Renée Zellweger will portray legendary actress Judy Garland in the upcoming film Judy

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May 08, 2019 08:00 AM

For her upcoming movie Judy, Renée Zellweger, 50, completely transforms herself into Hollywood legend Judy Garland and PEOPLE has an exclusive first look.

To prepare for the role, the Oscar winner took music lessons, studied choreography and read up about the actress and singer, 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.

The Bridget Jones star spent two hours a day in the makeup chair getting prosthetics, contact lenses and wigs applied.

“It was an exercise in Zen for sure,” she says.

David Hindley /LD Entertainment/ Roadside Attractions
David Hindley /LD Entertainment/ Roadside Attractions

The biopic, out Sept. 27 and directed by British stage director Rupert Goold, takes place a year before Garland’s death from an accidental drug overdose at age 47.

RELATED: Judy Garland’s Five Husbands: How the Men in Her Life Tried to Save Her from Tragedy

David Hindley /LD Entertainment/ Roadside Attractions

Zellweger says getting the chance to play Garland was a “magical” experience.

“It was such a joy learning about the magnificence of this person,” she says. “I always admired her. She was so quick and so funny. She could hit the ball back with the best of them.”

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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