Renée Zellweger and Hugh Grant Returning for Another Bridget Jones Movie

Renée Zellweger and Hugh Grant are set to return for Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, the fourth film in the Bridget Jones franchise, set to debut Valentine's Day 2025.

By Sabba Rahbar Apr 09, 2024 7:02 PMTags
Watch: Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant to Star in New ‘Bridget Jones’ Movie

Renée Zellweger and Hugh Grant are ready to be very busy and important once again.

The duo are set to return for a fourth installment in the Bridget Jones franchise, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy. While Grant was absent from the third film—2016's Bridget Jones's Baby—he'll be reprising his role as womanizer Daniel Cleaver.

Emma Thompson will also be back after her turn as Dr. Rawlings in the third film (she also served as one of the screenwriters), alongside newcomers Chiwetel Ejiofor and Leo Woodall, although there is no word yet on who they will be playing.

Based on the third book in Helen Fielding's series, Mad About the Boy finds Bridget in her early 50s and follows her life as a single mother. The movie is set to debut in theaters internationally and on Peacock in the U.S. on Valentine's Day 2025.

The first film in the series, Bridget Jones's Diary, made a splash in 2001 as it followed reporter Bridget on her quest to improve herself and find love. A sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason was released in 2004.

Renee Zellweger Though The Years

And following the success of the first three films, Zellweger shared that she would love a chance to play the title character again.

"It's so much fun," she told Vanity Fair in 2020. "Man, I'd love the experience of revisiting her. I love her. I just think she's so much fun. She's the best."

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images; Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

And while the 54-year-old has now become synonymous with the character, there was some skepticism when she was cast—even from her costar Grant.

"There was a whole scandal about why isn't this a British actress," 63-year-old Grant said in the 2020 documentary Being Bridget Jones. "I didn't know Renée Zellweger, and a Texan playing a British character, it did seem like a stretch."

"Then she came in and it was Princess Margaret having had a stroke," he joked. "But a week later it was a bang on."

Curious about more secrets from Bridget Jones's Diary? Keep reading.

In the Running

Of course the filmmakers considered a slew of actresses for the role of Bridget Jones while author Helen Fielding worked on adapting her book into a feature film with fellow writers Andrew Davies, who successfully turned Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice into the 1995 BBC miniseries that inspired the whole saga in the first place, and rom-com wizard Richard Curtis.

In December 1999, the front-runners were reportedly Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Emily Watson and Rachel Weisz. Other names that popped up as contenders included Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter and Toni Collette, who's said to have turned down the role because she was in a Broadway play at the time. (The Wild Party ran from April 13 to June 11, 2000, and filming didn't begin until August, but presumably she thought the show might run a tad longer.)

But as Hugh Grant would say in almost every movie he made in the '90s, "Riiiiiiight..."

She Didn't Have Them at 'Ello

There was quite the uproar when Renée Zellweger, adorable lil' actress from Texas, was cast as the beloved British character.

"I've never met Renée, but I'm told she's very funny and learning to speak English with an English rather than Texas accent," Fielding, who apparently did not have final say, commented in May 2000. But once the film was made, it was obvious that the understandably protective author had come around.

"Initially I was very touched by the fact that the entire British nation seemed to go up in arms like a headless chicken," she recalled in a 2001 interview. "And I thought, well, that shows they're very fond of Bridget, that they were just so indignant the she wasn't being played by an Englishwoman. I think it's appropriate that it's an international figure—and anyway, Scarlet O'Hara was played by an Englishwoman, so I think the Americans are getting their revenge now."

Zellweger admitted it was "quite a leap of faith for everyone involved in this project."

The casting was "an immediate anxiety, of course," director Sharon Maguire said, "but I met her and loved her, and thought she had lots of qualities that Bridget has, an outer sort of vulnerability and an inner irreverence."

The Only Man for the Job

Thank goodness he was available and interested, because both the book and the screenplay were written with Pride and Prejudice star Colin Firth in mind as Mark Darcy, the divorced lawyer who makes a nasty judgment about Bridget at first sight but is prickly for a reason (involving Daniel, just as Mr. Darcy has every reason to distrust Mr. Wickham in the 1810 novel) and eventually realizes he was completely wrong about her—and vice-versa.

"It appealed to me, the very irony of that fact," Firth said of what turned out to be his dual turn as Darcys from two eras, "that work I had done in the past was being revisited upon me in this new form."

The Right Mr. Wrong

"I did of course worry that Colin would win the film because his character wins her, but I comforted myself with the fact that I thought my character had more juicy lines. I counted them," Hugh Grant cheekily said at the time, referring to his role as the Wickham-esque Daniel Cleaver, Bridget's lusty rogue of a boss.

"When I talked to Hugh about the character," Maguire recalled, "he said, hilariously, 'I just don't recognize this character, who is he?' And I said, 'Oh, come on, you know this character.'"

Grant still wasn't fully convinced, though, until he found out that Richard Curtis, who wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral, was working on the script. Just as he suggested. "I kept saying, 'It's not working. Just get Richard Curtis to come in and help re-write it,"' he told in 2001. "Eventually they did, and as soon as Richard came on board, I signed on the dotted line."

And having just played a parade of sweet, awkwardly charming blokes who deserved to get the girl, Grant enjoyed being the cad for a change, calling the role of Daniel "blessed relief. And a catharsis."

"I related to him," he recalled on The Jess Cagle Show in December. "He's a disappointed man. He's in publishing and he always wanted to write his own book and hasn't. There was all that going on." Grant paused. "I think I created an absolutely fascinating backstory to him, none of which comes through in the final performance."

Working for Scale

In the book Bridget starts off weighing 129 pounds "(but post-Christmas)" and then chronicles 130 pounds as a "terrifying slide into obesity." But alright, Zellweger had to gain weight for the role and her transformation from birdlike to nearing average size was quite the focus.

The 5-foot-5 actress approached that aspect of her role as systematically as any other, consulting an endocrinologist and a nutritionist to figure out the healthiest way to add to her 110-pound frame in fairly swift fashion. The regimen: three meals a day, snacks, and no exercise.

"I'd have an omelet with cheese and sauce for breakfast with a fatty yogurt and then a fruit salad with a topping and juice and coffee and cream and a bagel with butter and a few hours later a chocolate shake with weight-gain powder in it,'' Zellweger told the New York Times in 2000. ''It was like, do the research, learn your lines, eat the shake. It was all part of the job."

Ultimately she gained a reported 17 pounds, which aligns with the 136 pounds that film-Bridget records in her diary as she vows to lose 20.

Their Fair Lady

Lost in the figure fanfare was her accent, which she also painstakingly worked on, knowing darn well that her casting was controversial so she'd better nail it.

So Zellweger moved to England three months before filming began to work with dialect coach Barbara Berkery every day and do v. British things. She even sat in as an assistant at Picador publishing in London for two weeks, using the name Bridget Cavendish, to practice being both British and doing PR for a publishing house.

"It was very technical,'' she told the New York Times. ''They wanted a very specific accent from a particular social class in a particular area outside London. We started by overenunciating and speaking the Queen's English, then taking it back a notch. It got to be a habit."

She would even speak in her British accent off-camera, "and I didn't know her as a Texan until the wrap party," Grant joked, "when she turned up with this weird voice."

Too Much?

Zellweger was dating Jim Carrey at the time, and when she'd talk to him on the phone, she'd still be using her British accent.

"I'd call my boyfriend and he couldn't take it,'' she told the New York Times. "He'd ask me to please speak normally."

But Grant and Firth "were really kind about it," she recalled of her method ways. "They knew I wasn't some geek trying to sound English. They knew it was part of the job."

Not Smokin'

Zellweger drew the line at smoking real cigarettes, instead puffing on the herbal variety as Bridget frequently promises to cut down. 

But the actress did work on her technique, having only smoked once before in her life, in college, and it made her sick.

"I had my girlfriend from North Carolina who likes to have a Marlboro now and again teach me how to hold it," she explained to WENN. "She didn't tell me the part about how, when you keep it in your mouth for a while it burns your eyes, so I was doing all these great scenes with Hugh and I was blinking away, trying so hard not to ruin his good job."

The Jane Austen Movie Club

While Firth is in the Wet Shirt Moments in Miniseries Hall of Fame from his turn as 19th-century-era Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, he's not the only Jane Austen alum in this modern-day retelling.

Bridget's mother, Pamela, is played by Gemma Jones, who was the Dashwood sisters' mum in 1995's Sense and Sensibility—which also stars Grant as Edward Ferrars, suitor of Elinor Dashwood, who's played by Emma Thompson—who later turns up as Bridget's gynecologist Dr. Rawlings in Bridget Jones's Baby

There's also quite a bit of Harry Potter franchise crossover, with Jones and Jim Broadbent, who plays Bridget's dad Colin, later reuniting as Madame Pomfrey and Horace Slughorn, while Thompson is in several of the films as well as Professor Trelawney. And Bridget's friend Jude, who we first see crying about her crap boyfriend while she's in the bathroom at work is Shirley Henderson, who played the bathroom-haunting Moaning Myrtle. 

True-Life Crew

Fielding and Maguire were dear friends in real life, and Bridget's mate Shazza, played by Sally Phillips, is modeled after her.

Meta Casting

In addition to having Firth and Mr. Darcy in mind when Fielding dreamed up Mark Darcy, Bridget also gets to interview actor Colin Firth for work in the 1999 novel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason—an assignment she, as yet another giddy fan of the BBC's Pride and Prejudice, is quite excited about.

But does that mean there's no Colin Firth in the Bridget Jones cinematic universe?!

Mirror Mirror

Fielding acknowledged that surely the character of Bridget contained aspects of the novelist herself, saying in 2001, "I think the truth is, there has to be a bit of you in a character, a major character, for you to be able to create her."

Grant had known Fielding for years, and remembered telling her a story that involved him referring to someone as "a dirty bitch"—and then when he read Bridget Jones's Diary, there was Daniel playfully using that phrase, which also made it into the movie.

"And so there's even a tiny bit of me in that part," he shared.

Bless This Mess

But was there a bit of Bridget in Renée?

"Obviously I related to the female aspect, her day-to-day regimen and fight against Mother Nature," a 31-year-old Zellweger told The Guardian in 2001. "On a more significant level, I'm about to enter the stage of life that Bridget is experiencing and I, like so many people, understood her quest. I understood her search for self-acceptance and her daily attempt to define what is going to bring her happiness in life, her struggle to differentiate between what it is that she wants for her life and what it is that society expects from her."

Asked if she felt real-life societal expectations were shifting, the actress replied, "It's changing, and it's really an interesting time right now. Bridget is of the last generation that is trying to slip through that antiquated social definition of success regarding women, in terms of being the cornerstone of a nurturing family unit; in other words if you don't get married and you're not celebrated in that regard by a man, then you've failed in some way."

As for the criticism that Bridget's concerns were more petty and old-fashioned than endearing and relatable, Zellweger said, "She faces those dilemmas with humor. She's aware that she's self-aware, which makes her not pathetic, and she's self-deprecating but in a humorous way that makes her not loathsome and not superficial. It's wonderful that Helen Fielding is so honest about our insecurities as human beings."

The story isn't just about Bridget's quest to couple up, either, she pointed out. Rather, "it's the search for who you are, trying to define yourself and really figure out what makes you happy in life. I don't think she's a setback for women. If you look through the course of the book, and the film as well, she really comes into her own, on her own. She decides to be happy now and not in some projected myth of what the future might hold and the happiness that might bring. She blossoms, and if that's not a positive feminist message, I don't know what is."

Bum's the Word

Stuntwoman Dani Biernat filled in the gaps for Bridget's more harrowing moments, such as her slide down the firefighter's pole, though Zellweger amiably did all the close-ups. Front and back.

"That was on the tallest fireman's pole in London at a fire station near Borough Market," Biernat shared with TimeOut London in 2017. "Renée did it on wires—it was her backside that came down—but I did all the lining up and the wide shots without a wire."

The Shape of All Things

Zellweger, a regular gymgoer with a tiny frame, did feel out of sorts in Bridget's body—not that there was anything wrong with Bridget's body, she insisted.

"It was so much fun," she told the New York Daily News about playing the character. "I felt strange only in that I felt alien to myself sometimes. I've never been that heavy." She added, "Weight is a very personal journey, it's unique to each woman's experience and her own way of defining her self-image and self-worth. It's a wonderful theme in this film. Through the mistakes you make and the ones you face and in Bridget's case, with a sense of humor you have self-discovery and self-acceptance."

Ironically, she's also been criticized (or, you know, people have expressed "concern") for being too thin on other occasions.

"I've been an athlete since I was very young," she told the paper. "So being active has always been part of my life. It's not been about physicality in terms of appearance but about what you can make your body do. It's been about quickening my time, not about buying a bikini."

Zellweger also told The Guardian that she didn't consider Bridget to be at all "fat." "She has a different body type to me," the actress explained, "but it reflects the different lifestyles that we lead, and that's what she chooses. It makes her happy to have Chardonnay and some extra Milk Tray [chocolates], so why shouldn't she?" Nor would she call Bridget "normal," though.

"What's normal?" she wondered. "Kate Moss is normal—her genetic make-up has dictated that this is how she'll look. For Bridget, who is voluptuous and doesn't go to the gym on a daily basis—that's definitely normal. Not less attractive, not less beautiful, than someone who weighs 20 pounds less."

Dialect Doubt

Count Grant among the skeptics when Zellweger was first cast as the v. English Bridget. 

"It sounded like a mad plan, but it turned out to be brilliantly mad," he said in 2001.

"There was a whole scandal about why isn't this a British actress?" Grant recalled in the 2020 documentary Being Bridget Jones. "I didn't know Renée Zellweger, and a Texan playing a British character, it did seem like a stretch. She was told to kind of, well, she thought she better loosen it up a bit."

Grant later cracked, "Then she came in and it was Princess Margaret having had a stroke. But a week later it was a bang on."

He was re-trotting out that Margaret reference, having told 20 years ago, "After Renée came abroad, accent-wise she had a very brief Princess Margaret phase, which was alarming! She was soon through that, and then there was a brief phase where Renée sounded very slight as though she...had a stroke! You know, everything was rather slurrrred. But then Renée knocked that on the head. And two weeks before we started shooting, her accent came perfectly into focus. It's the best American doing English that I've ever heard in my life."

A Different Sort of Rivalry

"We were a couple of girls on this film," Grant recalled in 2001 of himself and Firth. "Normally on film sets, classically, you wait for the actress to come out of the trailer, she's doing her makeup and wants to get her wardrobe absolutely perfect. But he and I developed this kind of rivalry about who wanted to be the thinnest and have the nicer clothes. So it was Renée sitting around eating pizza and swilling beer, waiting for us to come out of our trailers while we primped ourselves and finished our salads."

Firth said, referring complimentarily to Grant, that he felt as if he was working with a "connoisseur" of romantic comedies on this film. (And though they wouldn't share a storyline, they'd both flex their rom-com muscles again in the Curtis-directed Love Actually a couple years later.)

Fight Schlubs

Stuntmen were used for when they went crashing through the window, but otherwise the climactic rumble between Mark and Daniel was unchoreographed. Firth told the Los Angeles Times in 2016, "We're two very ineffectual, frightened, angry yuppies going at each other—pulling hair and wanting to run away at the same time."

Grant told, "I've been trying to do something like that for years. You know, when the script says 'they fight,' to ban the stunt coordinator from the set. Because they always try to make it look so Hollywood. You know, we fight the way two middle-class educated Englishmen would fight. Which I've always maintained would be sort of girlie and cowardly, you know? With squealing!" 

But if they had to fight for real, "well obviously I'd win!" Grant promised. "You know, I was trained to kill! But Colin did marvelously, for someone who's not very, well, sporty."

As it turned out, though, they were a smash hit and audiences demanded more.

"Hugh and I have only ever worked together in order to fight," Firth deadpanned in a Fandango Extras clip after he and Grant were compelled to tussle again in the 2004 sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. "On the first film we had very little together, except the fight. Here we are again, doing absolutely nothing except fighting, again."

So, when they reunited for the long-awaited scene, they really went for it. With the trash-talking, that is.

"He complained bitterly, of course," Firth said. "I was 'hurting him,' he had bruises. I think probably if we ever did do it again I would advise him to get in a bit of training first."

Grant offered, "Colin now has to spend even more time in the trailer, poor old boy, 'cause he's, you know, he's losing it a little. I think he'd be the first to tell you that. He's gone a bit jowly and the neck's gone a bit scrawny and all that."

Firth countered, "I think he was spending a bit of time paying attention to his body and his fitness at the time. It's remarkable the difference three years can make, really, because it was certainly easier for me because he was much fleshier and his contours were softer. It was more like wrestling my grandmother from that point."

Bottoms Up

The long-awaited grand kiss in the (fake) snow between Mark and a pantsless Bridget was movie-specific, and Zellweger loved it. Firth, meanwhile, was in awe of how stoic his leading lady was, "finding it quite chastening to work with a person like Renée who never complains ever."

"I remember that we shot it on a street that we were not able to lock down, so the red double-decker buses with people going by and I'm running down the bridge in my pants, my underpants," Zellweger recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 2015.

Firth said, "It is a long time ago but what I do remember, I think I had friends and family come visit that day and sometimes if you shoot a scene like that, the unit can be small enough that people hardly notice you're making a movie. But because it was night and because we snowed up so much of London for it, it looked vast. I'd never been on a film set before which looked so dramatic, looked so much like a film set. I mean from five blocks away you could see the sky lit up. And the snow machines! I think they had improved snow effects since then but I do remember everybody wearing protective masks except for two actors who obviously couldn't wear a mask. And I remember thinking that's not good." (Fast-forward to 2021...)

To which Zellweger added, "Running in the snow in my underpants was [Maguire's] call. She thought it would be very, very funny and yeah, that is why I love her."

Mutual Admiration Society

When the film had wrapped, Zellweger described Grant as "hysterical. And he's nice and so intelligent, and his humor reflects that."

Grant obviously had a fine time on set, describing his co-star to Elle in 2009 when asked to sum up some of his famous leading ladies using three adjectives: "Delightful. Also far from sane. Very good kisser."

Called upon to review his comments to Elle seven years later on The Graham Norton Show, he deemed his synopsis of Zellweger "fair." She's also "genuinely lovely," he added, "but her emails are 48 pages along. Can't understand a word of them. I'll put them on Twitter."

And despite obviously saying everything he could at any given time to put a stop to it, Grant revealed in December that he and Zellweger really did keep in touch, quipping on The Jess Cagle Show that she was "one of the few actresses I haven't fallen out with."

"We get on very well together," he added with a smile. "And we still exchange long emails—hers, in particular. They're at least 70 pages each. Interesting stuff, but quite hard to decipher. No, she's a properly good egg—and a genius. Did you see her Judy Garland? About as good as acting gets."

For the latest breaking news updates, click here to download the E! News App