It was a major moment in book-to-big-screen history when Zellweger signed on to play Helen Fielding‘s spirited and v. relatable title heroine in Bridget Jones’s Diary, for which she was nominated for her first Oscar. And in case you hadn’t heard, the role of the oft-dieting career gal required the petite actress to gain a bit of weight—and though she barely qualifies as curvy, at the time it was heralded as marvelously brave of her to go on camera with extra ounces on her thighs in order to look Real.
The 5’5″ Zellweger approached that aspect of her role as systematically as any other, consulting an endocrinologist and a nutritionist to figure out the healthiest way to gain weight in fairly swift fashion. The regimen: three meals a day, snacks, and no exercise. She ultimately added a reported 17 pounds to her existing 110-pound frame.
“I’d have an omelet with cheese and sauce for breakfast with a fatty yogurt and then a fruit salad with a topping and juice and coffee and cream and a bagel with butter and a few hours later a chocolate shake with weight-gain powder in it,” Zellweger told the New York Times. ”It was like, do the research, learn your lines, eat the shake. It was all part of the job.”
“She has a different body type to me, but it reflects the different lifestyles that we lead, and that’s what she chooses,” the native Texan told The Guardian in 2001. “It makes her happy to have Chardonnay and some extra Milk Tray, so why shouldn’t she?”
Asked if she thought, then, that Bridget was a normal size, the actress replied, “What’s ‘normal’? Kate Moss is normal—her genetic make-up has dictated that this is how she’ll look. For Bridget, who is voluptuous and doesn’t go to the gym on a daily basis—that’s definitely normal. Not less attractive, not less beautiful, than someone who weighs 20 pounds less.”
Lost in the figure fanfare was her accent, which she also painstakingly worked on, moving to England three months before filming began to work with a dialect coach and do v. British things. She even sat in as an assistant at Picador publishing in London for two weeks, using the name Bridget Cavendish. “It was very technical,” she told the Times. ”They wanted a very specific accent from a particular social class in a particular area outside London. We started by overenunciating and speaking the Queen’s English, then taking it back a notch. It got to be a habit.”