The upcoming biopic Judy is about, as you might have guessed, Judy Garland, one of the most iconic vocalists of the 20th century.
Renée Zellweger stepped into her red, sparkling shoes – metaphorically speaking – for a role which is already the talk of Oscar nominations.
“All of the performance costumes felt like armour,” Zellweger told Digital Spy. “The juxtaposition of that sparkle and shine and the elegance and the glamour and the power of those outfits and the truth of her circumstances tells such a story.”
But embodying Judy Garland wasn’t all about the clothes, as Zellweger also undertook extensive research ahead of taking on the role. “I didn’t know that much about this chapter in her life,” she explained.
Judy takes place during the final years of Garland’s career, and her life. She died at 47, shortly after her infamous Talk of the Town shows in London. “It would never occur to me that a person who was so celebrated, who had worked at the highest levels for 44 years, that she would be facing financial hardship,” Renée added.
“After all the work that she had done in studios and as a live performer, that she would have difficulty finding work? It was really shocking to me. It made me very curious.”
There is an inherent conflict at the heart of Judy’s story, which Zellweger articulates: “At that time, I don’t think that she would see herself as being victimised.”
Yet Judy Garland lived, and worked, in a time when “women had no agency – over their professional decisions or the trajectory of their careers”. This contributed both to her financial problems, but also her personal problems – from her addiction to her health.
Personal life and health concerns are something any performer, Zellweger included, could relate to.
“Having experienced a little bit of that myself, I understand a schedule. I understand what it requires and what it takes and the toll that it takes on a body,” she said.
“That she didn’t step away, and that she wasn’t able to take a minute to recoup but she continued on. To add live performance on top of that? I just find her extraordinary.”
Judy is out in cinemas on October 2, 2019.
Digital Spy is launching a newsletter – sign up to get it sent straight to your inbox.