Renée Zellweger Says She Once Stepped Away From Acting and 'Snuck Into' College

With her award-winning performances in movies like Jerry Maguire, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and Cold Mountain, Renée Zellweger became one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood by 2007. But in 2010, she took a break from celebrity life. And in a recent appearance on Today,  Zellweger revealed that she used that time away to sneak into college and pursue her academic passions. 

Renée Zellweger was in college when she first started acting

Zellweger started her acting career while pursuing her Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English at the University of Texas at Austin. After taking a few drama electives, she was drawn to acting. So she began auditioning and landed several big commercials early in her career. 

Zellweger then landed a few small TV and film roles before starring in the 1995 slasher movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, opposite Matthew McConaughey.  A year later, she appeared in Jerry Maguire, the Tom Cruise film that made her an overnight Hollywood A-lister. 

The actor went on to take on huge blockbuster projects, including Bridget Jones’ Diary, Me, Myself, & Irene, and Chicago. Her performances earned numerous accolades, including Golden Globes for Chicago and Nurse Betty, and an Academy Award for Cold Mountain in 2003. 

Zellweger returned to acting in 2016, with Bridget Jones’ Baby. And after winning another Academy Award for Judy in 2019, the actor is taking on a true crime story with The Thing About Pam

The NBC series tells the real-life story of Pam Hupp (Zellweger), the woman linked to the murders of Betsey Faria and Louis Gumpenberger. After listening to a podcast about the murders and Hupp’s involvement, Zellweger said she knew it would make for a great story. 

“I think my jaw was on the steering wheel,” she told Entertainment Weekly.  “That’s the thing about it: You can’t quite believe the facts that surround this case. ‘Escalating absurdity’ is how I’d describe it.”

She developed the series under her production banner, The Big Picture Co., and serves as executive producer. “It felt like a good time to start telling stories that I found interesting and to develop material,” Zellweger noted. “Not just for myself, but things that I’d like to see made.” 

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