Zellweger Sheds Vanity in 'Cold Mountain'

N E W   Y O R K, Dec. 22, 2003 -- Renée Zellweger's prickly portrayal of a country girl with sense and heart in Cold Mountain has garnered her a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actress.

Her role as a gritty Southerner in the Civil War drama was very different from the actress' glamorous turns in Chicago, and Down With Love, where she was often dressed to the nines, with hair and makeup perfect.

In Cold Mountain Zellweger plays Ruby, who goes to work on a failing farm owned by Ada, played by Nicole Kidman.

Zellweger says she enjoyed being Ruby and having the focus be on the character and not her appearance.

The 34-year-old actress said her make-up was left more in the hands of a "dirt continuity" artist who made sure each smudge on Ruby's face was in the same place in scene after scene.

"I find there's so much more freedom in the parts where you don't have to constantly be concerned about looking right," Zellweger said. "I loved it. She [Ruby] looked like where the day led her," she said.

When Ruby arrives on Ada's North Carolina farm, she is quick to set up some ground rules for the lovely Ada, who knows nothing about farming or other practical matters.

"I expect to board and eat at the same table, and I do not expect to work while you sit around watching neither," Ruby tells Ada. When a rooster comes up and crows during their conversation, Ada says she fears the animal, which she describes as "Lucifer himself."

Ruby agrees that she doesn't like roosters, either.

"I despise a floggin' rooster," Ruby tells Ada, snapping the rooster's neck. "Let's put him in a pot."

Zellweger, who was born in Katy, Texas, is the only natural born Southerner in the cast. Kidman is an Aussie by way of Hawaii, and Jude Law is an Englishman, so speaking with a Southern accent was not easy.

Zellweger said she knew Charles Frazier's Civil War love epic Cold Mountain would transfer very well to the big screen as soon as the book was released.

The film's director, Anthony Minghella, set up a meeting with Zellweger after hearing she was interested in the project.

"I read the book and descriptions of the land. I couldn't wait to get out there and give it a shot. I just loved this experience," Zellweger said.

Zellweger is also in the process of making the second Bridget Jones film, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. As she did for Bridget Jones's Diary, the first film, Zellweger gained about 30 pounds for the part, and once again, her weight gain has put the actress in the spotlight.

According to reports, the slim actress has been downing protein shakes, peanut butter and doughnuts to pack on the pounds.