Zellweger, 50, accepted the prestigious award for playing the late Judy Garland in Judy, which takes place 30 years after her starring role in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. The film follows Garland one year before her 1969 fatal overdose, as she arrives in London to perform in several sold-out concerts.
The Chicago actress’ impressive take on Garland led her to beat Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women) and Charlize Theron (Bombshell) in the best actress race. While accepting the award, Zellweger gave a shout-out to Garland and her body of work.
“No, Judy Garland did not receive this honor in her time. I am certain that this moment is an extension of the celebration of her legacy that began on our film set,” she said on Sunday. “[It] is also representative of the fact that her legacy of unique exceptionalism and inclusivity and generosity of spirit, it transcends any one artistic achievement.”
She continued, “Ms. Garland, you are certainly among the heroes who unite and define us and this is certainly for you. I am so grateful. Thank you so much, everybody. Good night. Thank you.”
Zellweger’s accomplishment on Sunday marks her second Academy Award win after she earned the coveted Best Supporting Actress prize in 2004 for Cold Mountain. Over the years, the Bridget Jones’s Diary star has also scored multiple wins and nominations at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, to name a few.
In December 2019, Zellweger told Screen Daily that she utilized various preparation methods to properly portray Garland, including going “down the YouTube rabbit hole” and reading “every book” she could find on the iconic star.
“You feel a different sense of responsibility when you’re playing someone who has lived and who is known because there are certain parameters that are established and non-negotiable,” she explained. “With someone who is as beloved as Judy, you just want to be responsible in your approach.”
Zellweger continued, “I love her too and I love what she represents and I love this gorgeous catalogue of work she left and that everybody feels some sort of attachment to her if you’ve ever seen The Wizard Of Oz. I wanted to be careful with that and we were all motivated by the hope to spotlight her importance and celebrate her legacy and feel we did it right.”
Before appearing in Judy, Zellweger took a six-year hiatus from her acting career for the sake of her well-being. “I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities,” she told Vulture in September 2019.
The Jerry Macguire star told the publication that she “wanted to allow for some accidents” during her time off, adding that she “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.”
For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!