Judy, which focuses on the final year of the legendary performer’s life, opens September 27.
Renée Zellweger is hoping that Judy, her upcoming Judy Garland biopic, will help audiences better understand the pressures that the legendary singer and actor was up against in her tragic final year.
In Zellweger’s first interview about her anticipated role, the Oscar winner said that Garland, who died in 1969, crested professionally “in a time when women didn’t necessarily feel that they had power over their own lives.” Speaking to People, the actor said she prepared for the part by reading as much about Garland as possible—likely referencing how The Wizard of Oz star, though a chief MGM moneymaker in her screen heyday, was at the mercy of male studio heads, managers, and handlers, who reportedly guided her decisions, zapped her self-confidence, and put her on a track for substance addiction and financial duress. That power dynamic, Zellweger said, “stayed with me, and I hope folks will be moved by that as well.”
The film, which opens in theaters September 27, is set in 1968—the year before Garland’s accidental overdose, and 30 years after the actor played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Directed by Rupert Goold, Judy chronicles the performer’s final concerts—staged amidst health, management, and financial problems. “After working for 45 of her 47 years, she is exhausted; haunted by memories of a childhood lost to Hollywood and gripped by a desire to be back home with her kids,” wrote Deadline, offering additional context. “The film will feature some of Garland’s best-known songs, including ‘Over The Rainbow.’”
The actor also said she is hopeful that revisiting this stage of the singer’s life will help audiences see Garland in new light. “When there’s a better understanding of what it takes for a person to continue under certain circumstances,” Zellweger told People, “there is a level of empathy and respect that you can’t help but feel.”
The film co-stars Finn Wittrock as Garland’s fifth husband, Mickey Deans; Rufus Sewell as her third husband, Sid Luft; Michael Gambon as her manager, Bernard Delfont; Bella Ramsey as Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft; and Gemma-Leah Devereux as her older daughter, Liza Minnelli.