Renée Zellweger opens up about her 6-year break from acting: 'I wasn't healthy'

"I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities."
Telluride Film Festival 2019
Renee Zellweger attends the Telluride Film Festival 2019 on Aug. 30 in Telluride, Colorado.Vivien Killilea / Getty Images

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/ Source: TODAY
By Lindsay Lowe

Renée Zellweger is back in a big way.

She’s already generating awards buzz for her portrayal of Judy Garland in the upcoming biopic “Judy,” and she recently made her Netflix debut in the thriller miniseries “What/If.”

Zellweger was all smiles at the premiere of "What/If."Tasia Wells / Getty Images

A decade ago, though, she was in a very different place. In a recent interview with New York magazine, Zellweger opened up about the pressures of stardom that led her to take a six-year hiatus from acting.

“I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities,” the actress, 50, told the magazine.

She said her therapist helped her focus more on her own health and happiness.

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“He recognized that I spent 99 percent of my life as the public persona and just a microscopic crumb of a fraction in my real life,” she said. “I needed to not have something to do all the time, to not know what I’m going to be doing for the next two years in advance. I wanted to allow for some accidents. There had to be some quiet for the ideas to slip in.”

Zellweger said she realized she was depressed, and that taking time away from the spotlight — with the constant tabloid focus on her weight and looks — helped her figure out her priorities.

“Nothing like international humiliation to set your perspective right!” she said. “It clarifies what’s important to you.”

That said, she emphasized that most of her time away from acting was happy and restorative.

“I had a good five-year period when I was joyful and in a new chapter that no one was even aware of,” she said.

Zellweger says she learned to priortize herself during her time away from acting.JB Lacroix / WireImage

She also opened up about her past professional relationship with Harvey Weinstein. His production company, Miramax, produced several of her best-known films, including “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Chicago” and “Cold Mountain.”

Asked about Weinstein, she reflected more generally about her experiences as an actress.

“In some ways, I feel: ‘Oh gosh, I allowed for the tiny cuts that just seemed like, “Oh, this is just how it’s always been.”’ But I was never a victim of it,” she said. “I always felt that I knew what to do in those circumstances. I didn’t feel … accostable. I never felt that I was being insulted, demeaned. I didn’t recognize it as that. It was jocular — it’s a joke. And then there’s that other side of it: that I love male-female banter, that playful dynamic. So, it’s a big conversation.”

Zellweger returned to acting in 2016's "Bridget Jones's Baby."Pablo Cuadra / Getty Images

“I’m sure that I was on the receiving end of something that I don’t even know about, in conversations that I wasn’t privy to,” she said. “But it wasn’t something that I felt, it wasn’t something that I was aware of. I was very surprised by some of the things that were unearthed. I didn’t know.”

She added that she always kept a certain distance from Hollywood, seeing moviemaking as her work, not part of her social life.

Today, this attitude helps keep her grounded.

“I wasn’t around it. I don’t hang out like that,” she said. “I don’t go to the party. It’s part of my work: There’s a premiere, there’s an event, there’s a red carpet, there’s the hotel-lobby dinner. That’s my relationship to Hollywood. I don’t live in that. That’s my job. I visit it.”