Pop Culture

Turning 40 doesn’t scare Renee Zellweger

If Renee Zellweger had a Facebook page, chances are her daily status updates would read a little something like this:

“Renee Zellweger is…” That’s because she is so many things.

The Texas native who has never completely lost her southern drawl, is an Oscar winner, a frequent mention on best dressed lists, a news junkie, an ex-wife of a country singing star, a dog lover, a proud Texan, a natural comic, a generous friend and a woman who is about to reach the age when her employment opportunities might start drying up in her current profession. It might be a new day in Washington, D.C., but sadly, that’s the reality for aging actresses in this town.

The star of such films as “Jerry Maguire,” “Chicago” “Cold Mountain” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” however, didn’t appear to be too worried about her future during an exclusive interview in her hotel suite. Dressed casually in jeans, a V-neck sweater, moccasins and wearing black schoolboy glasses frames, the petite star of “New in Town” — a new romantic comedy that hits theaters Friday — said she doesn’t feel that her opportunities are drying up at all.

“No, I don’t,” said Zellweger as she sat with her legs curled underneath her on the sofa. “I don’t see it at all. I mean, maybe it’s happening and I’m not aware of it. I’ve been really busy. I’ve been gone since 2006 and it feels the same as it did in 1996. I feel like I’ve been spoiled for experiences. I run the gamut in terms of different genres and the different challenges that I’ve had are all so varied.”

Zellweger has been lucky and busy. Last year she produced a Lifetime movie called “Living Proof” about a doctor trying to find a cure for breast cancer. Ironically, that flick starred her current co-star, Harry Connick Jr. Additionally, she completed a thriller called “Case 39” and has two other films scheduled for release this year. And, depending which tabloid you believe, she’s got a new guy — Dan Abrams, a British TV legal analyst who has had his share of high-profile love affairs.

Unfortunately, those who aren’t already in the know will have to rely on those tabloid reports because Zellweger won’t confirm or deny.

“You shouldn’t ask me about dating,” she said with a coy smile. “Oh, goodness!”

That aspect of her life has been significantly less exploited since she opted to have a life. After having seen the details of her relationships with actor Jim Carrey, Jack White of the White Stripes and her four-month marriage to Kenny Chesney make headlines, Zellweger, weary of the paparazzi chronicling her every move, grabbed her dog, packed up her truck and moved from L.A. to Connecticut.

“I could not find harmony with the aggressive, well-organized paparazzi community,” she said. “That’s just so not normal to me and I don’t want to be the girl who just complains all the time. You make your decisions about whether you want to leave your house today or whether you want to hang out with those people who are going to make money off of humiliating you. So, I left. I couldn’t find harmony with it and I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Living in New England, however, might help her channel her inner-Katharine Hepburn, which is what Zellweger seems to do in “New in Town” where she plays a quirky corporate executive with great shoes from Miami on the VP track. Lucy Hill (Zellweger) has been sent to a small, frigid town in northern Minnesota to close down a manufacturing plant that employs many of the town’s locals.

While the premise of the film is entirely predictable, the chemistry between Lucy and Ted Mitchell (Connick), an adversarial union rep, is so delicious that their Tracy and Hepburn banter more than makes up for the script’s shortcomings.

“I did sort of channel (Hepburn’s) posture and her delivery and at times her accent,” Zellweger said of the Connecticut native. “I definitely think about her as inspiration for things sometimes. But in this one she kind of evolved a little bit more. This character is a little less graceful shall we say.”

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Connick enjoyed the experience of playing opposite Zellweger.

“It was incredible,” he said. “I was really drawn to the script but the thought of working with Renee was the clincher. She’s like a throwback to all the great actresses in the past and she’s one of those actors who never misses a beat. You can throw anything at her.”

And she hopes that Hollywood will continue to do so. Despite the fact there was someone outside her door telling reporters not to mention her upcoming 40th birthday in April, Zellweger seemingly had no problem embracing that impending milestone.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s an interesting time right now. I’m excited right now. I’m excited because I’m curious about other things. I’m curious about what’s next. Life just feels like it’s opening up a little bit and I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner.”

Miki Turner can be reached at mikiturner.msnbc@gmail.com

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