The film industry is often guilty of presenting us with unrealistically perfect depictions of the human race, and whilst we enjoy seeing the likes of Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts lighting up the silver screen with their toned figures and pearly whites, we do occasionally long for a more realistic character who we can relate to on a more personal level.
So it was a breath of fresh air when Bridget Jones, a character first introduced to us in a 1996 novel by the English author Helen Fielding, burst onto our cinema screens in the 2001 box office smash Bridget Jones’s Diary. Matching the success of the book, which sold 2 million units on release, the film took $281 million worldwide.
Below are 10 things you might not have realised about this award-winning romantic comedy.
10. The book was based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Helen Fielding’s 1996 book Bridget Jones’s Diary, which won the British book of the year award in 1998, was loosely based on Jane Austen’s classic 1813 romantic novel Pride and Prejudice.
Fielding, who also wrote for The Independent and The Daily Telegraph, often criticised our society’s obsession with women’s magazines and fashions.
9. It started life as an anonymous newspaper column
Bridget Jones’s Diary started life as a newspaper column that Helen Fielding wrote for The Independent, with the author having been quoted as saying that “The Independent asked me to write a column, as myself, about single life in London.”
“Much as I needed the money, the idea of writing about myself in that way seemed hopelessly embarrassing and revealing.” Fielding continued. “I offered to write an anonymous column instead using an exaggerated, comic, fictional character. I assumed no one would read it and it would be dropped after six weeks for being too silly.”
8. It could have starred Cameron Diaz
A number of actresses were considered for the role of Bridget Jones in the two-year period before Renée Zellweger was cast, including Cameron Diaz, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson and Cate Blanchett.
Kate Winslet was said to have been rejected for being too young and Rachel Weisz for being too good-looking. Toni Collette was also considered, but had to turn down the opportunity because it clashed with her starring role in the Broadway play The Wild Party.
7. Renée Zellweger’s ability to combine “comedy and emotion” landed her the part
According to the film’s director, Sharon Maguire, Renée Zellweger’s impressive ability to be both funny and heartfelt is what landed her the role of Bridget Jones.
“I saw in Renee a gift few people have, that she was able to straddle comedy and emotion,” Maguire has been quoted as saying.
6. Renée Zellweger put on 20 pounds for the role
Renée Zellweger put on 20 pounds (just over 9kg) in preparation for playing Bridget Jones, and even spent time working as a trainee for the London book publisher Picador, with Hollywood.com writing that “under the name Bridget Cavendish she answered phones, served coffee and made photocopies without being recognized by any of her co-workers.”
In the lead up to the film hitting cinemas, a number of people criticised the casting of an American in what they considered to be a quintessentially British role, but Zellweger’s performance and British accent were later widely praised.
5. Hugh Grant never once heard Renée Zellweger speak in her real accent during the shoot
After being trained by the voice coach Barbara Berkery, who also helped Gwyneth Paltrow perfect her British accent for the 1998 Academy Award-winning film Shakespeare in Love, Renée Zellweger chose to speak as Bridget Jones throughout the entirety of the film’s three-month shoot.
“Not once did she stop speaking with that accent, until the wrap party,” revealed Hugh Grant, who played Daniel Cleaver, one-third of Bridget’s love triangle. “Suddenly this weird Texan appeared. I wanted to call security, I didn’t know who the f*** she was!”
4. It is one of only a few romantic comedies to have been nominated for an Academy Award
The film is one of the few romantic comedies in history to be nominated for one of the major Academy Awards.
Renée Zellweger’s amazing performance saw her nominated for the Best Actress Award, as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
3. It gave Geri Halliwell her biggest solo single
The film’s soundtrack, called Bridget Jones’s Diary: Music from the Motion Picture, spawned two hit singles, with Out of Reach by Gabrielle reaching number four on the UK Singles Chart in April 2001.
The second single released was a cover of It’s Raining Men by Geri Halliwell, which was the Spice Girl’s fourth consecutive number one hit single in the UK and her most successful solo single.
2. It spawned two equally successful sequels
The success of Bridget Jones’s Diary meant it was the beginning of a franchise that saw the release of two equally successful sequels.
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (released in 2004 and also based on a book by Helen Fielding) and Bridget Jones’s Baby (released over a decade later in 2016) both saw Renée Zellweger reprise her role and both made over $200 million at the worldwide box office.
1. A musical version has been in development for over a decade
A musical version of Bridget Jones’s Diary has been in development for over a decade and is set to hit London’s West End soon.
The musical, which was written by the book’s author Helen Fielding with music and lyrics by Lily Allen and Greg Kurstin, may see Sheridan Smith taking on the lead role.