Phase9 Entertainment

CHICAGO - Q&A with Renee Zellweger

CHICAGO Q&A from the New York press junket with Renee Zellweger, John C Reilly, Queen Latifah and Rob Marshall

Renee Zellweger:

What's a girl who couldn't get a part in the school musical doing in the best movie musical in 30 years?

Good God that's a good question! I have no idea. I've been asking myself that all year. Rob Marshall thought it would be ok and sometimes I guess that's what it takes. If he didn't believe he didn't let on. So I'm grateful to him for that.

When you were doing this singing and dancing as well as acting was it like playing several different women?

No, just different sides of the same character. That's all. It's storytelling about a woman's perspective and how she approaches certain things that are going on in her life. Roxie's sexuality is a large part of her currency and so she uses that. In the Funny Honey number she is doing her idea of a torch song. Everything goes into performance in her fantasies so that she can deal with her reality that is a little too difficult for her to manage otherwise. So you just see different sides of herself, not so much an emulation of other things.

Has this part changed your image from the girl next door to a sultry, sexy one?

No because I don't think about that. I'm very busy thinking about the days that we had. It is a very insular life and you don't see the other stuff because you busy going from this experience to getting on a plane to go to the next one, to preparing for your mum visiting on Friday. That kind of thing. I'm thinking about these experiences that we had. I just came here from Transylvania where we have been filming and I'm thinking about that experience and how my friends are. It was fun to play something in CHICAGO that was different and to tap into something that the characters I've played before haven't called on me to tap into. So that was a lot of fun and definitely different.

What was it like being in such a poor place as Transylvania? Did it make you more aware of how privileged you are?

You are asking me something that I don't have to go to Romania to think about. All day, every day I think about that and I have a very hard time with it. That's a big thing for me looking round at the imbalances in the world. But I also think well isn't that pompous of me to think that just because I can take my dog to the vet and buy nice Christmas presents for my mother that those people are less happy than me. Happiness doesn't come just because you can pay your rent. I was just as happy poor and I have been pretty poor looking for the change in the couch. I have never been selling crack poor but I have been pretty poor. It was a privilege to be in Romania and it was pretty confusing because it was not all what you thought it might be. It was a privilege to be there when so much change is happening in that country. It was a privilege to see a country with such an extreme society, with a provincial lifestyle that is paralleled by this influx of western culture and what they choose to embrace from it. My misconceptions about Communism and life inside that sort of society were completely turned around. They have camps and ski resorts that were funded by the Communist government but are abandoned now. That's very interesting to see these beautiful camps that no one is funding any longer. There are donkey carts and a guy in traditional dress and he is hauling straw up the mountain because it is raining. So that's that day's job. The work is determined by the weather. He is taking straw up the mountain because it is raining and the horse needs a warm place to sleep because the horse is valuable currency. They depend on the horse for income and food. It's about eating, doing the work so you can feed the family. And that is a wonderful thing to see because it reminds you that simplicity is not a bad thing and you can live with very, very little. To watch the people on the production in Romania, who usually make $800 a year and will never be able to stay at the Bucharest Marriott, where it costs $50 a night to stay. It is a dilemma that strikes a very deep chord with me. There is what I can do and there is the massive list of things that I cannot. You do the best that you can to apply your life perspective and the choices that you make in your daily life. You do what you can. You apply kindness to the situations that you are faced with and you make the little differences that you can in somebody's life right there in that moment. But you can't assume responsibility for the history of the nation that has taken them to that place, just because you your journey has led you to a place where you can afford shoes. It teaches you a lot. Your humanity, if it needs changing, it will be changed. Your value system, if it needs altering, it will be altered. And otherwise you do your best. What a privilege to be in that country 12 years after it became an open society. It was fantastic to watch how the people change and their behaviour. The older generations
versus the younger. The older generations are very careful and the younger generations speak more freely and still everyone is very of how they present themselves and the choices that they make. This job enables me to watch the news from a global perspective, to learn more about my country because I'm in Romania watching the news rather than being in New York City watching CNN. It's extraordinary, it's a gift, it's challenge.

It's said that more than 20 actresses wanted to play Roxie Hart. Do you know how you got the part?

I have no idea that is the strangest thing divine intervention? I feel like the impostor Roxie because I didn't hoof it out on the stage from the back of the line to the front, to finally get to play a character. I didn't know the history of the play. I didn't know how long so many people had tried to bring this to the screen. How it was the dream of so many people, including Rob Marshall to see it in its film incarnation. It was a gift and I was grateful for it, every day and every day it was a privilege to be on that set and be surrounded by so many creatively talented people, knowing that on 42nd Street I would not have made the first cut. I don't know about other girls and their experience with this production. I sat with Rob Marshall and it was Rob Marshall who got this idea that this would work. He thought for some reason that it would be a good idea. So we met and he was so inspiring, not just as a creative genius, which was evident immediately when he started to talk about the world that he was going to create and how he was going to combine the worlds of fantasy and reality and his vision. He was also so inspiring as a person. He is a person who has integrity and a pure spirit and is kind. You don't walk away from that because that combination is rare. I wanted to be a part of anything that this man was going to be creating.

What did you think when you saw yourself on screen as Roxie for the first time?

I thought "Oh yeah that's what we did that day. It's a visual diary and I can't separate myself from it or be objective about it. It's nice to look up and remember so many rich experiences.

What do you think of fame?

Fame saddens me right now. It's so cheap it's almost embarrassing to be a celebrity. Because it seems that celebrity and being famous is more important than what led to it. Achieving a state of lionisation in society seems to be more important today than the positive contribution that led to it. Giving something that makes people happy, doing something that changes life for people, that makes things better, that used to bring fame. That's real, that's worth something. Fame is sad today because it is teaching our children the wrong values. Like you are going to sell every part of yourself to the world that doesn't know you and hasn't earned the right to know certain things about you? You are going to cheapen your personal experiences so that people know everything about you and applaud? What does that leave you with? Not a lot the shell of a person.

Is fame sometimes a consequence of talent?

Yes that's true but I think that the other is ubiquitous today and it saddens me. You can't help but see on the front pages that so and so who was on that TV show when they in the front room talking about their mother has a cold. It teaches your kids it is not what you achieve or growing up to make something better but growing up so that people applaud you at all costs.

When would fame become too cheap for you and make you walk away from this?

If there was no way to continue without compromising my value system, my friends and how I feel about them and my family. There are some things that are non-negotiable. If I had to be a hypocrite or compromise my self in a way that would prevent me from having self respect or being able to sleep at night or hurt the friends around me and people that I love.

What did your brother say about your singing in CHICAGO?

He was very good at his job growing up being the big brother who torments his little sister. He'd shout for me to shut up when I was trying to do my best Paul McCartney singing in the shower. He's my best friend now. He hasn't seen the film yet.

Your family is very Scandinavian?

Yes, I've been to Norway, where my mother comes from. I'm proud of that and the fact that the world seems to think that lots of beautiful women come from that part of the world. Being from Norway comes out at Christmas with the flags on the tree and we have Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.

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