How Renée Zellweger Transformed Into Judy Garland For the Biopic 'Judy'

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Renée Zellweger stepped into some very big shoes recently as she walked herself into the yellow brick road to portray the legendary actress Judy Garland in the biopic, Judy. Zellweger took on the monumental task of playing Judy as she was during the last five months of her life. Zellweger spoke of her transformation into Judy and what it took, both emotionally and physically.

Showing Her Darker Times

Fans of Judy Garland remember her lovingly as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, or perhaps as the singer and actress she was in many films throughout the 40s and 50s, such as Easter Parade, A Star Is Born, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Summer Stock. Judy was an American sweetheart turned icon. Those who were fans of her always think of her glamour and talent and her ability to shine through.

However, this biopic does now show the glamour or the beauty during Judy's early days in Hollywood, but rather her low points. The film's director, Rupert Goold, wanted to show a side of Judy that was rarely seen. Zellweger sings a few of Judy's beloved songs, such as 'Over the Rainbow' as a happier note to the film but it also shows the other side of Judy - unemployed, broke, and having a hard time to find a place for her to live. Judy was forced to leave her children in Los Angeles in 1968 as she went to perform in London. It was a little over a year later that Judy passed away, on June 22, 1968, from an accidental overdose.

Zellweger said that she didn't know the information about Judy and her kids before starting the project. “I didn’t know about any of the challenges that she was grappling with later in her life. I found it fascinating that a woman who began working at 2 could find herself living under such stressful circumstances after so many years of work." Zellweger also knew there was many more sides to Judy's story. “And then to see her lampooned in a lot of the retelling of her story—you know, from my little experience with it, I know that there’s more to it. That there are omissions.”

Becoming Judy

Renée has portrayed many a strong female characters, and every single one brought with it a set of its own challenges. For example, learning to speak like Judy, who had a very distinct voice, as well as sing her songs, proved to a challenging for Zellweger. “I never tried to hit any of those notes before. So, I started the vocal training and the practical training that I could, just to see what that felt like and to see what was necessary in order to actually make that sound.”

Zellweger worked hard to match her voice as much as possible, as Judy's was rendered raspy and high pitched from years of substance abuse. While Judy went through much heartache in her life, she did not let it make up her whole life. Zellweger added, “Her joy and her wit and her kindness and her humor never left. She was wildly funny.”

Academy Award Buzz

The Academy loves biopics about iconic Hollywood people who represent the highs a talent can get to. Just in 2019, Rami Malek won an Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. In 2204, Jamie Foxx won for his portrayal of Ray Charles, and in 1980, Sissy Spacek won for her role as Loretta Lynn. As for Zellweger, she is ignoring all of the hype. “I’m just not aware of this stuff,” she said. 

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