That’s how you get your movie made these days: you call it TV

Re­nee Zell­weger, 50, takes on her first lead­ing role in tele­vi­sion thanks to new Net­flix minis­eries What/If, a so­cial thriller that ex­plores the rip­ple ef­fects of what hap­pens when ac­cept­able peo­ple start do­ing un­ac­cept­able things. GEMMA DUNN finds out m

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HOL­LY­WOOD star Re­nee Zell­weger is act­ing against type for her lat­est role which sees her de­but on the small screen.

In What/If, the 50-year-old plays Anne Montgomery, a mys­te­ri­ous ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and fi­nan­cial guru who of­fers a cash-strapped pair of San Fran­cisco new­ly­weds an “in­de­cent pro­posal”.

In a gen­der twist on the film of that name star­ring Robert Red­ford and Demi Moore, she of­fers to help save the wife’s flail­ing med­i­cal com­pany, for a night with her hus­band.

Anne asks them: “What if I made you an of­fer too ex­tra­or­di­nary to refuse? For any­thing, and any­one, to be yours for the tak­ing...What would you risk to have it all?”

Here, the Brid­get Jones star tells us what at­tracted her to the role:

Tell us about your char­ac­ter, Anne Montgomery

I DON’T think I’ve ever played any­one quite like her. She’s a lady with a plan and it’s a very metic­u­lously calculated plan. She’s di­a­bol­i­cal and I love her.

She’s the prod­uct of her life experience­s, as we all are, but it hasn’t been an easy road. She’s taken what’s been chal­leng­ing in her life and used it to her ben­e­fit. If you want to talk about her as a survivor, she’s a survivor at any cost and I find her sym­pa­thetic.

She’s got great taste, great style and she’s so de­ter­mined that she’s un­flap­pable. Even when most oth­ers might feel that they’re fac­ing a moral dilemma, she doesn’t recog­nise it as that. She only sees the goal.

Is it more fun to play a fig­ure that is noth­ing like your­self?

USU­ALLY. You know, the more dif­fer­ent they are, the more cre­atively sat­is­fy­ing it is, that’s for sure.

And I think it’s prob­a­bly eas­ier to lose your­self in a role when she’s a de­par­ture from what you know. The show is well writ­ten, the char­ac­ters are un­usual and it’s a world that’s un­usual. It pushes the bound­aries about moral­ity.

You want to know what’s go­ing to hap­pen when peo­ple make out­ra­geous choices.

That’s how I felt when the scripts came in. I just needed to know where it was go­ing and what was go­ing to hap­pen to ev­ery­body.

Did any­one in par­tic­u­lar in­spire your por­trayal of Anne?

OH sure. [Cre­ator] Mike Kel­ley and I dis­cussed Anne Ban­croft quite a bit. And Mrs Robinson and a The Grad­u­ate.

He said: ‘Take that, all that power and that sex­ual en­ergy and her self-loathing and her dis­ap­point­ment and, in­stead of chan­nelling it into al­co­holism and af­fec­tion for the boy down the h street, what if she was to be proac­tive and build some­thing like an em­pire so that she could ma­nip­u­late cir­cum­stances and the peo­ple in her life in­stead?’ I thought, ‘ Yeah! Wardrobe!’

It also marks your first big TV role. How did you find it?

WELL, I guess we didn’t have all the words in ad­vance, so the prepa­ra­tion process was a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent. But other than that, it felt very cine­matic in how Mike chose to shoot it.

There are all these film noir ref­er­ences that you can see and a lit­tle wink to those ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s movies that they don’t make any­more, that height­ened re­al­ity.

It felt like we were mak­ing a film.

We were jok­ing that that’s how you get your movie made these days: you call it TV!

The show is set in Sil­i­con Val­ley, in­volv­ing these tech giants. You’re not on so­cial me­dia, why? I DON’T know a lot about it be­cause I don’t re­ally play, but I know it’s there, and I know that it’s very im­por­tant his­tor­i­cally.

I know that it has shifted so­ci­eties and it’s en­abled so much ad­vance­ment, es­pe­cially in medicine and things, but I don’t hop on there. I mean, I’ll never say never, be­cause it might be in­ter­est­ing to ex­plore some day for some­thing, but the things I might get from it that I value, I get in other places.

Like I call my friends, or I get to­gether with my friends and we take pho­to­graphs and share them in a dif­fer­ent way.

Do you see it as a pos­i­tive plat­form to speak out? ANY­THING that I might say, that is an opin­ion about what’s hap­pen­ing po­lit­i­cally or so­cially or what­ever, I want to talk about it at a din­ner ta­ble.

I would be afraid that I would triv­i­alise some­thing that deserved more rev­er­ence by just throw­ing up a tweet about some­thing that is of per­sonal im­por­tance.

I don’t want to cheapen it like that; I don’t want to feel ob­li­gated to com­ment on things that I don’t need to have an opin­ion about, be­cause it’s none of my busi­ness.

You cel­e­brated your 50th birth­day re­cently and here you are fronting a TV se­ries. Is this proof that Hol­ly­wood is mov­ing for­ward with is­sues such as ageism?

THERE’S so much op­por­tu­nity now with this ap­petite for con­tent, be­cause there’s so many dif­fer­ent out­lets and things are hap­pen­ing so quickly.

I think that there’s this re­nais­sance for writ­ers; they can fi­nally make their projects and orig­i­nal con­tent that they’ve wanted to do for years, and where they go, we fol­low.

They recog­nise that women of my age are look­ing for some­thing that they can con­nect to and fall in love with.

It’s smart busi­ness and we’re ben­e­fit­ing be­cause more va­ri­ety is ex­cit­ing for peo­ple who love sto­ry­telling in this medium – in film and ev­ery­where.

■ What/If is avail­able on Net­flix now.

Re­nee ap­pears along­side Blake Jen­ner who plays Sean Dono­van in the new Net­flix se­ries What/If

Re­nee Zell­weger as Anne Montgomery

Re­nee with Brid­get Jones co-stars Colin Firth and Hugh Grant in 2009

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