Renée Zellweger on Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy: "He is pretty brilliant." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
At Universal Pictures and Working Title Films Bridget Jones’s Baby lunch at Lotos Club, Savannah Guthrie moderated a discussion with stars Renée Zellweger and Colin Firth, director Sharon Maguire, producer Eric Fellner and Helen Fielding.
Renée Zellweger chats with Frozen River director Courtney Hunt, as Eric Fellner, Bill Blakemore and Fred Schepisi share a laugh Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
In Bridget Jones’s Baby, co-written by Fielding, Dan Mazer, and Emma Thompson, Mark Darcy's (Firth) competition for Bridget Jones (Zellweger), is Jack, an American dating website guru, played by Patrick Dempsey as a variation of a Disney prince. Jack comes across like the product of his own algorithms, the perfect light-as-air fantasy catalyst for the other two. If this film were directed by Stanley Donen or Vincente Minnelli, he would do magic tricks while dancing.
Zellweger beautifully plays out the contradictory feelings raging inside her. I thought about Katharine Hepburn in George Cukor's Pat And Mike, messing everything up whenever her fiancé was around. She knows what is going on and still can't help it. In this case, the same goes for Mr. Darcy. "Would you like to get some air? More air?" he gets away with asking Bridget at a christening - while standing outside in the open air. She has a train in her hair (don't ask) and fairy wings and attempts to connect to her wisdom about where things may lead.
At lunch, I asked the panel about the possibility of a musical future for Bridget Jones.
The Wolf Of Wall Street screenwriter Terence Winter in the Lotos Club library Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Anne-Katrin Titze: There were a few moments where I thought if this were a musical from the 1950s - MGM, Arthur Freed - they would burst out into song and dance. Were you ever thinking about Bridget Jones, the musical?
Eric Fellner: There is a musical of the Diary of Bridget Jones and one day Helen will decide to bring it to Los Angeles.
Helen Fielding: The thing is this - there's lots of possibilities. But it's a very particular voice and character and so we can't just keep churning things out. I think a musical would be fantastic, could be fantastic, but would take a long time to do. It would be really, really plush.
AKT: I was thinking, for example, of the scene when Jack arrives with the puppet. It reminded me of Fred Astaire in Easter Parade in the toy shop.
Following coffee and dessert after lunch, I had a chance to sit down with the very beautiful star.
Renée Zellweger: I liked your question about Easter Parade.
Renée Zellweger strikes a pose as Savannah Guthrie shows off her baby bump Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Anne-Katrin Titze: I'm glad you did.
RZ: That was so flattering. Because we all really, really hoped that this film would stand on its own and that it would be unpredictable and different and not depend on people's nostalgia for the characters. But that it would be a worthwhile adventure just as a film, apart from it being a part of this franchise. And your question sort of indicated that perhaps ...
AKT: … it connected to the timelessness of Arthur Freed productions?
RZ: Yes! I mean, come on, that's a beautiful comment. Thank you!
AKT: You're more than welcome. The thing about Bridget Jones, I was thinking while watching the film, is that on the one hand, you feel: Oh, I'm glad that's not me. On the other hand you are wowed by her adventures. And the third level is, well, this could be me. It's a very interesting three-layered thing of not me, could be me, and isn't me.
Savannah Guthrie, Eric Fellner, Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Sharon Maguire, Helen Fielding Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
RZ: Well, we've all been there. In a situation that you cannot control, that is escalating in terms of its potential disaster or its awkwardness. It challenges the presentation of ourselves that we are trying to share with other people versus the reality of who we really are and what we really feel like on the inside. In terms of our anxieties and our fears of not measuring up.
AKT: When I spoke with Colin before, I complimented him on being someone who could make everyone around him feel so ill at ease.
RZ [squeals laughing]: That is not flattering!
AKT: As Mr. Darcy! Not as Colin Firth, of course. Your reactions to him are perfect, the constant question - did I do something wrong? There are people like him out there triggering that kind of response. He epitomises that in one look.
RZ: He is pretty brilliant. And, well, anybody's silence allows you to fill in the gaps. And we don't necessarily vote in our own favour when we're assuming what other people are thinking, do we?
Katie Couric with Savannah Guthrie at Laurie David's Fed Up MoMA premiere in 2014 Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
AKT: And all the insecurities come up. And then it is turned around and his insecurities are exposed and he falls for Bridget. The facade is not the truth - I think that's at the core of the series.
RZ: I agree with you. The message is obviously, like you said, that we all have affection for these characters because they are vulnerable and they do speak to us in our shared experiences as human beings. It makes it okay, sort of, for the rest of us to be human, I think.
AKT: The best thing about Bridget is that she is not mean-spirited, never.
RZ: Never, never.
AKT: And that in this world is a rare thing, unfortunately.
RZ: I agree and I think it's why we cheer for her. We root for her.
AKT: You're great.
RZ: Thanks so much. I appreciate it.
Read what Colin Firth had to say on revisiting Mark Darcy for Bridget Jones’s Baby.
Coming up - Sharon Maguire and Helen Fielding on bringing Bridget Jones into the present, and Fred Schepisi on his upcoming film Andorra, based on Peter Cameron's novel.
Bridget Jones’s Baby comes out in the US and the UK on September 16.