Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)
Presse Conference: Renée Zellweger and Colin Firth
The Media (M): Was it difficult to get back into Bridget Jones' life?
Renée Zellweger (RZ): It was more familiar this time. It was exiting to go back to work with my friends again and the idea of going back to play this character again, which I have so much affection for. She is just so much fun to play. From that perspective it was a very easy decision to come back and hang out with these guys for a few months. But there also was lot of caution in terms of the many many possibilities, in which we might fail terribly. In terms of disappointing people, who had connected in some way with these characters and felt, that they related to them and might be disappointed by something that was not substantial or that didn't really matter. Every day was sort of an exercise in making certain, that we had explored every possibility for making, whatever it was that we were doing that day, better. We were all really aware of this and really careful as we went through the process. But ultimately we all found it a worthwhile experience.
M: And Colin...?
Colin Firth (CF): I think you are immediately thrown into a dilemma when you are doing something that is perceived as a sequel, because it's existence is only made possible by demand, you know, the fact that people want to see it. And that is, because they loved the first film. So I think, what they really want, is to see that again or more of that. But they will hate you if you give them that. So you have to find a way to sort of give them more of something, they're familiar with, but give it something, that has the right to exist in its own right. That was the challenge. We couldn't make it unrecognizable. But we also couldn't indulge in a simple act of repetition. I found it very difficult to return to the character, because I wasn't sure how familiar he felt to me. Three years have intervened. A lot of life had been lead by all of us in these three years. Speaking for myself I have two children since the first film. If that's not something, that puts you through something, I don't know what would. And then I had to step into the shoes of a character that seemed more familiar to others, than it did to me. What was familiar, and I would say, the only thing that helped me do it, made it pleasurable, made it something I felt enthusiastic doing, was Hugh and Renée. Actually seeing them do it, seeing them produce these characters, taking them further, eradicated all doubt from my mind and I just played off what I saw from them.
M: Was the fact that you had to lose all that weight again a problem for you?
RZ: No. It's just part of the characterisation, as far as I am concerned an essential part in order for it to be an authentic characterisation. It's no more of a concern of mine than any other element of revisiting Bridget or bringing her to life. There is the dialect and there are here mannerisms, her colloquialisms, her idiosyncrasies, the way she carries herself in the world. And the issue this time of trying to show how she's changed in some way and yet, as Colin mentioned before, to maintain the essence of who these characters are and who Bridget is in particular. Maintain that vulnerability that people feel they relate to. So that is just part of the process: your dialect class, working on scenes with Colin, and the nutritionists will bring the food. It is just part of a very busy schedule in bringing this character to life. And it is a privilege. I love this character. In terms of looking at it from an actor's perspective the more of a stretch it is, sometimes literally, the more creatively satisfying it becomes. So it is exiting rather than daunting.
M: Is there a certain pleasure for an actress in being so different on screen than in real life?
RZ: Again like I said it is a privilege.
M: What did you discover about yourself by playing Bridget?
RZ: Any time that you are so far and moved from your own life, it's much easier to look at it from an objective perspective and see where you need a to pay a little more attention to things, renegotiate things. So I look at every project that I have done, as an opportunity for that. You always learn something. With Bridget the first time around, I became really aware that the standards of Hollywood that I consciously do not buy into had somehow infiltrated my psyche on their own. I was amused, when the girls at the office stuck around and ate the cake after the birthday party. And when did that become the anomaly, that girls eat the cake? You are supposed to eat the cake at the birthday party! And just that realization made it very clear to me that - wow - the values of that particular subculture in America are dangerous. And there is a negative message that comes along with looking at people eating cake or girls eating cake as being a very special thing.
M: (with an Italian accent) Wasn't it anachronistic of Bridget this obsession of Bridget not becoming a spinster?
RZ: I'm sorry. I didn't quite understand. (She is uncertain and asks Colin for help)
CF: (to the lady with the Italian accent) I think I know what you are asking. That it is outdated, this idea of the woman that needs to have a husband, that is obsessed with being left on the shelf. That the woman has to look for a man in order to validate herself.
RZ: And the questions is...?
CF: Do you think it's outdated?
RZ: Do you think it is an antiquated Ideology, you mean? Ok.
CF: (To the lady) Your accent is familiar to me. (Colin Firth is married to an Italian)
RZ: I'm sorry. I am very sorry. Of course I do. She is a representation of a person, who is struggling to find what makes her happy specifically, apart from what it is, that is projected through the media about the standards that society has set for us. Standards, which are pretty rigidly defined and impossible to meet on every level. But yet she looks at herself, where she feels, she falls short, with humour. And she is self-deprecating but never self-pitting. She is always optimistic and forging forward. And that's inspiring. Particularly to women, who recognize her inner dialogue about her fears and potential failures. I think in this next chapter, is more specifically about her relationship, which she has decided to get into. It's not the idea of having a man and keeping a man anymore - it's more specific. It's about being in love with this person and comparing this relationship that makes her very happy. Comparing it to her own idealistic notions, romantic notions of what it is supposed to be. And of course, it never can measure up to the fantasy that we have. And it is incredible, what you might do when you are coming from that place of fear. So I don't' know, if it is necessarily about not being a spinster. It's more about her defining happiness for herself not spoiling it by disappointing herself not meeting her own standards which are a little bit fantastic.
CF: I'd like to ad something to that actually. Two things: one is that Bridget is a single professional woman in a very modern urban world, who despite the apparent disasters, that she finds herself in, is actually bizarrely successful every time. She lands in the picture and it is actually held as a success. She ruins everything with her man and he still wants to come back. And the man that keeps betraying her, also still wants her. They keep fighting over her. I don't quite buy, that she is a failure. And I think that she does these things as an individual. Actually, paradoxically, I see her as extremely functional without man. Having said that, the story has its roots in classical literature. And I think, it is a strange hybrid of modern observation of the kind of character, that Renée is talking about, who is very specifically this woman and her needs. But it did kind of have its roots in Jane Austen. And so I think it has blended some archetypes, where you do take a story of a woman, who needs to find a husband in order to enter society at all. And my character, probably more than anybody, is a bit of relic of another century. His attitude to women is to be protective and to be gallant and not to display his virtues and his emotions. And what they have done is that they have transformed these things into a modern format. And I think it is partly works because archetypes are archetypes for a reason. They stay with us and we respond to them, but the details are extremely modern.
M: Do you think that characters like Colin's Mark Darcy are relics of the past?
RZ: Oh absolutely not. Oh God, I hope not. I truly hope not.
CF: I don't know if Colin is a gentleman.
RZ: Go out there and influence your friends!
M: Should the film be considered as a feministic story?
RZ: I hope so. Actually it is funny, that you should say that. Because I am usually asked the opposite question. Isn't Bridget the antihero? Doesn't she represent weakness in women? Doesn't she represent the failures of women in terms of becoming more progressive and independent? And I disagree with that notion and I agree with you, I do. I think she is very inspiring as a character. She does address her failures. But she is so honest about in a way that isn't necessarily p.c. these days. It's not ok to admit to your weaknesses. She is not paralyse by them. She is always, like Colin said, moving forward, towards what it is, that she is trying to achieve. And she is succeeding. She is determined in a very honest way. In a way where she recognizes, that she won't be succeeding without challenge. And that it won't be a perfect experience. Which is actually, tremendously supportive of the notion that "You can!". That every woman can as you are. Absolutely.
M: Bridget goes through very embarrassing situations. Do you experience such moments in your own life?
RZ: All the time! All the time! Specifically the list is way to long. We just don't have time today. They always seem to happen when the camera is rolling or when I am supposed to be eloquent on live television. It's funny, because the inner dialogue that Bridget has, is a constant. I recognize that. When I think of her out in the World, it's what I imagine in my head, what people see, when I am out in the world. It's very comical to me. The potential for humiliation, in this job specifically, is very high and ever present. I am very aware of it. Not of the consequences of it. You walk in this room and you think "What kind of dumb thing are you going to say today?" You know, the odds are not in your favour.
CF: It always feels like a minor triumph, when you have arrived at your seat without humiliation.
RZ: First of all, and then to leave without having embarrassed your mother or lost all your friends which is a major triumph.
M: You have a father that was born in Switzerland. So Swiss people think of you as the Swiss Girl in Hollywood. Do you have any connection to Switzerland at all?
RZ: I'm honoured. Thank you. And yes I have family here still, and I am very proud of what you just said actually. It's been a big part of my upbringing. Something that culturally has been in my house as long as I can remember. I am very proud of it. So thank you.
M: (A rather chubby person) Can I have the phone number of your dietologist?
RZ: Of course. What for?
M: What did you like more? Gaining or losing weight?
RZ: I don't know. It wasn't a lonely journey. It wasn't hart to get people to join me to go to DeMario's Pizzeria on Friday night. But it wasn't something that I consciously did. Something that was separated from the work. It wasn't that I went to work and then went out to have these doughnut fests. It was part of a very busy schedule. It was part of a characterisation. So it wasn't really "so Renée ist gaining weight". It wasn't that. It was Bridget coming to life. It was all one thing that I couldn't possibly dissect. And the losing weight part is just getting a loose of the character. I stopped speaking like a British woman and I let go of the plan that made Bridget to look the way she was supposed to look. That's it. I don't really look at it in terms of what was more fun. The character was a lot of fun. Boring. Sorry.
M: What do you personally think of guys like Daniel Cleaver? It seemed like you kicked his ass.
CF: Does it seem like that? It didn't seem that anybody kicked anybody's ass, did it.
RZ: I was impressed!
CF: I don't know. I think guys like Daniel Cleaver are much more fun to hang around with than guys like Mark Darcy, to be honest. If I had to spend 24 hours with somebody... If you asked him that question, we would still be waiting for the answer. I think these characters are archetypes. They represent dreams and fears that the people have. And I don't think you are likely to encounter them. Unless of course you meet Hugh Grant. Because non of us are really like our characters except for Hugh, which is precisely like his character. That limits me in giving an opinion now. But you are a bit unlikely to met a Mark Darcy probably in the flesh. (to Renée) You can answer as well if you want.
RZ: If he did. I wouldn't set him up with any of my friends.
M: As he is not here it must be easier for you to answer.
CF: He reads the Swiss Press.
M: Can you tell us who is stronger after the second battle between the two of you this time around?
CF: Listen. If you set any of these two against my grandmother, she would be the only one standing at the end. It is pointless to answer, really. I mean, I don't know. I found, we only were pretending to fight obviously. And I was fighting to the sound of "Ouch", "Be gentle!", "Stop it!", "Be careful", "Nurse!". I had to go very easy on the poor old guy this time.
RZ: I thought you both were very brave. We shoot that in the middle of January. It was freezing cold. Never mind that the crew was all dressed in big coats, long underwear and hats and gloves - wrapped with just enough room to breath around the face. And these guys running around...
CF: I'd say the temperature was the real enemy. This wasn't the first time. I'm glad that people actually found, that this was a highlight in the first film, when we were doing this. The fight was so well known. People had very much made the same comments about it. The wisdom of doing it again, was challenging. Should you try to reproduce that? People now think, that this fight is even more girlier or pathetic than the one we did the first time. Which - I'm sure - it wasn't the intention. We said, we were going to butch it up this time. The cold was horrendous. The stuntmen had gone home, which was the least of our problems. We were in a fountain which was probably around 40 below zero. The question is, how do you keep two rather complaining middle aged men happy in subzero temperatures, when they're fully dressed and got to be there for a day and a half. You have a choice. You can get out of an icy fountain and wait forty minutes for them to set up a new shot and stay in icy clothes. Or you can get into nice and warm clothes and then ten minutes later get back into icy clothes. Or you can do what they did, which is to set up a kind of lukewarm tub of water in the middle of Hyde Park and sit in that - fully dressed. And say, you would have been walking through Hyde Park at around 9 o'clock in a November morning, you would have seen two English gentlemen, fully dressed, up to here in water, sipping tea, and trying desperately to keep warm with increasingly foul smelling water. So that was our day really. It was out of the warm water into the cold water. It had less to do with our personal strengths an weaknesses but was just a battle against Tundra.
M: You shot some parts of the movie in Thailand. A lot of Asian women admire western women. Did they recognize you? Were you well appreciated?
RZ: I don't remember. I really don't remember. It was such an insular experience. I'm boring and I didn't leave the set if I didn't have to, for adventure anyway out on that boat for two days. It was pretty fantastic in that respect. But I was pretty boring and I didn't meet a lot of people. There was the little sort of seafood bar on the beach which was more of a tarp with some barstools in the sand. Fantastic! "Mammamia's" it was called. And I made really good friends with the woman, who ran the thing and actually slept right underneath the bar. But otherwise I can't tell you. It was mostly work sleep, work, sleep. More of the first than the other.
M: When are you going to buy a house in the Swiss Alps?
RZ: There is a good one. And I can if I understood right, having been born in the States. The question would be, when would I get to go to my house in the Swiss Alps? That's a really good question. I have to think about that one. Can I get back to you after I thought about that one. You planted a seed my friend. Now I can't answer any more questions, because I am daydreaming.
M: There are more sexy lines in the second part than in the first part. Did you discuss this with the screenwriter? You know all this "fuck", "shag" etc.
CF: You mean bad language, just bad language? I don't know if there was more...
RZ: I think it was all improvised...
CF: ...by one actor. I tell you one thing that was discussed. In the first draft I read, Mark said the word "shag" a lot, and I said no. It's not because of what I wouldn't say. But I honestly thought, that is not a word Mark Darcy would use. This is subtleties because at the end of the last film, as you recall, he is not shy of using words, if he has too. But I did think that the word shag was not Mark-appropriate.
RZ: That was a special occasion that he pulled that word out in the first film. The Sharon-Character has been described many times as to say the F-Word a lot. That's just part of who she is. Kind of crass in that way. Bridget always made these references. That's just Helen Fielding's sense of humor. I mean she is a very elegant, eloquent woman. You know, she is a lovely lovely woman. But her sense of humor is brutally honest and wonderful in that respect.
CF: And it is very truthful. If you look at London's society. It is very common to use words like that very very liberally. It is just true. You couldn't represent them accurately unless you did that. The posher you sound the greater the effect.
RZ: Did you find it offensive? (to the person that asked the question.)
M: No, but I...
CF: Younger people! (sounding very concerned) It does make it a problem. These films are very young people friendly. Bar that it does make it an issue. It is part of the humor. It is essential and it is part of these societies and how they are represented. And also for non-English speakers. I don't know many other languages. I don't know most other languages. But in my experience and I include the United States in this: I think the English use bad words more liberally, more frequently and more casually that any other culture I know. They don't necessarily do it for emphasis. The just do it. They just sprinkle them throughout their language.
M: Have things changed since you won an academy award?
RZ: Not that I know of. Not that I am aware of in any way. I had that night an unbelievable night. There were little points of it in my mind which where blacked out and some things that I remembered. You know the significance of it. Personally I can't really register this point. It hasn't sunk in. I haven't wrapped my head around it just yet. But I left the next day to go to work and do some things and I haven't been home yet. I haven't really sat still in my life in quite some time. I don't know if I'd sit still, that I would have the ability to look at my life from that perspective. I am not really aware of it. It's sort of naïve sounding to say that at this point. But I don't know that I'll ever have the ability to look at my life from that perspective.
M: Will there be a third movie and will you do the weight thing again?
RZ: Next time Colin will, he said.
CF: Mark Darcy will get fat. And yes I will like it much more than keeping thin.
RZ: I don't know. That is a Helen Fielding question.
CF: These questions are impossible in the abstract. It was impossible the first time around in the abstract. We have to see a hard copy. And then we form an opinion. I think the abstract is never the most appealing version of the proposal. If the abstract is, would you like to repeat yourself? No, thank you. Give me a script that is more than a repetition and that there is substance in and I then would think about it obviously.
RZ: And it has to be from Helen. It really does. These characters represent her perspective on the world. Her Humor, her life perspective. So I think it's essential that it's going to be first her words.
CF: It's a very difficult question. As Renée said, there would have to be a book and it has to come from those roots. This already did. We didn't dream up a sequel because we had a successful film and though it would be a good idea to cash in on that. When we did the first film, there were already two books in existence. It's not unlike the Harry Potter Franchise if you like. We haven't got seven of them. (everybody laughs) Released laughter through the room. There were two books waiting to be made. We made one. The contract even observed the possibility of making another one and the fact, that there was an appetite for another one meant, that we had another book to adapt. We were basing it on an existing entity. This was an adaptation. It wasn't just an attempt, to drag out something we'd already done. This time there is nothing and we don't have anything to go on. That would be dragging it out.
M: In terms of comedy. Do you have a favorite movie of all time?
CF: I can never think of any movie ever made, when asked this sort of question.
RZ: It's like "Tell a joke!"
CF: Comedies? (thinks for a while then to Renée) Do you?
RZ: No you first.
CF: I just wheel out clichés. I just think of classic films, we all love, in response to that question and they probably don't represent, what I really think about anything. Twenty minutes from now, when this is over, I'll go ...
RZ: ...that's my favorite.
CF: Absolutely. No but I like the usual. I'm a fan of things like Some like it hot and Breakfast at Tiffany's and all this. You know. The wonderful American comedies. Comedy will tend to be in one zone language. And I think this is testament of the achievement of Renée and Bridget Jones. Comedies are the least likely thing to transcend cultural barriers, language barriers. I think it is the least likely thing to survive history. It is a very rare thing, that comedy can cross those barriers. Even across the Atlantic from England to America and vice versa. They tend to be English-spoken items. I think Bridget is sort of Miracle. It even reached Thailand.
RZ: It's hard to say because the list is extensive and for so many different reasons. I mean there are elements of comedy in certain dramatic films that I've loved, that I remembered and cherished. I grew up with a different world perspective than most of my American friends because of my parents. And so I did have a keen appreciation for foreign comedies. I cried when I saw the Monty Python films for the first time. I laughed till I wept. When the rabbit comes out of the cave and flies up and grabs them by the neck. His gallant response to the attack on slough "Run away" (Colin joins her and both laugh.)
CF: The battle cry
RZ: Yes, His battle cry. Hilarious too. And I loved that film Delikatessen. I thought it was so darkly funny. I mean there are so many. But there is also physical comedy. The likes of Lucille Ball etc. The inspector Clouseu films are fantastic. So many. So much to appreciate.)
CF: Anything by Peter Sellers actually.
RZ: Anything at all. Him and in the Nabokov film Lolita, when he is shot and he is behind the painting and you just hear "Ouw". This is classic timeless. Wasn't he wonderful?
M: Thank your very much.