Renée Kathleen Zellweger (born April 25, 1969) is an American actress and producer. Zellweger first gained widespread attention for her role in the film Jerry Maguire (1996), and subsequently received two nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her roles as Bridget Jones in the comedy Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), and as Roxie Hart in the musicalChicago (2002). She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama Cold Mountain (2003).
She has won an Academy Award, three Golden Globe Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a BAFTA Award; was named Hasty Pudding's Woman of the Year in 2009; and established herself as one of the highest-paid Hollywood actresses as of 2007.
While still in Texas, Zellweger appeared in several films. One was A Taste for Killing (1992), followed by a role in the ABC miniseries Murder in the Heartland (1993). The following year, she appeared in Reality Bites (1994), the directorial debut of Ben Stiller, and in the biographical film 8 Seconds, directed by John G. Avildsen.
Zellweger's first main part in a movie came with the 1994 horror story Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, alongside Matthew McConaughey. She played Jenny, a teenager who leaves a prom early with three friends and ended up getting into a car accident, which leads to their meeting a murderous family, led by the iconic Leatherface. Her next movie was Love and a .45 (1994), in which she played the role of Starlene Cheatham, a woman who plans a robbery with her boyfriend. The performance earned her an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. She subsequently moved to Los Angeles, winning roles in the films Empire Records (1995) and The Whole Wide World (1996). Zellweger first became widely known to audiences around the world with Jerry Maguire (1996), in which she played the romantic interest of Jerry, Tom Cruise's character.
Zellweger later won acclaim in One True Thing (1998) opposite William Hurt and Meryl Streep, and in Neil LaBute's Nurse Betty opposite Morgan Freeman. The role garnered the actress her first of three Golden Globe Awards, but she was in the bathroom when future co-star Hugh Grant announced her name. Zellweger later protested: "I had lipstick on my teeth!"
In 2001, Zellweger gained the prized lead role as Bridget Jones, playing alongside Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, in the British romantic comedy film Bridget Jones's Diary, based on the 1996 novel Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. The choice came amid much controversy since she was neither British nor overweight. During casting, Zellweger was told she was too skinny to play the chubby Bridget, so she quickly embarked on gaining the required weight (20 pounds) and learning an English accent. Her performance as Bridget received praise from critics with Stephen Holden of The New York Times commenting, "Ms. Zellweger accomplishes the small miracle of making Bridget both entirely endearing and utterly real." This role won her first Best Actress Academy Award nomination. Along with receiving voice coaching to fine-tune her English accent, part of Zellweger's preparations involved spending three weeks working undercover in a "work experience placement" for British publishing firm Picador in Victoria, London. In 2002, she starred with Michelle Pfeiffer in White Oleander. The same year, she appeared as Roxie Hart in the critically acclaimed musical film Chicago, directed by Rob Marshall, co-starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, and John C. Reilly. The movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Zellweger received positive reviews. The San Francisco Chronicle's web site SFGate commented, "Zellweger is a joy to watch, with marvelous comic timing and, in her stage numbers, a commanding presence." The Washington Post noted that even though Zellweger couldn't dance well in real life, the audience "wouldn't know it from this movie, in which she dances up a storm." She earned her second Academy Award nomination as Best Actress, as well as the Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe Award.Zellweger at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival
In 2004, Zellweger received her first Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress in Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain opposite Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. Zellweger has since starred in the sequel to Bridget Jones's Diary - Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, lent her voice to the DreamWorks animated features Shark Tale and Bee Movie, and starred in the 2005 Ron Howardfilm Cinderella Man opposite Russell Crowe and Paul Giamatti. On May 24, 2005, Zellweger received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She produced and appeared in Miss Potter, based on the life story of acclaimed author Beatrix Potter, with Emily Watson and Ewan McGregor, released in December 2006.
In 2008, she produced a film, Living Proof, starring Harry Connick Jr., about the true story of Dr. Denny Slamon. The film, produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, premiered in October 2008 on Lifetime Television.
Zellweger dated The White Stripes singer Jack White for two years from 2002 to 2004. In addition, Zellweger had a much-publicized, short-lived romance with her Me, Myself and Irene co-star Jim Carrey, to whom she was engaged from 1999 to 2000.
On May 9, 2005, Zellweger married singer Kenny Chesney in a ceremony at the island of St. John. On September 15, 2005, they announced their plans for an annulment. Zellweger cited "fraud" as the reason in the related papers. After media scrutiny of her use of the word "fraud", she qualified the use of the term, stating it was "simply legal language and not a reflection of Kenny's character."
In September 2010, it was reported that Zellweger and actor Bradley Cooper had been in a relationship for over a year. On March 18, 2011, People Magazine announced that the two had broken off their relationship.