Renée Zellweger really didn’t want to actually sing while playing an older Judy Garland in “Judy,” but director Rupert Goold told her it was essential to show how performing “Over the Rainbow” wasn’t as effortless as it once was.
“I think on camera it’s important to capture the truth of the performer, the literal physical exertion of performing.” Goold told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at the Toronto International Film Festival. “I’ve seen the sweat that pours off the performer on stage…the way the sinews move on the neck… it’s a very gladiatorial state of mind that they are in.
“I’m sure there’s a way to capture that with someone else’s music, but I felt it was going to be more visceral live,” he added. “Plus Renée’s got a great voice.”
“Judy” is set in 1969, 30 years after Judy Garland rose to cinematic immortality in “The Wizard of Oz.” But Garland’s star has fallen since then. She has struggled with drug addiction, has had multiple marriages, and repeatedly ended up in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Looking for a comeback, she begins a run of sold-out shows in London, hoping that the five-week residency will revive her career. Instead, it will challenge her fraught relationships with the men in her life, including Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), with whom she is falling in love with.
“It never occurred to me that a person who had been working for such a long time at that level could possibly face financial challenges,” Zellweger said. “I didn’t know she started singing at two, I didn’t know she was medicated in prepubesence, and I didn’t appreciate what the physical implications of that consumption of amphetamines had on the body after such a long period of time.”
“All of those things are devastating for a vocal performer as I’ve come to understand it, and look what she did anyway!”
Watch more with Zellweger, Goold and Wittrock in the clip above, and catch “Judy” in theaters September 27.