After a string of career highs, followed by a valley of box-office and critical duds, actor Renée Zellweger made headlines for largely retreating from the Hollywood spotlight from 2010 until 2016, when she returned to the big screen to reprise her celebrated Bridget Jones role in “Bridget Jones’s Baby.”
Ahead of this fall’s release of “Judy,” in which she plays the legendary Judy Garland during the tumultuous final months of the star’s life, Zellweger is speaking candidly about her hiatus from Hollywood.
In a profile published Tuesday in New York Magazine’s Vulture, the Oscar winner recounted that she had experienced burnout and depression because of her relentless career in the early 2000s.
“I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities,” she said, describing that during her period away from acting, she began seeing a therapist for the first time.
“He recognized that I spent 99 percent of my life as the public persona and just a microscopic crumb of a fraction in my real life. I needed to not have something to do all the time, to not know what I’m going to be doing for the next two years in advance,” she said. “I wanted to allow for some accidents. There had to be some quiet for the ideas to slip in.”
She also recalled not being able to recognize that she was burned out due to the relentless pace of her career, saying that she kept pretending that “you’re okay to go and do this next thing.”
“You probably need to stop right now, but this creative opportunity is so exciting and it’s once-in-a-lifetime and you will regret not doing it,” she said. “But actually, no, you should collect yourself and, you know … rest.”
Zellweger said she also worries about younger actors, warning of the dangers of constantly working.
“You’re really unhealthy and unbalanced and, you know, about to die. And then you look back on it and wonder what happened,” she said. “And where are the relationships that you didn’t have a chance to nurture?”
The actor has also been candid about sexist scrutiny of women’s appearances, especially as they get older. In a 2016 post for HuffPost, she responded to the furor over a 2014 public appearance that drew speculation over whether she had gotten plastic surgery (which she denied), calling out tabloid journalism’s propensity to capitalize on women’s looks.
“It’s no secret a woman’s worth has historically been measured by her appearance,” she wrote. “Although we have evolved to acknowledge the importance of female participation in determining the success of society, and take for granted that women are standard bearers in all realms of high profile position and influence, the double standard used to diminish our contributions remains, and is perpetuated by the negative conversation which enters our consciousness every day as snark entertainment.