low Life, 8 Seconds, Reality Bites, and Empire Records, but it was her starring role in The Whole Wide World which won her praise at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, and led to her breakthrough role in Cameron Crowe's hit Jerry Maguire.


Cameron Crowe was so impressed with her work in The Whole Wide World that he knew Renée would be the perfect choice to play the gal-pal of sports agent Tom Cruise who had been just been dumped by his crazed girlfriend Avery portrayed by Kelly Preston. Renée beat out several better known actresses Bridget Fonda, Cameron Diaz and Mira Sorvino for the part. Her role in Jerry Maguire earned her many awards and a lot of recognition, including a Screen Actor's Guild Nomination for Best Supporting Actress, as well as being named Entertainment Weekly's Best New Movie Actress.


Renée Zellweger arrived on the scene like a bolt of lightning after her turn in Jerry Maguire. How many of us left the theatre remarking, "now that's marriage material!"?


After Jerry Maguire, Renée starred in the smaller films Deceiver and A Price Above Rubies, in which she played a Hasidic Jew. In 1998, she moved onto a more mainstream film, One True Thing, a tearjerker also starring Oscar winners Meryl Streep and William Hurt. The following year, Renée joined Chris O'Donnell in The Bachelor.


Renée also landed the title role in the film Bridget Jones' Diary, beating out popular British actresses to play the role of a single British woman in her 30s.


Faced with topping this career high, Zellweger first opted to essay a supporting role as a foster mother in the film adaptation of the bestseller "White Oleander," then tackled an even greater challenge, singing and dancing in the film musical "Chicago" ( Christmas 2002), adapted from the hit Broadway show. Cast as Roxie Hart, a woman who murders her lover and then dreams of a career as a vaudeville headliner, the actress again proved her detractors wrong, offering a surprising, razor-sharp performance and demonstrating a breathy, but pleasant singing voice, once again snaring a wealth of awards buzz, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.


Her next role was as a modern Doris Day opposite Ewan McGregor in the romantic comedy "Down With Love" (May 2003), followed by a serious turn alongside Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in "Cold Mountain" (Christmas 2003) for which she received a Golden Globe Award and a long deserved "OSCAR" for "Best Supporting Actress", ... and a more fun-filled project, providing a voice for "Angie" in the animated feature "Shark Tale."


After demonstrating such diversity, she was ready to return to familiar territory, reprising her role as Bridget Jones for the sequel "The Edge of Reason" released on November 12, 2004 to mixed reviews.


In "Cinderella Man" Renée teams up with Russell Crowe as Mae Braddock, wife of boxing legend Jim Braddock, in an moving and powerful film to be released on June 3rd, 2005.  This one may be a multiple Oscars winner!


The Janis Joplin biopic "Piece of My Heart", originally scheduled for release in 2004 is being produced by Renée and seems to have taken a step back, as Renée hinted to taking a break from filming during the summer of 2004 during a televised interview on ABC's "The View".


On Monday May 9, 2005, eight months after splitting from White Stripes frontman Jack White, Renee Zellweger wed Singer Kenny Chesney before friends and family members on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.



A secret wish

That Renée lay her head on my shoulder one day ... ... ...

[]     (ed: I concur)