Miss Potter: Renee Zellweger Interviewed

Posted on: 27 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Academy Award winner Renee Zellweger explains to 50connect why she took the role of Beatrix Potter in the film Miss Potter.

Despite delighting generations of children with her tales, there is one story Beatrix Potter has kept a secret until now - and that is her own. Released on January 5th 2007, Miss Potter is an enchanting love story, inspired by the life of Beatrix Potter, the most successful classic children’s author of all time.

Set in London and the Lake District in 1902, the film follows the developments of Miss Potter’s early career and views on the world as she opens her eyes to the true nature of her relationship with her publisher, Norman Warne, played by Trainspotting star, Ewan McGregor.

“I became intrigued by the personal life of an artistic woman of my own age, living in London, exactly one century ago," explains actress Renee Zellweger.

"She would have had similar hopes and thoughts to my own, regarding her work and friendships, yet the mood and manners of the time are so different."

The most challenging aspect of this role for Renee was bringing to life an extremely private person.

“I knew little about Beatrix, because she was so determined to maintain the integrity of her private life. The more I read and the more information I was given, the more uncertain I became about who she really might have been. She talked in her diaries about privacy and not wanting to be known."

"There is also no known record of her speaking voice, because she always refused radio interviews - even though she lived until the age of 77 in 1943, long after radio was invented. So it was like putting together a puzzle.”

Renee used a voice coach to help her authenticate a voice for the author.

"I used a dialect coach, Barbara Berkery, who had helped me with Bridget Jones. As there is no record of Beatrix’s voice, we had to base it on what would have been the most likely. Barbara thought it would have been quite tight and reasonably high - what the British would now regard as posh. The dresses - and corsets - and manners of the day also pushed up the sound of the voice. But the cinema audience may have found that very irritating, so we kept the voice reasonably soft. The consonants are sharp and clean and the vowels are slightly clipped."

Renee believes Beatrix Potter started her drawings and stories because it was an escape.

"She needed Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin and Benjamin Bunny to express things that she could not say herself in what was a surprisingly restrained existence in her parent’s house in London. She wrote and drew in her own room, which remained decorated like a nursery."

Miss Potter is released in cinemas across the UK from January 5th, 2007.

Web Links

For further information visit: www.misspottermovie.co.uk

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