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Renée Zellweger to Fill Judy Garland’s Shoes in Upcoming Biopic

Renée Zellweger is returning to star as one of Hollywood’s darlings.
By  · Published on October 23rd, 2017

Renée Zellweger is returning to star as one of Hollywood’s darlings.

Renée Zellweger has landed her biggest role since returning as Bridget Jones in 2016. Variety reports that Zellweger will star as Hollywood legend Judy Garland. The upcoming biopic aims to chronicle the iconic singer’s final concerts in London.

The film, titled Judy, will be set 30 years after Garland’s rise to fame in The Wizard of Oz. In true biopic form, it will depict Garland’s ups and downs. While she performs in a sold-out stage run and interacts with adoring fans, friends and eventually meets her fifth husband, Garland is plagued by memories of her past and longs to reunite with her children.

This may sound like just another film in the curious case of the biopic. True stories remain a mainstay in Hollywood, particularly because the challenge of technicality that allows actors to fully metamorphose and prove their abilities. As Ciara Wardlow distills in her article:

“There is nothing an actor can do that is quite so chameleon-like as transforming into another familiar figure, especially one that differs significantly from their own. This transformation is very rarely “complete” enough to be truly compelling, but on the rare occasion it is, it does truly feel like watching some kind of magic trick.”

However, Zellweger’s and Garland’s paths have certain parallels, and arguably that has its own appeal too. As women swept up in the throes of Hollywood, they were judged harshly in their years as rising stars, causing them to leave the limelight for some time. Over the years since attaining mainstream success in Jerry Maguire and later the Bridget Jones series, Zellweger’s physical appearance has been deeply scrutinized by the press. Prior to the release of Bridget Jones’s Baby, Zellweger penned an op-ed defending herself against more dire criticisms: “because witnessing the transmutation of tabloid fodder from speculation to truth is deeply troubling.”

Garland suffered similarly in the film industry, with many — including herself — being critical of her onscreen appearance. But what accompanied was a life of substance abuse and an overall deterioration of Garland’s physical and mental health. These are the grisly details that require some of that chameleonic power of acting to achieve in a biopic. And as a multi-award-winning actor, Zellweger is probably more than up for that task.

It can be easy to remain fixated on the horrors of Garland’s life behind the scenes when retelling her life story. Judy won’t be the first time Garland’s life was adapted for the screen. For the moment, one of the biggest draws to Judy is arguably the music, which producers are quick to reassure fans of both Garland and Zellweger that it will one of the film’s key features. Judy will reportedly feature some of Garland’s best-known songs, and for many a Chicago fan, the idea of Zellweger singing onscreen again is thoroughly exciting in and of itself. Currently, Zellweger can be seen in the Christian drama, Same Kind of Different as Me, which just premiered in cinemas last week.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)