Renée Zellweger Says Those Mean Tweets About Her Face Made Her Stronger Than Ever

“Nothing like international humiliation to set your perspective right!”

G & R
Michael Thompson

Renée Zellweger stepped away from Hollywood for years–she traveled, put a television show into development, took classes at a university in Los Angeles. But now she’s back (unless you count a wild Netflix show, What/If ) with an already widely-critically praised role as Judy Garland in the biopic Judy. And in a wide-ranging new profile for New York Magazine, Zellweger addressed everything from her break from the industry to her horrific rumored-plastic surgery controversy to Harvey Weinstein. “I wasn’t healthy,” Zellweger said. “I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities.”

After running herself ragged with work during her thirties, Zellweger’s therapist encouraged her to take some time off. She said that for about five years she was in a great place, and then controversy struck–after the star made a rare public appearance in 2014, the internet latched on to the possibility that she had had plastic surgery, with several publications releasing invasive articles.

“Nothing like international humiliation to set your perspective right!” she told New York. “It clarifies what’s important to you. And it shakes off any sort of clingy superficiality … that you didn’t have time for anyway. One of the fears that maybe, as artists, we all share — because we have this public experience of being criticized not just for our work but as human beings — is when it gets to be too much, when you learn that your skin is not quite as thick as you need it to be, what is that gonna feel like? Well, now I know. I got the hardest kick. And it ain’t the end.”

Zellweger addressed why talk of surgery can be so deeply hurtful. “Well, because there’s a value judgment that’s placed on us. As if it somehow is a reflection of your character — whether you’re a good person or a weak person or an authentic person,” she said.

“[There was an] implication that I somehow needed to change what was going on because it wasn’t working,” she says. “That makes me sad. I don’t look at beauty in that way. And I don’t think of myself in that way. I like my weird quirkiness, my off-kilter mix of things. It enables me to do what I do. I don’t want to be something else. I got hired in my blue jeans and cowboy boots with my messy hair. I started working like that. I didn’t have to change to work. So why was I suddenly trying to fit into some mold that didn’t belong to me?”

Writer Jonathan Van Meter also broached another difficult topic: Harvey Weinstein. Zellweger’s Oscar nominated roles–from Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago, and Cold Mountain–were all in films produced by Weinstein. And so Zellweger was asked for her thoughts on Weinstein’s crimes, sexual harassment in Hollywood, and the #MeToo movement at large.

“It’s a hard thing to talk about in this context,” she said. “It’s such a big topic. And it’s personal and it’s not. And it’s something that’s always been there and the shift is overdue and you could feel it coming for a while and it was inevitable. And thank God. But, in some ways, I feel: Oh gosh, I allowed for the tiny cuts that just seemed like, ‘Oh, this is just how it’s always been.’ But I was never a victim of it.”

“I always felt that I knew what to do in those circumstances,” she continued. “I didn’t feel … accostable. I never felt that I was being insulted, demeaned. I didn’t recognize it as that. It was jocular — it’s a joke. And then there’s that other side of it: that I love male-female banter, that playful dynamic. So, it’s a big conversation. I’m sure that I was on the receiving end of something that I don’t even know about, in conversations that I wasn’t privy to. But it wasn’t something that I felt, it wasn’t something that I was aware of. I was very surprised by some of the things that were unearthed. I didn’t know.”