MGM; Universal; Castle Rock
MGM; Universal; Castle Rock
Don't call it a comeback.
Renée Zellweger looks poised in Prada on the cover of British Vogue's July issue, the first of many profiles in support of Bridget Jones's Baby. It's the first time Zellweger has had a project to promote since 2010, when My Own Love Song was released in theaters. For more than half a decade, Zellweger, 47, has eschewed the spotlight, save for red carpet appearance here or there. Her disappearance baffled many. After all, they wondered, why would she turn her back on an industry that gave her an Oscar and paid her a reported $15 million a movie? Well, to be frank, fame and riches were never why Zellweger got into show business. "As a creative person, saying no to that wonderful once-in-a-lifetime project is hard. But I was fatigued and wasn't taking the time I needed to recover between projects, and it caught up with me," she told the magazine. "I got sick of the sound of my own voice: it was time to go away and grow up a bit."
Taking a break made a world of difference for Zellweger, who made 19 films in 10 years. "I found anonymity, so I could have exchanges with people on a human level and be seen and heard, not be defined by this image that precedes me when I walk into a room," she said. "You cannot be a good storyteller if you don't have life experiences, and you can't relate to people."
Zellweger isn't the first Hollywood golden girl to need take a self-imposed time-out, of course. Meg Ryan left sunny Los Angeles for New York City years ago and never looked back. In fact, in 2008, the Top Gun actress told InStyle that after her highly public divorce from fellow actor Dennis Quaid, she was relieved to have escaped the "airless bubble of rich Hollywood people."
After Ryan's black comedy Serious Moonlight was released in 2009, it would be six years before she made another movie. During her hiatus, she focused on raising her daughter, Daisy True, and was in an on-and-off relationship with rock legend John Mellencamp . Ryan—one of the most bankable actresses of the '90s, thanks to roles in When Harry Met Sally..., Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail—became the subject of a 2013 People cover story about the state of her career. A veteran talent agent said Ryan, 54, "is not perceived as aggressively going after parts," while another industry source said she "was so tired of rom-coms. She was so over it."
So she did something about it. In 2015, Ryan decided to try her hand behind the camera. She directed her first feature film, Ithaca, released the following year. Ryan now views fame as a "condition" rather than an "affliction." Being in the spotlight is "definitely something I have had an evolving relationship to," she told Porter in 2015. "I'm the kind of person who doesn't want to be separated out...Fame is so cheap. Actually it's not cheap—it's privacy that is expensive."
There are plenty of other reasons why actresses leave Hollywood behind. For some, sadly, the choice isn't theirs to make. As Goldie Hawn's character said in The First Wives Club, "There's only three ages for women in Hollywood: babe, district attorney and Driving Miss Daisy." Hawn had her own motives for taking a breather. After the release of 2002's The Banger Sisters, she wanted to focus her energy on bonding with her family and running The Hawn Foundation's MindUP program. "The things we do early in life aren't always what we will do later," she explained in Porter's Summer Escape issue, published in June 2015. "You just keep growing, embracing change, being present with what is. We are the sum total of our life experiences—that's what builds us; that's who we become. If we don't do any personal research or any personality and psychic excavation, we really aren't growing—we're only just existing."
Moviestore Collection/Rex/REX USA
Hawn will return to the big screen for the first time in 15 years as Amy Schumer's mom in an untitled comedy, tentatively set for release in 2017. Taking time off has allowed her to figure out what matters most and create more balance in her life. It's also helped the 70-year-old actress better understand fame and where she stands in Hollywood. "In our profession, we're very, very scrutinized—left, right, and center. There are a lot of challenges with that, because frankly, celebrity or no celebrity, we're just people. And people have emotions and we have hearts and minds, sadness...When people look at you, when they see you, they don't really see you. Certainly those of us who are celebrities. They don't know how we wake up in the morning. They don't know what we do for others during the day. They don't know what's in our heart and mind. They have no idea how we were raised. But what they do is they imprint their perceptions and their projections onto you. So therefore, you can't take it personally," she told Elle in 2015. "If somebody says to you, 'Oh, I think you're horrible, you're butt ugly,' you can't look at that; that's their perception. It's not yours."