Q: Is Renée Zellweger really smoking in "Bridget Jones's Diary"?

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

Texas-born actress Renée Zellweger transformed herself a lot to become literary heroine Bridget Jones, but she didn't become a smoker.

For the many scenes in the 2001 rom-com classic "Bridget Jones's Diary" in which the titular character is seen smoking, Zellweger is smoking herbal cigarettes. It's about the only aspect of the character she didn't dive into headfirst.

The actress put on 25 pounds to play Bridget, a character who obsesses about her weight in the novel — that's a big ask for a lead actress in Hollywood. She also, of course, had to put on an English accent; an accent she worked on with great voice coach Barbara Berkery, who has also helped Americans sound British in such hits as "Shakespeare in Love" (1998) and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Indeed, Zellweger's casting proved to be an incredibly controversial move that got a lot of attention because the movie was adapting a smash-hit novel to which many people already had strong attachments. Furthermore, the novel made it clear that Bridget was plain-looking, overweight and English -- and Zellweger, of course, was none of these things.

"Of all the clunking, Hollywood idiocy ..." is how one British columnist responded.

But as we now know, Zellweger got the last laugh. The movie was a hit, earning her Oscar, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nominations for her trouble.

She also had the pleasure of making the critics eat their words. She earned praise for her comedic timing, with Britain's The Guardian calling her accent "excellent" and her physical transformation "a thing of joy."


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