Renee Zellwegger Says Playing Judy Garland Changed Everyday

Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland on stage in biopic Judy
(Image credit: (BBC Films))

As this year draws to a close, award season is starting to play its opening tune. In the Best Actress category, Renée Zellweger seems to have found herself a sure seat, following her tour-de-force performance as the iconic Judy Garland biopic, Judy. Now that the seasoned actress seems to be this year’s early frontrunner, it’s about time to get a bit into the craft of how she pulled it off. According to the actress, the role always kept her on the tip-top of her ruby slippers. In Zellweger’s words:

It was a process that was in constant motion — just little experiments — and we were trying things every day. And it didn't feel like making a film; it felt like this celebration of her because everybody came to set and was motivated by the same affection or adoration for her. Someone would find a recording or we'd read something in a book, and we were always sharing and adjusting according to what came along, making choices on the day, and just conjuring her essence as truthfully as we could based on those things, that treasure we were mining for every day.

No day was the same playing Judy Garland. As the actress explained to THR, there was tons of experimentation during the production of the filmm but their headspace was very much in paying homage to the Hollywood legend’s life. It’s apparent in her Judy performance – Renée Zellweger approached playing Garland from a place of love. It benefits the movie vastly, because the audience isn’t lost in the exactness of her imitation, but instead swept up in the emotion of her story. Zellweger continued:

It was never disconnected. I mean it sounds so crazy but it felt — her essence was palpable on the set because her music was always playing and we were always listening to recordings of her voice.

The actress was constantly immersed in the late Judy Garland throughout the production, often informing her performance through actual recordings of the Wizard of Oz star. The movie follows her later life as she headlines a show in London and deals with drug and alcohol addiction, as well as a custody battle and financial struggles.

Judy’s director Rupert Goold has said Renée Zellweger was the right actress to play her because of her “incredible emotional immediacy” and “hopefulness” in her spirit that he felt he wanted to bring to life in the biopic. Perhaps her methods to capture her essence instead of going too technical with it is part of her claim to fame here. Zellweger’s role in Judy comes shortly after she took a long break from the spotlight to focus on herself.

Other actresses surrounding this year’s Best Actress category early on is Awkwafina in The Farewell, Cynthia Erivo for Harriet and Lupita Nyong’o for Us. Depictions of actual people certainly seem to have an edge during awards season and Renée Zellweger has been a long beloved actress, previously in roles such as Chicago and Jerry Maguire and winning in the Supporting Actress category back in 2004 for Cold Mountain.

What did you think of Renée Zellweger’s performance in Judy? Sound off in the comments below and stay tuned with us for more award season coverage

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.