Oscar-winner Renée Zellweger received a two-minute standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month for her performance channeling Judy Garland in Judy, in theaters now.
The film, from director Rupert Goold, stars Zellweger as the beloved Garland as she takes on the Talk of the Town concert series in London six months before she died at 47 in 1969. Judy depicts the singular Garland as not just the performer audiences knew her to be but as a mother desperate to be with her children, a friend, and an ally and a salve for LGBTQ people.
Based on Peter Quilter’s play End of the Rainbow, Tom Edge wrote the screenplay that bookends the Talk of the Town series with a young Judy prepping to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. The biopic also excoriates the people in Garland’s life from her mother to Louis B. Mayer to her husbands Sid Luft and Mickey Dean, who exploited her in various ways.
In an interview with The Advocate, Zellweger speaks eloquently about how Garland’s relationship with the LGBTQ community is part of why she’s drawn to her.
“That’s one of the reasons I admire her so greatly is because she was a trailblazer in that respect,” Zellweger says of Garland as a gay icon. “She was so witty and she could go toe-to-toe with the guys. She was so glamorous and gorgeous, but at the same time she was unrestricted in her humor and the ways she sort of threw the one-liners around.”
“And she did speak out. She did acknowledge the community at that time. You can’t put a measure on the value of that for a person at that time when it wasn’t OK to express publicly who you were, especially in England, where it was just barely legal at the time when we’re talking about this film,” she says. “She showed appreciation and love for people who might feel misunderstood and not seen.”
In an Advocate interview earlier this year, the star of Chicago spoke passionately about her own relationship to LGBTQ people when asked how she feels about being a gay icon.
“What, really? Good for me," Zellweger said, clapping her hands in delight. "I forget that I have a public persona most of the time. So to hear you say something like that is so flattering.”
"A great deal of my closest friends are gay people," she added, calling them "treasures" and speaking about the "admiration" for the LGBTQ people in her life who are full of "empathy, understanding, and acceptance and absence of judgment," and a knack for "embracing life."
Watch the interview with Zellweger below. Judy is currently in theaters.