Born to a Swiss father and Norwegian mother in Katy, a suburb of Houston, the tomboyish Renee enjoyed gymnastics and cheerleading, as well as her school Drama Club. The University of Austin followed, where she made the Dean’s list and supported herself with waitressing jobs.
No overnight star, she paid her dues in a number of small roles in independent films, made around Texas in the early '90s, through to bigger roles in steadfastly low budget films once she had moved to Hollywood. Her role opposite Tom Cruise, in ‘Jerry Maguire’, originally intended for Winona Ryder, finally catapulted her into the big league.
Her earning potential skyrocketed overnight, but she avoided high budget offers (she turned down $1 million to appear in ‘Godzilla’) in favour of projects that interested her. Her range was impressive, from dismembered hooker corpse to light hearted comedy love interest opposite Chris O’Donnell in ‘The Bachelor’.
‘Nurse Betty’ was her first star vehicle, a hard hitting comedy where she plays an abused wife who, after witnessing her husband being mutilated and killed by hit men, suffers post traumatic stress and imagines herself a character in one of her favourite soaps. The film earned her first Golden Globe award.
She gained 20 pounds for her part in the worldwide hit ‘Bridget Jones’ Diaries’ and, despite mutterings from this side of the pond about an American playing the role, she garnered an Academy Award nomination.
The role of Roxie Hart in ‘Chicago’, opposite Catherine Zeta Jones, saw her working on her singing and dancing 10 months before the production commenced. This paid off handsomely, earning her a second Golden Globe, as well as another Oscar nomination.
Off again in another entirely different direction, ‘Cold Mountain’, with Jude Law and Nicole Kidman produced her third Golden Globe, and finally an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
She went on to have a voice role in ‘Shark Tale’, which saw her join an ensemble cast including Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Jack Black, Martin Scorsese and Angelina Jolie in the hugely successful commercial hit.
In 2004, Renee reprised her role as Bridget Jones in the sequel ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’ which, although not as successful as the first movie, performed well at the box office and led to a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress nomination for her. Another nomination, this time an Empire Award for Best Actress, came her way when she appeared with Russell Crowe in ‘Cinderella Man’.
Zellweger was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005, and in 2006, she and Ewan McGregor brought the life of children’s author Beatrix Potter to the screen in ‘Miss Potter’, which led to further nominations. Another voice role in 2007 saw her appear in computer animated family comedy ‘Bee Movie’ before she joined George Clooney for sports comedy ‘Leatherheads’ in 2008.
Stepping into an entirely different world, Zellweger starred alongside Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris in American western ‘Appaloosa’. 2009 saw four film releases bearing her credit including ‘New in Town’, animation ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’ and ‘My One and Only’. 2010 road movie ‘My Own Love Song’ ended the decade for the star.
It is rumoured that Zellweger may be willing to appear in a third instalment of Bridget Jones if the opportunity arises.
In September 2010 it was revealed that the actress had been dating fellow star Bradley Cooper. However, People magazine reported in March 2011 that the pair had separated. Other celebrities the actress has had relationships with over the years include Jim Carrey and White Stripes singer Jack White, who she met while filming Cold Mountain.
Having secured financial and professional success, Renee continues to avoid the straitjacket of Hollywood celebrity, with a depth and range that keep movie pundits guessing about her next project.