Remember when Renée Zellweger was the hottest thing since sliced bread (and practically as thin)? Way back in the early '00s, she scored three Oscar nominations in a row, finally winning for her supporting role in 2003's Cold Mountain. I was sure Shohreh Aghdashloo would pull off an upset for her turn as the doomed mom in The House of Sand and Fog, but that's a different story. As was the case with so many supporting actress Oscar winners before her (Mira Sorvino, Jennifer Connelly, the recently rebounded Marisa Tomei), there was no place for Renée to go from there but down.
Sure she still gets above-the-title billing, but in April's Leatherheads, starring ex-beau George Clooney (with her, above), her image didn't even grace the movie poster. Is she turning into box-office poison? Both of her post-Oscar star vehicles, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Beatrice Potter, earned her increasingly irrelevant Golden Globe nominations but were in and out of U.S. theaters (though Jones did do well internationally). I wonder why Renée's career flounders while Nicole Kidman, who, in 2003, edged out Renée for Best Actress in what I suspect was one of the closest races in Oscar history (in a reversal of fortunes, Renée's Chicago trumped Nicole's The Hours for Best Picture), can add flop after flop to her filmography without forfeiting her status as a top draw among Hollywood directors.
I suspect it has something to do with Renée's quickie marriage in 2005 to country star Kenny Chesney, and its nearly simultaneous annulment (she cryptically cited "fraud" in official documents). Neither Hollywood nor Oscar approves of personal scandal. Nicole, meanwhile, married another country hunk, fellow Aussie Keith Urban. Perhaps if Nicole hadn't stood by her man when the honeymoon period ended almost as soon as it began with Keith's stint in rehab, things wouldn't be working out so well for her either. Now Keith and Nicole have a new daughter named Sunday Reed, and she's generating her annual Oscar buzz for Australia, her reunion with Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann, costarring Hugh Jackman.
As for Renée, she continues to work steadily in lower-profile roles and will costar with Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen in the upcoming western Appaloosa (left). Something tells me she'll be upstaged by the boys. Then again, the last time Ed Harris directed a film, 2000's Pollock, his leading lady, Marcia Gay Harden, took home an Oscar. Time will reveal. In the meantime, here is a short and sweet clip from my favorite Zellweger film, 1999's One True Thing.