I read Bridget Jones’s Diary during a pivotal period of my life: my 20’s. I related to Bridget in so many ways. We were both single city girls who could hardly balance a check book yet alone keep a job. We both worked in media – she worked in publishing, I worked in television. We both had quirky friends and loved our city lives, hers in London, mine in NYC. We both kept diaries (I really did!) about our love lives. We both screwed things up and made rather clumsy mistakes with men. I wore platform shoes, she wore mile high heels and short skirts. At the end of the day, we both did whatever we damn well felt like. So when I was invited to speak to Renee Zellweger, who has long played the insufferable Bridget Jones, and Sharon Maguire, who directed the first one and now Bridget Jones’s Baby, I was definitely keen. After all, Bridget had been a friend of mine for 15 years.
I remember loving the first two films in the series that came out just a few years apart from each other, the first in 2001 and the second(The Edge of Reason) in 2004. I was newly married by that point, but I still related to her quirkiness and innocence and yearning to just get it right. By the way, my husband is British, so I also had a penchant for British men, accents and culture. I’m a Richard Curtis junkie and the Bridget films are very much in line with his storytelling style.
So much has happened since we last saw Bridget- both to me and her character. I’ve had two kids, my career has evolved, I now live in a house and a lot of my interests and life focus have changed. I also wear a ton of Spanx (so much that they rip constantly), dye my hair regularly and pee in my pants when I laugh and sneeze. That’s called getting older, by the way. If my life has changed, hers had to, too. I was curious to see what had happened to her.
In the latest installment of the series, Bridget’s life has definitely changed. She is now a senior news producer for a major morning program in London. She still has her best friends. She’s thinner, although she still counts her calories. She seemingly has pulled herself together at age 43 except for one glitch: she doesn’t know who the father of her baby is. It’s either the child of the hunky American billionaire Jack, played by Patrick Dempsey, she met at a muddy music festival or her old flame Mark Darcy, played by the divine Colin Firth. The results? Well, they’re as hilarious today as they were 15 years ago and I found myself laughing, along with everyone else in the cinema, quite wildly and honestly. Bridget is still that girl that I relate to almost more than any other film character in history and I was genuinely curious to see where her future had gone. I also loved the music in the film – it took me right back to the 1980’s with songs from Annie Lenox, Sister Sledge, Marvin Gaye.
After meeting Maguire and Zellweger, it became increasingly obvious that one reason the film works is due to their intense collaboration process. Bridget is a bit of a mix of the two of them. Renee is down to earth and quite Southern, but she’s also fierce and a staunch feminist who stands up for women. Sharon is a bit unpredictable but very strategic and very visionary. She’s a real story teller, they both are, to be honest, and the answers to the questions in the interview were quite brilliant.
Here are some of their inspiring words:
Sharon on coming back to the character 15 years later, with a more mature perspective:
For me, coming to the script, you know, 15 years later, the whole experience, I think it’s imbued with a sense of the fantasies you have for your life and how they don’t work out.
In your forties, you start–you lose a lot in your forties. Your forties are big. You let go of the idea about what your life was going to be, and you lose friends. And it makes you renegotiate your life perspective entirely and what you value.
And, in terms of your question, I think that–that, in this new–in this incarnation, she’s finally a little bit more self-possessed and more inclined to listen to her own intuition. And she’s sort of recognizing that the social paradigm for happiness does not apply across the board and that it’s okay to have and determine for yourself what happiness means, you know, even if it isn’t within the conventional ideal. And maybe the suggestion to not waste so much time trying to measure up but to recognize that, you know, she’s fine.
Renee on playing a mom and not having kids of her own:
I believe that with–from what I’ve experienced with the people that I’m closest to, you evolve when you become a mom. You become a bigger version of yourself. You become a more powerful version of yourself, a fully realized version of yourself.
And I’m watching all of my friends and my, you know, family members evolve in this way. And I’m a bit of a late bloomer, and so, it’s interesting to kind of be chronologically in that place, but not have–not experience that same transformation at the same time as your friends and the people closest to you.
It’s very strange, and it’s–it is a very unique kind of loneliness. It’s a bit of–yeah. It’s–it’s very unique because then it means defining your growth in a different way and insisting that it happen despite the absence of this thing that makes it happen naturally.
Renee on their collaboration:
It’s always collaborative, and that’s what makes this experience so much fun because we all know this character in a different way. And I feel like she kind of comes to life somewhere between the two of us.
And I always feel her present–most present and most alive, Bridget Jones and me, when I hear Sharon laughing from the next room behind the monitor. I feel like, “Yeah, okay. We’re getting this. We’re getting this.” But, yeah. You know, that’s our job really–.
Renee on why people love Bridget:
I think that that’s why she’s such a beloved character because we recognize ourselves in her struggles and not just her challenges she faces in her life, but in her, you know, the–her struggles toward self-acceptance. She sort of represents the truth of who we are versus who it is that we aspire to be.
Sharon on the need for more women in the film industry and how to get them there:
I really don’t understand because I can’t believe the whole movie industry is sexist. But, you know–so, the only thing I think that we need to do is I think we need to make–there needs to be a stronger thing about–in the curriculum for schools, there needs to be storytelling.
And I think part of storytelling is by film or by novels or whatever, and if we all learned storytelling from the roots up, I think there would just be more women filmmakers.
Finally, Renee on ladies who express themselves – I loved this:
Ladies like you who are not waiting to be invited by the establishment to express yourselves. You’ve created forums for yourselves to share with likeminded people, women, who will share your interests and gives you an opportunity to express yourselves creatively, to exercise your creativity as writers, producers. You’re editors.
You are basically your own channel. You’re your own, you know, entertainment entities. Young women on AOL have their own channels, and they develop the content.
And they edit it, and they get, you know, access to whomever it is that they’d like to speak with because it’s effective. People are interested in what they have to say.
They’re not waiting, again, for that invitation. And, again, when there is a recognizable response, then people have to change and–and–and adapt and embrace that, “Oh, you know, we’ve been wrong. The conventional way of doing things is kind of passé, and we should start to recognize that all of these women have something to say and it’s valid and it’s important.” I loved it.
I gave you a lot of food for thought, BUT listen up. If you’re headed to the movies this weekend to see “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” here’s a link to buy tickets: http://unvrs.al/BJBTix.
Here’s a link to create your own #BridgetJonesMoment. Visit http://unvrs.al/BJBMoment to get started.
Disclosure: The press junket I attended was hosted by Universal Pictures. I did not receive any compensation to write this post. All opinions are my own.