A few weeks ago on Easter, I noticed a strange phenomenon: a bunch of my friends were posting pictures of Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) in her bunny outfit. Now, if you’ve seen Bridget Jones’s Diary then you know that it was actually a Playboy bunny outfit Bridget donned when she mistakenly assumed a party she was attending had a “tarts and vicars” theme … but it didn’t. Anyway, I got a good chuckle out of people somehow connecting Bridget’s provocative bunny costume and the Easter holiday.
But then it got me thinking that Bridget Jones’s Diary is actually now the ripe old age of 20! Which both blows my mind and makes me feel v.v. ancient. Like millions of others around the world, in 1996 I devoured Helen Fielding’s novel that covered a year in the life of “singleton” Bridget as she navigated her London-based career and relationships. And I remember the OUTRAGE when non-Brit Zellweger was cast as the beloved title character for the 2011 adaptation. You must believe me that this was a scandal, and I admit to also falling prey to negative assumptions about Renée’s ability to pull it off.
How wrong all the haters were. The movie was a smash success with both critics and audiences, and Zellweger was called out in particular for her performance. I mean, the woman ended up getting an Oscar nomination for it!
And let’s not forget about her co-stars: Colin Firth as the uptight Mark Darcy, who was cast specifically because he had played Mr. Darcy in the BBC’s popular 1995 Pride and Prejudice TV adaptation, and Fielding had long said that Diary was a loose interpretation of that classic Jane Austen tale. Then there was Hugh Grant as bad boy boss Daniel Cleaver, who in retrospect honestly doesn’t seem too different from his most recent character in HBO’s The Undoing (but without the “suspected murderer” part).
Zellweger, Firth and Grant all received various accolades in the British film industry, while writers Richard Curtis, Andrew Davies and Helen Fielding received a BAFTA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and the film as a whole earned BAFTA and Golden Globe nods for Best British Film and Best Most Picture – Musical or Comedy, respectively. And I’d be remiss to not mention the film’s killer soundtrack, which featured two breakout hits: “It’s Raining Men” by ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, and “Out of Reach” by Gabrielle, which at first I couldn’t place but then it immediately came back to me after I just played the song for a few seconds on Spotify.
Now, anytime a movie is met with this much success, you know it can only mean one thing: a sequel. Thankfully, Fielding had already written a second novel in 1999 — Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason — which was adapted with Zellweger, Firth and Grant reprising their roles for the 2004 adaptation. It was another triumph at the box office.
Which meant that the franchise would become a trilogy, with Fielding helping to write the screenplay for Bridget Jones’s Baby , which came out in 2016. For the first time, the plot wasn’t based on an already existing novel. While Fielding did write a third book, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, that novel is set several years after the events of the third film.
Another difference with Bridget Jones’s Baby is that Grant’s character is out of the picture (though there’s a big hint at the end that if a fourth movie happened, Daniel would be back for it). This time the plot revolves around Bridget trying to figure out if it was a fling with Darcy (Firth, once more) or internet billionaire Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey) that resulted in her pregnancy.
As we celebrate Bridget Jones’s Diary’s big 2-0, I’m happy to report that the original trio of Zellweger, Firth and Grant are all still thriving in their careers. In 2019, Zellweger won an Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe, SAG Award and Critics’ Choice Award for her uncanny portrayal of Judy Garland in Judy. Firth had two movies released last year — the romantic drama Supernova alongside Stanley Tucci, and The Secret Garden, a children’s book adaptation. And Grant is still riding high from his turn on The Undoing, as well as critically praised performances in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen and as the scene-stealing villain in Paddington 2 over the past few years.
Will we ever see the trio reunited for a fourth Bridget Jones film? I think it’s possible. But for now we can celebrate the movie that started it all two decades ago. Bridget would expect nothing less than for us to have at least a few drinks in her honor — without recording their calories!