Biopics have always been a tried and true genre in filmmaking, one capable of plenty of awards and nominations. We saw this to great length with last year's Bohemian Rhapsody, which took home a ton of statues. The newest musical biopic to hit theaters is Rupert Goold's Judy, which arrived in theaters last week. The movie is a joyful and honest look at the infamous signer's later life, with Renee Zellweger playing Garland. And now Goold has explained why the Oscar-winning actress was the right choice for the part.
Judy Garland is an iconic American treasure, so finding the right actress to play the role was no doubt a challenge during Judy's inception. Renee Zellweger had previously taken a break from Hollywood, but the Chicago actress stepped into Judy Garland's skin, including a ton of vocal work for the musical numbers. Rupert Goold spoke to the processing of casting Zellweger, saying:
Garland had such incredible emotional immediacy. You feel like you’re getting a spirit that has this innate innocence and hopefulness in it, and I wanted someone who had that kind of fragility.
Having met Renee Zellweger for Judy at the Toronto International Film Festival, I can attest to the sentiment Rupert Goold is offering. The 50 year-old actress has an vulnerability, warmth, and softness to her. And she was able to bring that to her performance as Judy Garland.
Throughout Judy, the movie is certainly buoyed by the title character's charm and sense of hope. While the story is a dark one and the Garland struggles through her residency across the pond, she brings joy to everyone she meets. What's more, you see the mother who is just working to try and support her children.
Renee Zellweger is an acclaimed actress, who consistently got Oscar nominations at the height of her career. But following Bridget Jones' Baby in 2010, she took a break from the public eye. There were a few years of purposeful inactivity, before Zellweger came back with projects like Judy and her Netflix series What/If. And it looks like Rupert Goold's biopic might get her another set nominations this season.
Later in the same long interview with The New York Times, Renee Zellweger explained how breaking up her work schedule was beneficial, especially for a demanding shooting movie like Judy. As she explained it,
Instead of saying, ‘Boy, I sure hope I can make that special person’s birthday party,’ I needed to say, ‘I’m going to the birthday party,’ and I didn’t feel like I had the right to make that decision because of the blessing of this work... It made me appreciate my little bit of experience with having to navigate your way around a public persona that’s a ball hog in your life.
This makes a great deal of sense, and these feelings about fame and being a public persona are also at the heart of Judy's story. She gave so much to her fans, sometimes to the detriment of her well-being. The toxic side of the movie business affected Garland from an early age, and resulted in her substance and trust issues. Perhaps if she was able to take a break while still supporting herself, the legend's story might have turned out differently.