Bridget Jones is widely regarded as Renee Zellweger’s defining role, and one which fans continue to celebrate to this day.
But not everyone was so supportive when Zellweger was first cast as the quintessential single woman living in London.
This week marks 20 years since Zellweger first appeared as Bridget in the 2001 film Bridget Jones’s Diary.
In a resurfaced interview from 2016, the actor opened up about the British backlash she faced after being cast in the role, which was already famous due to Helen Fielding’s bestselling 1996 novel.
The decision to cast an American actor as the British heroine was not met with enthusiasm, especially given Zellwegger had triumphed against household names such as Helena Bonham Carton, Rachel Weisz and Emily Watson.
As pointed out by Yahoo, an Evening Standard columnist wrote of the casting: “Of all the clunking, Hollywood idiocy.”
Speaking about the initial backlash, Zellweger said she “didn’t realise just how widespread this controversy was”.
Ahead of filming Bridget Jones’s Diary, the actor went undercover working as a trainee in the publicity department of the London book publisher Picador to prepare for the role.
“I was going to work every day,” she told Yahoo. “I would start with a dialect coach and then I’d go to work at Picador and do my tasks around the office.”
Zellweger explained that a part of her “work experience” was cutting clippings in the media that concerned authors that Picador represented, including Fielding.
“So every now and then something would pop up and I would see ‘Crap American Comedian Playing English Icon’, and I’d have to cut it out and go put it in the file,” she said.
Zellweger, however, added that she was unaware of how strong the backlash was.
“I thought it was just a tiny little thing. I didn’t realise just how widespread this controversy was,” she said. “I mean, I understand it. I get it.”
Zellweger went on to win both an Oscar nomination and a Bafta nod for her performance as the British icon.
She reprised the role for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason followed in 2004 and Bridget Jones’s Baby, which arrived 12 years later in 2016.