The actress spoke with Richard Linklater at Austin Film Society
Introducing Judy to a sold-out crowd at AFS Cinema last week, Renée Zellweger called the film a “labor of love steeped in adoration and admiration” for Judy Garland. Zellweger plays the performer in her later days, singing in a large London nightclub. The film, which came out earlier this year, shows young Garland (played by Darci Shaw) treated as a product by studio bosses and how such treatment informed her view of herself. “It’s hard to imagine being exploited in that way,” the Texan actress told Richard Linklater in a lengthy Q&A session after the screening, a benefit event for Austin Film Society.
While the movie lacks subtlety and can be quite heavy-handed at times, Zellweger is the saving grace. There are moments she is so convincing — particularly during the musical numbers, although Zellweger doesn’t attempt to mimic Garland’s vibrato — that one might be tempted to think you are watching Garland. Zellweger spent a year building up her vocal strength for the belting.
She talked about the origins of this project, brought to her attention by friend and producer David Livingstone. The film collaboration began with “the music and the look,” she told Linklater. The filming was done in five weeks. Zellweger said that the cast and crew felt called “to advocate for” the legendary performer.
After Linklater asked about her recent break, Zellweger told him that unlike Garland, “I could step away and she didn’t know how to.” Whereas Garland let her relationships with others — particularly controlling men — define and overwhelm her, the Oscar-winning Texan commented, “I understand that gulf between that public persona and the truth of a life.”
She accepted questions from the audience about costuming (mentioning that the nightclub gowns were tailored to make her posture similar to that of Garland), historical accuracy in Judy, and how long it has taken her to decompress after playing this role. “I don’t think I have… I don’t think I want to,” Zellweger confessed.
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