Renee Zellweger may be New in Town on screen, but she is hardly the new kid on the block in Hollywood. An Oscar winner for Cold Mountain, Zellweger is having a little romantic fun with Harry Connick, Jr. in their new comedy hitting theaters January 30.
Zellweger talks about the challenges of making a romantic comedy that works like New in Town and how her chemistry with Connick was a key to this film being a success in her mind. “It was all fake,” Zellweger says and laughs. She is of course, kidding, her and Connick’s chemistry leaps off the screen in New in Town.
Zellweger found common ground with her character Lucy in how she begins anew with each film. “Every four months I’m new in town, whenever the next location is for filming. The first order of business is to plop the bags down and what’s going to be home for the next four to six months or whatever,” Zellweger says.
“Then hoof it around and try to discover what’s going on in the community and what you’re patterns are going to be. I am perpetually new on town. On a set, there’s an immediate intimacy because you come into a project with people with a common goal. It’s a strange, nomadic circus life.”
The actresses found the most serious of challenges was the weather. A Southern California girl, Zellweger was in shock on the New in Town set.
“It was highly entertaining and very educational. I didn’t know cold like that. That’s a whole different kind of experience,” Zellweger says and laughs. “It’s a marvelous new exercise in developing survival skills.”
The Oscar-winner also found a new appreciation for hosiery. “And who knew that pantyhose could be so very, very important?” Zellweger says and laughs. “I wore three, four pairs at a time! I never imagined that I would rejoice at the pantyhose laid out on the bed by wardrobe every morning. But they were essential. I would not be here today if it not for the Hanes, I promise you.”
New in Town gag reel coming
Working with Siobhan Fallon Hogan also proved a feat in maintaining composure. Her local girl character was at times, improved.
“She got us in trouble. We got scolded because we needed to focus and with this girl, it’s just flying out. It was really difficult,” Zellweger says. “The most challenging aspect of this process was trying to focus and concentrate not to laugh when she was coming up with whatever it was that was becoming this gorgeous character. We had a really good time. There wasn’t a day where we weren’t laughing to where our eyelids were frozen together from the tears.”
What would be Zellweger’s advice for traveling north? “Don’t go without four parkas and you’ll need every one,” Zellweger jokes about filming in Winnipeg.
But, the Academy Award-winner did truly treasure her time in the Great White North.
“There are so many things about that city that are just so charming. I love the ice sculpture downtown. The tenacity of the people is so impressive. To me, you look outside and wonder ‘where’s the road?’ You can’t see the road! Guess there’s no driving today. But, that is not the case. Everybody’s just gets up and gets on with it. It’s normal.”
Her character, as a city girl, is oft put by Connick’s country guy, but not so with Zellweger personally admits the Texas native. “I grew up with country guys,” she says. “I knew more pick up fellas than I do city fellows.”
The romantic comedy vet
Zellweger is no stranger to romantic comedies. She has shared screen time with George Clooney on Leatherheads, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant in the Bridget Jones movies and then there is that little Tom Cruise movie that made her a star — Jerry Maguire. Zellweger is the funny romance go-to actress.
Is there a secret to tackling the romantic comedy as opposed to her other brilliant work in dramas?
“I’m not sure how it would differ by genre — it’s about the play. It’s about the exchange in what’s honest in it. Hopefully the writing’s good and the dialog is believable it comes together naturally. I felt so lucky on this. I knew we were going to have a great time having met the cast. You don’t know how it will ultimately come together until you start and get out there give it a shot. We share the same sense of humor, which is miraculous and unfortunately for the director,” Zellweger says, almost falling over laughing.
When asked what she enjoys outside the silver screen work and her answer comes immediately. “I’m a news junkie! It’s one of my favorite things about this job,” Zellweger admits. “It sends me all over the world and I get to look at things from different cultural perspectives all the time. It’s a thrill to me to be on top of a Belgian mountain and turn on the news.”
Connick chimes in that it was Zellweger’s casting that made New in Town a must for him as an actor. “The prospect of working with Renee and the idea I had about working with her that really made me want to do it,” Connick says. He is ever the joker. “Unfortunate none of the things I thought would happen, happened, but still the idea of it was great.”
What about for Zellweger? How was Mr. Jazz Man, Harry Connick, Jr?
“He’s got all the qualities you hope for in a leading man,” she coyly says.
New in Town also proved an opportunity for Zellweger to return to her small town roots. Growing up in Texas, she always thought she’d return to a truly tiny town one day for work. “I know these communities. They are not simple. They make decisions about how they want to live their lives and what is valuable to them. I recognize those values and the generations of families who have lived in and contributed to those communities for years and years. It was nice to be in it again,” she says and pauses. “But it was a little colder in this particular community.”