Film anoraks may recall Renee Zellweger starring in films such as Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (alongside the then unknown Matthew McConaughey), but it was not until hit film Jerry Maguire, where as the young woman who wins over the heart of a self-absorbed Tom Cruise, that she was thrown into the limelight. By Paul Fischer.
Meeting Renee Zellweger in Los Angeles she doesn't sound like a woman who had been talking enthusiastically to the press for the past four days. "It's the athlete in me that prepares me for this", the Texan native says with her slight Southern drawl in evidence.
It is precisely her Texan heritage that had Brit tabloids frothing when it was announced she would play the lead.
The actress - who is far from plump and far from British - laughs at the mention of controversy. "What controversy? I'm VERY excited about talking about that." The actress merely shrugs it off. After all, there are more important concerns she has, anyway.
"You know what? I put so much pressure on myself for everything ELSE that I do, that it could not possibly exceed what was already there.
In THIS case, I felt a responsibility to both Helen Fielding, [the author of the novel] because she created it, not me, and I did not want to blasphemise this beautiful character that she created."
As well as the voice coaching to fine-tune her English accent, part of Zellweger's preparations involved spending three weeks working undercover in a "job experience placement" for British publishing firm Picador in Victoria in London
It was an acting challenge, she says, little more. "The only
thing hard about it was being away from home and loved ones and leaving
the dog behind." But the characterisation, itself, she insists,
was not hard. "It was a process, and so exciting to watch
happen, because some of the stuff was slow in coming, but it was working."
Zellweger insists that both novel and film - that revolve around
a young, insecure woman dealing with her life, work, eating habits
and love - goes beyond the simplicity of a weight issue.
My experiences with physicality revolve pretty much more around lifestyle.
Like any girl I want to take care of myself and in every respect.
But physicality for me is more about a reflection of lifestyle and
trying to maintain a particular energy level when you have to sit
in a room and talk for three days."