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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 10/ 5/2010

Renee Zellweger: Four ways to rehab her career

By Jen Chaney

Renee Zellweger: is it time for a comeback? (AP)

Renee Zellweger used to be a Hollywood A-lister. Not so long ago, she won over hearts as a trusting single mom in "Jerry Maguire," starred opposite Meryl Streep in a mother-daughter weeper and racked up Academy Award nominations three years in a row, ultimately winning an Oscar for "Cold Mountain" in 2004.

Now, six years after gripping that golden statuette, she's starring in horror flops like "Case 39" -- which sputtered into theaters last weekend after a two-year-plus delay -- and lousy, forgettable rom-coms like "New in Town." What the heck happened?

Both Movieline and Anne Thompson have posited some theories, as well as some ideas about how Zellweger -- who has reached the unfairly dangerous (in Hollywood) age of 41 -- could possibly turn things around. I've got four other specific suggestions that perhaps, if by some freak chance she reads this, could have Zellweger at hello.

Reteam with her "Jerry Maguire" director Cameron Crowe: Crowe propelled Zellweger to stardom by casting her as Dorothy Boyd in "Maguire." Maybe he can propel her back there again. He's already got Matt Damon signed on to star in his next project, "We Bought a Zoo," and Entertainment Weekly recently reported that Amy Adams is considering a role as a zookeeper (and -- I am guessing -- possible romantic interest for Damon's widower character?) in the film. But if she passes, surely Zellweger could take on the part, or at least some other role of substance in the movie.

A randy supporting role in "The Hangover 2": Maybe Zellweger doesn't want to rely on boyfriend Bradley Cooper to get her work. But why not take help where you can get it. Hey, in the latest episode of "Mad Men" -- spoiler alert! -- that didn't stop Don Draper. Zellweger needs to do something to shake up her image; playing a MILF or maybe the unexpected ex-girlfriend of Zach Galifianakis's Alan in "The Hangover" sequel would be a fun change of pace, and perhaps endear her to a younger fan base. By the way, I swear on Mike Tyson's tiger that after independently coming up with this idea, I then discovered that several gossip blogs are indeed reporting that Zellweger wants to be in the movie. Here's hoping she pushes for screen time with Ken Jeong.

One word: television: I know TV might seem like slumming it to an Oscar-winner of Renee Z.'s caliber, but it's not exactly breaking news to note that some of the most exciting story-telling in Hollywood -- and best parts for "older" women -- are on the small screen. How about casting Zellweger as a single mother to a genius child who grapples weekly with how far to push her son's gifts? Or the CEO of an Internet start-up dealing with sexism and ageism in the world of digital media? Whatever the premise, it should appear on HBO and TNT and feature enough scenery chewing potential to get her an Emmy nomination.

A musical: She wowed audiences in "Chicago." Maybe what Zellweger really needs is another round of splashy, cinematic musical numbers. Perhaps she should get in touch with Baz Luhrmann, who is currently mulling whether to mount a musical or an adaptation of "The Great Gatsby." If he goes with the former, maybe Nicole Kidman -- Zellweger's "Cold Mountain" co-star and a repeat performer in Luhrmann's films -- can put them in touch?

Got other inspired proposals for Renee Zellweger's career? By all means, share them by posting a comment.

By Jen Chaney  | October 5, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Movies  
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i think she's terribly annoying & only mildly talented, so i hope she stays under the radar where she belongs.

Posted by: paulaschulman | October 5, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I have a musical for Ms. Zellweger. She plays a doctor in a small Alberta town and three of her friends from high school come back to the small town in order to marry her. One is a billionaire who is now broke, one is an unemployed football coach/high school teacher, and one is a bluesman whose band broke up because he has stage fright. Now the bluesman works in a Smitty's as a cook along with his assistant cook (Lindsay Lohan).

Posted by: Queendavidg | October 6, 2010 2:02 AM | Report abuse

I'll buy the annoying part, but I think she's more than mildly talented. Annoying worked well for Don Rickles and Jerry Lewis, but they are comedians. Nicholson can also be annoying but the massive talent he has mostly overcomes it. I wouldn't say she's in that category.

Posted by: reddragon1 | October 6, 2010 7:46 AM | Report abuse

fair enough. i suppose her talent is marred in my eyes by her annoyingness. :)

Posted by: paulaschulman | October 6, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

To say "Amy Adams is considering a role as a zookeeper (and -- I am guessing -- possible romantic interest for Damon's widower character?) in the film." only clarifies the fact that Jen and Liz have not only not read the book, but haven't even bothered to do the slightest amount of research into the story. The role of whomever stars opposite of Matt Damon will not be that of some "romantic interest" to his "widower character" - it will be that of his beloved wife whom he loses barely halfway into the story. And should there be a "romantic interest" cast -- I can assure you that those who have read the book and do know the story will be sorely disappointed, myself included.

Posted by: bmblbeeflies | October 6, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Renee Zellweger stars in Case 39. Here is HudakOnHollywood's take on this film.

Posted by: hudakonhollywood | October 11, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Renee Zellweger stars in Case 39. Here is HudakOnHollywood's take on this film.

Posted by: hudakonhollywood | October 11, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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