November 10, 2004 06:00 AM

Even on the street, Renée Zellweger says, to fans “I am Bridget Jones.” And she takes the identity to heart – so much so that the actress, 35, regained 30 lbs. to reprise her role in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Zellweger recently chatted about carrying the weight of her alter ego, playing the romantic and taking some time to “just be a girl.”

How was it gaining the weight again?
I had someone else doing the math and putting the plate in front of me and saying, “Here, eat this.” And ultimately it worked out. Emotionally it doesn’t affect me.

Had you thought about not changing your appearance this time?
People were suggesting to me that it might not be necessary, or that I shouldn’t do as much as I did last time, (saying) it’s probably not healthy. For me, it would render the experience pointless from a creative perspective.

Are you as much of a hopeless romantic as Bridget?
It’s what I admire most about her. It’s her ever-present optimism in the face of so much adversity. I love that she’s able to laugh at herself and get back up and keep on trying. Well, you know, I do my best. I keep on trying anyway. Why do you think Bridget strikes a chord with women?
In the end, this is a woman who exposes herself to you, and that’s what I think people find appealing, that we can relate to standing in the hallway and wanting to know, “So do you like me right now or not?” We love that she goes ahead and blurts it out.

In relationships, "normal is good enough," Zellweger says, adding that Bridget needs to learn to leave well enough alone.

When Bridget brings up marriage with Darcy, did that seem right for her?
I love that she can’t contain herself and not only is she not going to say, “You’re just seeing me, right?” but (she says), “So do you want to marry me or not?” And it’s completely inappropriate (after a few weeks of dating).

Was it tough getting the accent back?
It was like starting over again. I had (a trainer) there every day saying, “No. That was too precise. Slushier.” “Slushier” because Bridget has kind of a lisp thing that she does.

Did you do your own stunts?
I did the slalom with two members of the Austrian ski team on each side. It was crazy. Crazier is the man who filmed the thing. He was skiing backwards down the slalom with the camera strapped around his torso.

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