For Zellweger, accent is on authenticity

USA Today

Renee Zellweger is howling with laughter. The ‘Cold Mountain’ actress says it’s “hilarious” that her performance in the film as feisty, tough Ruby is being compared to ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Granny Clampett.

“Never in my life did I think I would be compared to Granny,” the actress says. “That’s fantastic. I’m flattered.”

(USA Today and The New York Times are among publications that have referred to the 1960s sitcom about mountain folk who strike it rich.)

But Zellweger, whose character comes to the Cold Mountain farm to help a hapless Nicole Kidman survive during the Civil War, also is being singled out for stealing the movie, and Oscar buzz is beginning.

Richard Corliss writes in Time magazine: “As for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, voting is now officially closed; Zellweger should take it by acclamation.”

She already is up for a Golden Globe. The day her nomination was announced, she was in Phuket, Thailand, filming a scene for the upcoming ‘Bridget Jones’ sequel.

“I went back to my 1972 rock-star bus that they hired for a dressing room, and I got a message to call my manager right away. I was a little bit panicked because it was 5 am his time, and I thought something was really, really wrong.”

When he congratulated her, she was “completely discombobulated. It was a really nice surprise. It has really snuck up on me. I’ve been in Bridget Jones’ world.”

Back in New York for ‘Cold Mountain’ publicity, Zellweger says, “It was nice to come home and hear that people are responding to the film.” The movie has brought in a solid $19.1 million at the box office since opening Christmas Day.

Though much is being made of Zellweger, 34, being the only Southerner in the movie, she actually is from Texas and had to work to create an accent for her North Carolina character.

“It’s really specific. It’s regionally different from the Southwest twang that I carry around.”

Filming in Romania helped make it all the more authentic. “Usually you drive to work and you’re thinking about your character, but you’re driving past shopping centers and billboards. And so when you’re doing a period piece, you really have to clear your mind. But we were actually living it. You’d see herders on the side of the road, carts being pulled by people in traditional dress.”

Her secret to getting through it: Starbucks coffee. “I went in an addict. I had to pack a few pounds of beans.” Each morning it was her ritual to “go into my little cabin kitchen and boil the milk and make lattes” for her driver and her assistant.

She doesn’t say whether she also made them for Jack White, her character’s love interest as well as the frontman for the rock group White Stripes, who made his acting debut in the film.

She says she’s not sure how she’ll ring in the new year. “I’m going to improvise.” She does know that she’s due back on the set of ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’. There’s still six weeks of filming to go.

And as for the rest of 2004? “My plate’s kind of full. I’ll be happy for what’s on it.”