The Oscar winner turns 49 on Wednesday a year and a half after making her big return to acting

By Ale Russian
April 25, 2018 04:20 PM
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Happy birthday, Renée Zellweger!

The Oscar winner turns 49 on Wednesday, a year-and-a-half after making her big return to acting. The actress took a six-year break from the business in 2010 after after over a decade of making multiple movies a year to focus on her personal life. She came back for 2016’s Bridget Jones’s Baby, revisiting the beloved character that made her a household name.

“To come back and begin again with this old, extended, dysfunctional family was a really nice way to begin again,” she said at a press conference for the movie in 2016. “I am spoiled rotten for the friendships that I have on this set.”

'Same Kind of Different as Me' film premiere, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 12 Oct 2017
Renee Zellweger
| Credit: John Milne/SilverHub/Shutterstock

Zellweger told PEOPLE’s editor-in-chief Jess Cagle in 2016 that she decided to take a break after realizing that she had become unhappy with her life after making her career the priority.

“I can’t remember if there was one defining moment. I don’t think so. I think I was just taking inventory of my life,” she recalled. “Everything was about going from one professional obligation to the next. And that’s what I call them now, when they should have been exciting opportunities, creative opportunities or life adventures. Like laughing, driving to Sony, because Tom Cruise is there.”

BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY, Renee Zellweger, 2001, © Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection
Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary
| Credit: Everett

The Chicago star also realized she missed having someone to share her life with. After her brief marriage to country singer Kenny Chesney in 2005, Zellweger dated Bradley Cooper from 2009 to 2011. She’s been happily dating musician Doyle Bramhall since 2012 after first meeting while they attended the University of Texas together in the late ’80s.

“When you have nothing to go home to, no one to celebrate these things with, it’s time to maybe reassess and figure out what you’re not doing right,” she said of her personal life before her break. “I had made so many promises to myself about things that I wanted to explore, things I wanted to try, and how I would like to grow as a person that I had made no time for. And I thought, ‘That’s enough.’ “

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Zellwegger in Judy
| Credit: Pathe/BBC Films

And she’s jumped back into acting with fervor after her return. Zellweger has already filmed five movies since 2016 — including a Judy Garland biopic that has her unrecognizable as the iconic star. The actress was spotted on set of Judy the day before her birthday on Tuesday, dressed head-to-toe as the screen legend.

The biopic by Pathé and Calamity Films will follow Garland’s final sold-out concerts in London in 1968, despite her exhaustion and deteriorating health. The movie, based on a script written by The Crown‘s Tom Edge, will also focus on Garland’s management problems and her various relationships, Variety previously reported.