Renée Zellweger — the American actress perhaps best known for her roles in the 1996 sports drama Jerry Maguire, the 2001 romantic comedy Bridget Jones’s Diary and the murderous 2002 musical Chicago — has been cast to play iconic American actress Judy Garland in the upcoming film Judy. Filming will begin in February 2018.
Though Garland’s fame (and love amongst gay fans) stems from her appearance in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, the Judy film will be set in 1969, the year of her death, and will depict her sold-out musical performances at the historic Talk of the Town venue in London.
The movie will reportedly cover Garland’s final days and will cover the exhaustion and ambivalence she felt towards the entertainment industry after a lifetime in the spotlight. The film will also feature Renée Zellweger singing some of Garland’s music, including “Over the Rainbow” and “The Trolley Song.”
In 1969, Garland married her fifth husband, nightclub manager Mickey Deans. Three months later, Deans discovered Garland dead from an accidental barbiturate overdose in the bathroom of their rented house in Chelsea, London.
In San Francisco during the 1960s, a journalist reportedly asked Garland if she knew of her devoted gay following. Garland reportedly responded, “I couldn’t care less. I sing to people.”
While that might sound dismissive, her reply came at a time when homosexuals were still widely reviled in public press and being gay could get you arrested and outed in the press.
In his 1997 book, The Gay Metropolis, journalist Charles Kaiser mentioned the persistent theory that a funeral service for Garland held on Manhattan’s Upper East Side may gave incensed queer bar-goers to rise up against corrupt policemen on the first night of the Stonewall uprising.
However, David Carter, author of the 2004 book Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, says that no Stonewall veterans cite Garland’s death as playing any role in the days-long riots that marked the start of the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement.