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Keeping up with the Jones 

Chris Betros

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Renee Zellweger takes on a new accent, ten kilos and goes undercover in preparation for her role as the lovelorn singleton in Bridget Jones's Diary. Chris Betros reports.

Most people try hard not put on weight. But Renee Zellweger had the opposite problem as she prepared to play the title character in Bridget Jones's Diary. The lithe 32-year-old blonde from Katy, Texas, had to put on nearly ten kilos for the part and attacked the task with great gusto. "Oh, I didn't mind having another milk shake or chocolate bar for the good of the film," she giggled during a recent visit to Tokyo.

Her daily breakfast consisted of an omelet with cheese, a fatty yogurt, fruit salad with topping, juice and coffee. "I'd get up at 3am and have a 3000-calorie breakfast. Throughout the day, it would be eat, shoot, eat. That went on for nine months," said Zellweger who has returned to her normal weight by running or hiking every day.

Casting the American Zellweger with her Texan accent as the beloved character of British author Helen Fielding's novel was an enormous gamble for the film's producers. A best seller all over the world, the novel details the adventures of the neurotic 30-something London "singleton" who constantly drinks, smokes and obsesses about how to get a boyfriend.

Although British tabloids fumed over the casting of an American, Zellweger had no doubts she could pull it off. She spent three months in London with a dialect coach. "The accent was easy," she said. "The challenge was to turn a fictional character loved all over the world into a living, breathing person."

Zellweger is not surprised that Bridget Jones has struck a chord with women in all cultures. "It's fun to watch someone else fall down and experience the same shortcomings as ourselves," she said. "But more than that, Bridget is on a quest for self-acceptance and happiness. She defines success on her own terms as opposed to what society or her friends think it should be. We can all relate to that."

Born to a Swiss father and Norwegian mother, Zellweger got interested in acting in high school while working in the drama club. After graduating in acting from the University of Texas, she filmed some beef commercials and landed bit parts in movies such as Reality Bites (1994) and Empire Records (1995) before getting her first big break as Tom Cruise's agent in Jerry Maguire (1995).

Since then she has proven adept at both comedy and drama, appearing most recently in films such as Nurse Betty, Me, Myself and Irene, The Bachelor and One True Thing.

Often cast as a lovelorn girlfriend, Zellweger said she relished the chance to stretch her comedic acting ability with Bridget Jones. "The trick is not to go too far," she said. "You don't try to be funny, but look for a funny truth in certain situations."

Besides putting on weight and perfecting her accent, Zellweger also went "undercover" for two weeks using the name Bridget Cavendish to work in a London publishing company just as Bridget does in the movie. "I loved it. I'd call newspaper editors to ask them to review books, then I'd be making coffee for the boss, taking phone messages," she said. "I think I spent more money on cakes to beef up for the part than I would have earned in the two weeks."

Producers got good news when Hugh Grant decided to come on board as Bridget's roguish boss. He had put off making a decision for six months but finally agreed after meeting Zellweger. "He said he would have trouble preparing for his character because he didn't know anyone who was as big a cad," Zellweger recalled. "I just told him to look in the mirror and that did it."

Zellweger loves to joke and is always bubbly and chatty, gushing a lot. Is this an act or is that how she really is, one wonders."I love what I do, I couldn't ask for a better life," said Zellweger who was chosen this year by People magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world. "I understand what it means to come to terms with myself, to maintain a balance between my personal and professional life."

How about her personal life? "I'm a bit different from Bridget. Now I don't place the same value on having a male counterpart to balance my life as she does," said Zellweger, who was engaged for a while last year to comedian Jim Carrey.




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IN PERSON:
539: Sea worthy
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538: The public eye
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537: Casting a spell
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536: Page turner
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535: Glitter twins
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534: Character study
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533: The big freeze
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532: Hitting a Homer
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531: Trade deficit
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530: Hey Jude
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529: Field goals
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528: Voice of reason
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527: Rock enroll
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526: Spoils of war
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525: Second acts
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524: State of Grace
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523: Manga mania
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522: Queen of hearts
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521: Remember when
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519: Bilingual beat
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518: Full speed ahead
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517: American dream
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516: Hail the hobbits
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515: In the name of love
Only 20, British actress Keira Knightley is already building an impressive body of work, the latest being the romantic comedy Love Actually. Chris Betros reports.
514: Horsing around
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513: Free bird
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512: Girl next door
Fame hasn't gone to Holly Valance's head, Chris Betros finds after meeting the former Neighbours star and now Australian singing sensation.
511: Emotional baggage
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508: All that jazz
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507: Lord of the rings
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506: Men of honor
Tom Cruise and Edward Zwick say we can all learn from the samurai code of ethics. Chris Betros dusts off his armor for a few lessons.
505: A lofty goal
Ken Ohtaka swapped a top job at a securities company for mountain climbing to raise money for charity. Chris Betros finds out why.
504: Gallo's humor
Vincent Gallo comes out swinging in defense of his controversial movie The Brown Bunny. Chris Betros dodges a few punches.
503: Making J-Waves
Radio navigator, TV host, event MC and jewelry designer Chris Peppler has a lot on his plate. Chris Betros finds out how he manages it all.
502: Glitter Ball
501: Crossing swords
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500: Share the wealth
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499: In full bloom
Okinawan-American singer DAHLIA hits the big time, thanks to Japanese rock icon Yoshiki and Expo 2005. Chris Betros meets the young talent.
498: Just for laughs
The Sushi Brothers have a joke for every occasion. Chris Betros meets the wacky pair.
497: Nobel mind
At 79, former US President Jimmy Carter is a busy man championing human rights, world peace and public health, as Carlo Niederberger observes.
496: Broad strokes
Live performances and self-promotion are all part of being a painter in today's world, artist Ponzi tells Krista Wilson.
495: Action figure
Angelina Jolie is busy these days, kicking butt as Lara Croft and standing up for refugee children around the world as a UN representative. Chris Betros hears more.
494: Show and tell
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493: Pasona non grata
Business maverick Yasuyuki Nambu's vision of a radically new Japanese society doesn't endear him to bureaucrats, but Chris Betros is impressed.
492: Rain man
Author Barry Eisler takes to the mean streets of Tokyo with his second book featuring Japanese-American assassin John Rain. Chris Betros digs deeper.
491: Golden boy
Kosuke Kitajima is the latest athlete to captivate Japan after smashing two world records at the world swimming championships. Fred Varcoe hears about his new life.
490: Murder, she wrote
Award-winning mystery author Natsuo Kirino proves herself a master of the macabre in Out, her first novel to be translated into English. Chris Betros reads between the lines.
489: Life or death
Acclaimed British director Alan Parker's latest film delves into the moral debate surrounding the death penalty. Chris Betros listens in.
488: Work of art
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487: A charmed life
Actress Uno Kanda's ultimate goal is to end up being a cute grandma. Chris Betros asks how she intends to do it.
486: He's back
The Terminator returns after a 12-year hiatus as its star Arnold Schwarzenegger ponders a career shift. Chris Betros reports.
485: Prime time
Thirty-something Tomoko Ogawa has found fame and career fulfillment behind the TBS news desk. Chris Betros pays the anchorwoman a visit.
484: Screen test
Project Greenlight gives aspiring film directors a million bucks and a chance to be the next Martin Scorsese. Chris Betros meets its first winner, Pete Jones.
483: Angel eyes
Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore thrill the faithful during their visit to promote Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Chris Betros joined the masses.
482: No holds barred
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481: Top of the hill
While heading up designer Terence Conran's Roppongi Hills projects, architect Richard Doone took time to get lost in Tokyo. Steve Trautlein reports.
480: Inside the Matrix
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479: Universal themes
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478: On the ball
Japan’s national soccer head coach, Zico, has big plans for the team. Fred Varcoe finds out what’s on his mind.
477: That's a rap
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476: Say the magic word

Popular magician Dave Letendre has a trick for every occasion, Chris Betros observes.
475: Bully boy
Bad boy Brad Renfro takes on another tormented youth role in Larry Clark’s no-holds barred drama Bully. Chris Betros tries to figure him out.
474: Inventive mind
From the weird to the wonderful, Dr NakaMats has an invention for every occasion. Chris Betros meets the genius.
473: The king of rock ‘n’ role
Montreal entertainer Martin Fontaine brings The Elvis Story to Japan this month. Sachie Kanda meets the star of the high-energy musical.
472: Inside out
Akiko Shimizu is on a mission: to give Japanese women the skills to make the right choices in their lives. Chris Betros gets a few tips, too.
471: Dramatic intrigue
International star of stage and screen Mozaffar Shafeie gives Stephen Cotterill the lowdown on Tokyo’s theater scene.
470: Guru of gore
Bizarre movie director David Cronenberg is the most normal person he knows. You wouldn’t think so from his films, though, Chris Betros observes.
469: Female bonding
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468: Baby boom
Pint-sized BRAT has Japan’s pop culture in his sights. Chris Betros talks to his creator, British illustrator John Shelley.
467: Good Lord
Actor Viggo Mortensen dismisses comparisons between Lord of the Rings and the fight against terrorism. Chris Betros lends an ear.
466: Just for thrills
Edward Norton adds Red Dragon to his impressive list of credits. Chris Betros reports.
465: As a Matt of fact
Matt Damon is happy to take on any role, even a sumo wrestler, if the project is right.
464: First bass
Producer and bassist Bill Laswell hits the top without even trying, he tells Tom Bojko.
463: White lies
Aboriginal author Doris Pilkington and filmmaker Phillip Noyce lift the lid on Australia’s “Stolen Generation.” Chris Betros reports.
462: Pottering about
Daniel Radcliffe is enjoying life in the spotlight as Harry Potter works his magic at the box office. Chris Betros reports.
461: In Gere
Richard Gere speaks about getting old, being cool, infidelity and being an activist. Chris Betros takes it all in.
460: Freedom of the press
Maverick newspaper publisher Kiyoharu Nakayama is taking on the big boys with his free newspaper Tokyo Headline. Sachie Kanda reports.
457/458: A farewell to arms
Kathryn Bigelow and Harrison Ford lift the veil on a dramatic Soviet sub disaster in K-19: The Widowmaker. Chris Betros goes below.
456: Leaders of the pack
It was mass adulation as Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese brought Gangs of New York to Japan for the world premiere
454: Future tense
Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise warn about tomorrow's grim possibilities in their mystery Minority Report
453: Keeping the Faith
Family is the driving force in country singer Faith Hill's life whether she's making CDs or soundtracks
451: Watts the matter
Success has been a long time coming for The Ring star Naomi Watts, but it's all part of a learning experience
450: Class action
Batman and 007 are out, Triple X is in, celluloid superhero Vin Diesel says
449: On the rise
A newly restructured Tower Records is setting the pace in Japan's retail music industry
448: Tomorrow the universe
Justine Pasek knows being Miss Universe will be tough, but having faith and a sense of humor can go a long way
447: Cyber sisterhood
Entrepreneur Kaori Sasaki is spreading the message online that Japan's male-dominated corporate world is under threat from an army of capable women
446: Hot rod heart
The Japan Grand Prix is somewhat of a homecoming for 2001 British Formula 3 Champion Takuma Sato
445: Raking it in
Hugh Grant is in peak form, basically playing himself as the stylish layabout in About a Boy
444: Funny business
Japan is a joke to comedian Simon Bligh, who returns to perform with the Punchline Comedy Club
443: Cartoon Channel
An expert editor and diehard manga fan, Coamix head honcho Nobuhiko Horie is going global with his Raijin Comics series
442: Killa' Milla
Milla Jovovich squeezes in a chat with Nicholas Coldicott about tough schedules, superficiality and flesh-eating zombies
441: The show must go on
Japanese entertainers help to bring Broadway back to life with a charity gala concert.
440: Hip hop pop
Japan's original turntablist tells Dan Grunebaum how music saved his life
439: The long road home
After tasting Hollywood success, Y Tu Mama Tambien director Alfonso Cuaron fled LA for his native Mexico's "holy ground."
438: In the spirit
New Age music virtuoso Kitaro takes to the stage for his Silk Road tour
437: The Tomei express
Marisa Tomei's career is in full flight, Chris Betros observes, as the perky actress alternates between the theater and cinema, her latest effort being In the Bedroom
436: Wells spoken
More than 100 years after HG Wells wrote "The Time Machine," his great-grandson Simon directs the latest movie version
435: Stepping lively
Reva Rice and Kenya Osumi promise plenty of eroticism in the newest version of the hit Broadway musical Fosse
434: Full plate
Tokyo architect Benjamin Warner is about to add another successful design to his portfolio with a chain of delicatessens
433: Brunch break
TV personality Tamao Sato's goal in life is to make people happy
432: Heart beat
Justin Gardiner speaks with the versatile percussionist who took center stage at the World Cup closing ceremony
431: Hard to heart
Former sumo wrestler Konishiki is in great demand these days, but his heart lies in his many charitable endeavors
430: Calling the tunes
Shocking peers, maverick sensei Makoto Nishimura invites foreigners into the cloistered world of the shamisen
429: What women want
Fantasy film Kate & Leopold's Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman debate the art of seduction
428: The write stuff
Shodo meets suspense in Todd Shimoda's new novel, "The Fourth Treasure."
427: Will and testament
Will Smith takes on his biggest challenge yet in Michael Mann's biopic Ali
426: Foster care
Now a mother of two, Jodie Foster re-emerges in Panic Room, which deals with the issue closest to her heart—family
425: Pop rocks
Britney Spears is big business, but the 20-year-old pop singer sees it all as just good fun
424: No shortcuts for Morgan Freeman
Fame was a long time coming for Morgan Freeman, who gives thanks to providence and friends
423: Universal values
Mina Chiba is equally at home on the stage as Miss Universe Japan as she is on a car racing circuit
422: Tsuzuki style
Kyoichi Tsuzuki, writer, editor and maverick designer, is Japan's great chronicler of the strange and exotic
421: Arnie, get your gun
Action star Arnold Schwarzenegger explains why the Sept 11 terror attacks won't change a thing in Hollywood
420: Plenty to Crowe about
Despite missing out on the Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, Russell Crowe is still very much in the spotlight
419: Piano man
George Winston has made a career playing instrumental music inspired by the American West
418: War plane
Heroes often emerge out of the blood and guts of chaos, say filmmaker Ridley Scott and his crew of Black Hawk Down
416: The sexplorers
Killing Me Softly director Chen Kiage and star Heather Graham talk titillation
415: Don't call us retro
Stereolab take tunes back to the future
414: Running "Rings" around the rest
The cast and crew of Lord of the Rings talk Oscar and samurai elves
412: Lynch pin
Composer Angelo Badalamenti on Mulholland Drive and working with its famed director
411: Duality
Architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham on the beauty of building in Tokyo
410: American Woman
Natalie Merchant on her life and music
409: There's nothing like a dame
Veterans Julie Andrews and Gary Marshall team up for the Princess Diaries
408: Caiya Kawasaki
has built her image on berating Japanese men, but it's all for a reason
407: The Skys the Limit
Vanilla Sky's Cruise, Cruz & Crowe on casual sex
406: The art of elegance
Veteran designer Takeo Nishida
404: Don't judge an ogre by its cover
Shrek producer Jeffrey Katzenberg
402: Teen angst
Crime and Punishment in suburbia director Rob Schmidt
401: Life's a party

Alan Cumming
400: In the Nic of time

Nicole Kidman high-kicks in Moulin Rouge
399:Memories

Memento's director Christopher Nolan
398:Positivity

American alt rockers 311 take a special interest in Japan
397:Evolution of an ex-Filer

David Duchovny explains why he went from the X-Files to Evolution
396: Rock Warrior

Former Clash frontman Joe Strummer
395: 2001's absurd odyssey

The Coen brothers pay tribute to classic American cinema
394: Jolie good time
Angelina Jolie kicks plenty of butt in Tomb Raider
393: Keeping up with the Jones
392: Ratner a man in a rush
Director Brett Ratner can't wait to film Rush Hour 3 in Tokyo
391: Far from the Madden crowd
Captain Corelli's Mandolin is more than a World War II love story ...
390: Wake-up call
NHK morning news anchor Toko Takeuchi is an early bird with a passion ...
389: Gallo's humor
Artist, filmmaker, actor, model, Vincent Gallo
388: Reaching for the universe
Misao Arauchi
387: Speak softly and carry a big kick
Actor Steven Seagal
386: Paper boy
Italian mime Ennio Marchetto
385: A sight for saur eyes
Jurassic Park III's Sam Neill
384: The planet that went ape
Visionary filmmaker Tim Burton
383: Digital Godfather
The father of ambient music, Brian Eno
382: Mission possible
TV personality Mari Christine
381: Bombs away
Long-awaited Pearl Harbor comes to Japan
380: Not so close encounter
Director Steven Spielberg
379: Sexy poets
Samantha Lang, director of The Monkey's Mask
378: Hogan's hero
Crocodile Dundee - Paul Hogan
377: Sumo do
British actress Charlotte Brittain
376: Mummy dearest
The Mummy Returns' Brendan Fraser
375: Animal magic
Independent movie auteur, Michael Di Jiacomo
374: Brief encounters
American Short Shorts Film Festival organizer, Tetsuya Besho
373: Porn free
Doug Wright, screenwriter of Quills
372: Virgin for life
Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group
371: Don't call me babe
Bombshell Charlize Theron
370: Killer personality
American Psycho's Christian Bale
369: Sweet inspiration
French actress Juliette Binoche
368: Playing chicken
Nick Park and Peter Lord, the creators of Chicken Run
367: The bite stuff
"Tony" Hopkins in a PR stupor
366: Get focked
Meet the Parents' Ben Stiller
365: Age of Innocence
"Auteur" filmmaker Paul Cox
364: As the Crowe flies
Meg Ryan promotes her new movie
363: The hard cell
The down-low on J. Lo
362: Boy in the hood
Actor Masaya Kato
361: Bouncing back
Hollywood's queen of cool, Gwyneth Paltrow
359: Play that funky music
Catch up with Verbal from Japan's hip-hop group m-flo
358: A heartbreak hotel
Hotel Splendide director Terence Gross
357: Billy Elliot
Star Jamie Bell
354: In a tranquil mood
New age musician, Kitaro
351: Bah Humbug
Jim Carrey as The Grinch

ISSUES 349-
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