Renée Zellweger Has 'Empathy' for Judy Garland and Her Struggles After Playing Her in New Biopic

Judy opens Sept. 27

To portray Judy Garland in the upcoming biopic, Judy, Renée Zellweger read everything she could about the legendary singer and actress.

In doing so, the Oscar winner, 50, tells PEOPLE she gained a great amount of respect for Garland who shot to fame in 1939 when she played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz but struggled later in life.

For more on Zellweger, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.

Garland, who was married five times and had three children (Liza Minnelli and Lorna and Joey Luft) died from an accidental drug overdose at age 47. The biopic, out Sept. 27 and directed by British stage director Rupert Goold, takes place a year before her death when she was in London for a string of performances.

renee zellweger as Judy Garland in Judy (2019)
David Hindley /LD Entertainment/ Roadside Attractions

“When there’s a better understanding of what it takes for a person to continue under certain circumstances there is a level of empathy and respect that you can’t help but feel,” says Zellweger.

renee zellweger as Judy Garland in Judy (2019)
David Hindley /LD Entertainment/ Roadside Attractions

The Bridget Jones’ Diary actress, who spent two hours a day in the makeup chair getting prosthetics, contact lenses and wigs applied to look like Garland, says she hopes the biopic gives audiences a better understanding of Garland.

renee zellweger as Judy Garland in Judy (2019)
Judy. David Hindley /LD Entertainment/ Roadside Attractions

“What she had to overcome in a time when women didn’t necessarily feel that they had power over their own lives in the way that we do today,” says Zellweger. “That stayed with me and I hope folks will be moved by that as well.”

In addition to Zellweger in the title role, the film stars Finn Wittrock as Garland’s fifth husband Mickey Deans, Rufus Sewell as her third husband Sid Luft and Michael Gambon as her manager Bernard Delfont. Bella Ramsey plays Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft while Gemma-Leah Devereux plays her daughter Liza Minnelli.

Judy opens Sept. 27.

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