About The Film
Judy Garland: The talk of London town
By 1969, Judy Garland had graced stage and screen in a career lasting over
forty years, winning hearts
around the world with her wit, warmth and incredible vocal ability.
"I'm one of millions and millions through the generations who fell in love
with her" says Renee Zellweger
of her character in the film JUDY.
"She's beloved and internationally revered as arguably the greatest
entertainer who has ever lived."
Yet despite this, 1969 saw a very different Garland to the child star of the
1930s and the Hollywood
celebrity of the 1940s and 1950s. Hard living had made her unreliable and, as
the work dried up, she had
fallen into debt and lost her home.
In an attempt to earn money to provide for her young children, Judy accepted
a lucrative job singing for a
five-week stint in London at The Talk of the Town, Bernard Delfont's fashionable
dinner and cabaret
London was a last resort for Judy in many ways, says screenwriter Tom Edge:
"London was one of the
last places that still had fond memories of Judy that were relatively unclouded.
For Judy it was both a rare
lifeline and an opportunity to stare down her critics and prove to herself and
others that she still had what
Rosalyn Wilder, employed by The Talk of the Town to look after Judy during
her stay, remembered the
huge change that had swept across London in the previous decade, making it a
cultural mecca: "The food
choices hadn't been there, the entertainment choices hadn't been there, the
clothes choices hadn't been
there; then all of a sudden it was all there, everything. People had money,
people wanted to be
entertained, people wanted to be out and doing things and to be seen."
It was a period that playwright Peter Quilter explored in his successful
stage play, 'End of the Rainbow',
which the film's producer, David Livingstone, saw and was inspired to develop
into a deeper exploration
of the character of this global icon.
After acquiring the rights to Quilter's play, Livingstone drafted in the
award-winning writer Tom Edge to
translate it to the big screen: "David asked me to take a look at the play, as
he felt that there was a great
story to be told about Garland's time in London. I didn't know much about her -
if anything I carried
with me the cliche of Garland. But as I began watching her TV interviews from
the late 1960s, I quickly
saw that this was someone who was really warm, witty, sharp and self-aware -
someone who knew what
the cliched view of her was and who was prepared to play with that. Writing that
character, trying to find
my own version of Garland, felt like a great challenge."
Edge widened the scope of the story to include glimpses of Judy's past,
helping the audience to better
understand the present-day Judy they see on screen. But he was also determined
not to make Judy feel
like a victim of her past - she was a survivor and she never gave up - it was
this quality that so inspired
her legions of fans and that Edge wished to celebrate at the end of his
"David had been talking to me about the film for some years" says Cameron
McCracken, one of the
Executive Producers of the film and Managing Director of Pathe, the film's
principal financier and
distributor, "but I was hesitant because of the perception of Judy as a tragic
figure. What changed my
mind was the script that David developed with Tom. It did not shy away from the
tragedy in Judy's life,
but it managed to celebrate her genius and her indomitable spirit - she was
revealed as an inspirational
rather than a tragic figure. And the film's ending was wonderfully uplifting!"
That strong reaction to the
material was shared by BBC Films and Ingenious Media, both of whom came on board
early on to
support the production.
For the award-winning director, Rupert Goold, "One of the things that really
drew me to the script was
that it was very specifically about two moments in Judy's career: the beginning
and the end, and I felt
there was an opportunity there to avoid the pitfalls of the linear 'then this
happened next' biopic. The film
could become a sort of passion play about the tragic end but ultimate apotheosis
of a kind of secular
saint. Both an origins story but also a final redemption."
This balance of how the past informs the present, and how performance
conceals reality, fascinated
Goold: "Garland is an old-fashioned Hollywood star. She is remote, as all the
golden age stars are now,
but I was interested in how you balance the legend with the very human and real;
the mother and the
myth. What felt most human was the script's exploration of Judy's need to find
love and to find a home -
after all 'there's no place like home'- to find normality."
Taking the story away from the usual biopic structure - a chronological
sprint through the "best bits" of a
person's life - and instead to focus in depth on a particular moment in time,
was also a major selling point
for its leading actress, Renee Zellweger: "I thought there was an opportunity to
explore something that
isn't often considered when you're thinking about this larger than life
personality - what it was that she
delivered in her work and what it cost her. This was a period in her life when
she was working because
she needed to work, but physically needed to rest. Her voice, the thing that
gives her value and self-worth, is also the thing that she's destroying in order
to be able to take care of her children."
The film looks at why Judy's performances took so much out of her. "Most
people put on a veneer when
they're in front of a camera or an audience," says Zellweger, "I think with
Judy, you got the real person."
"I think she turned herself inside out and wore every single feeling,
experience, relationship and dream on
the outside of her skin," adds Jessie Buckley, playing Rosalyn Wilder.
Rufus Sewell, playing Sid Luft, agrees. "She can take any song and just
invest it with so much of her own
personal connection and experience, a glimmer of something so much bigger; it
makes the song feel like
the tip of an iceberg.
Her ability to survive a lifetime of exhausting performance was also
something Edge wanted to celebrate
in his script: "I realized that the Garland who I had carried around in my head
was one-dimensional, and
that actually this was a woman who contained volumes."
Capturing those nuances in character and the spirit of fun that Judy never
lost was vital for Rupert Goold,
too: "I was interested in trying to reconnect with the sexy, witty, dangerous,
emotionally available side of
Focusing on such a specific period of the Judy Garland story required a
knowledge and level of insight
that David Livingstone and Tom Edge could not find in any of the numerous
biographies of Garland.
Luckily, they had access to an eyewitness - and not just any eyewitness.
Rosalyn Wilder, who looked after Judy on behalf of Bernard Delfont during her
time in London, was able
to provide an account of her time with Garland and at The Talk of the Town.
After tracking her down via
a Judy Garland fanzine interview, her guidance as a consultant on the film would
"Rosalyn was the unlocking of everything about this story; the whole film
really changed because of her,"
explains Livingstone. "She's a terrific woman - funny, unsparing, with a huge
amount of insight into the
world of 1960s London dinner clubs and into what Garland was like in person."
"My first impressions of Judy Garland were that she was extremely tiny, very
fragile, and rather quiet and
that somehow one wanted to protect her. She wanted to be able to talk to you and
to trust you," explains
Rosalyn Wilder. "People are either stars or they're not. People either walk in
to a room and they're
important and you know they're the center of attention, or they're not. Judy
However, although the concerts started well, "it was a difficult few weeks"
as Rosalyn tried to manage
Judy's notorious time-keeping.
"Rosalyn and Judy have one of the most interesting relationships in the film"
comments Rupert Goold.
"You have a very normal working girl, skeptical about the rubbish that attaches
to artists and celebrities,
encountering an old-fashioned diva."
Jessie Buckley, who was drafted in to play the role of Wilder in the film,
comments: "I think they struck
up a friendship because there's a point when the masks drop for both of them and
they see that each is
just trying to get on with their life, the way they want to live it, without
having to play to something or
someone else. Rosalyn's professionalism is something that overrides her personal
feelings, yet Judy
manages to crack her. They definitely form a friendship of sorts."
Renee Zellweger's interest was immediately piqued when she was tapped to play
the role of Judy; having
been a lifelong fan, it was an opportunity and a challenge she couldn't pass up.
For Livingstone and Goold, Zellweger was the obvious choice to play the part
"There was no one else who had the ability to sing, act and be comedic in
that way. And by good fortune,
Renee was the same age as Judy at the time she gave these London shows,"
"We needed somebody who has a bit of the comedienne about them, because Judy
was hilarious and
known for it," adds Goold. "I think because Renee has done a lot of hugely
high-profile comedies, people
may forget about films like Cold Mountain, for which she won an Oscar, and some
of the other dramatic
films she's made. She has something that, despite the fact that she is
extraordinarily beautiful and talented,
reaches out and connects to real people at some level."
Zellweger had her own motivations to tell this story: "As a creative person,
there's nothing that's more
exciting than to be taken out of your comfort zone. I also wanted to look at
those in-between moments
that seem to get left out when you're telling the story of a person you think
With Renee on board, the next step was to capture the look of Judy Garland.
David Livingstone explains: "When Renee took on the role, she wanted to make
sure it had honesty,
integrity and authenticity, so it didn't look like a caricature."
A year before the official rehearsal process began, Renee started training
with a vocal coach in the U.S,
before finally rehearsing for 4 months with the film's musical director, Matt
"What appealed to me about this film project was that it's such a unique
opportunity to revisit these
classic songs and the wonderful American song book, with some really wonderful
Despite having previous singing experience in such films as Chicago, training
to become Judy Garland
was a huge step into the unknown for Zellweger. Immersion in all things Garland
was the key. Zellweger
adds: "I had many moments in the car when for that whole year Judy was riding
shotgun. I listened to her
music and her speaking, I researched the stories - the whole thing."
Encapsulating such a singular figure wasn't just down to the singing - the
distinctive accent, tone of voice
and movements during the on-stage performance, all had to be mastered. Dunkley
always had confidence
in Zellweger's ability on that front: "She's an actress who can sing rather than
a singer who can act. So, I
always knew that the acting side of it was going to be fantastic. She trained
with a speaking voice coach to
get the sound of Judy's voice and her pronunciation and she worked with a
choreographer to get her
mannerisms. Judy was quite twitchy in her body movements and Renee's capturing
of that was amazing."
Rupert Goold was equally impressed by Zellweger's physical transformation:
"One of my favorite parts of
her performance is how she holds her shoulders. Judy had this curvature of the
spine and it made her
look much older and frailer than she really was in the later part of her life.
On the first day I thought 'Oh
wow, THIS is a proper actor, this is somebody who is playing a role, not just
putting on an outfit'."
For Renee Zellweger, the physical transformation that she was able to make
manifest relied just as much
on the abilities of hair and makeup designer Jeremy Woodhead, and on costume
designer Jany Temime.
Jeremy Woodhead relished the challenge, made all the more pleasant by his
subject: "Working closely
with actors as we do, we usually get a good relationship fairly quickly but it
was instant with Renee. I fell
in love with her; she's so easy going but so professional. Her humor is there;
her love of life, her energy
and her excitement about all things is tangible, and very similar to what
Garland seemed to have."
Research into Judy's appearance at the time was vital. "The good thing about
Garland is that she is very
well documented; her looks are very well photographed," continues Woodhead,
"It's a matter of collating
all the research and working out what hairstyles and what makeup would transfer
well onto Renee,
discarding some and pushing others to compensate for the fact that their face
shapes are quite different.
We then honed the different hairstyles that Judy Garland had at that time and
decided which ones would
work best on Renee."
Zellweger was very impressed with Woodhead's constant updates to Judy's
hairstyles as the movie
progressed: "Someone who makes extraordinary wigs in LA did this beautiful piece
and Jeremy played
with it every day and chopped it up with fearless abandon."
Of equal importance was making sure that the costumes felt as authentic as
possible to that period of
"All those costumes are entirely down to Jany Temime, and all are influenced
by what Judy Garland wore
at certain points, whilst also informing the progression of her character," says
"Jany is fantastic because she gets an idea and she's uncompromising; she
won't settle for anything less
than extraordinary," says Zellweger. "These costumes were on another level and
to be able to pull out
one after the next and with such immaculate construction was amazing. She also
fitted and built the
dresses around Judy's posture which is a little bit different to mine, the way
she carried herself and so if I
stand like I stand, the dresses don't fit."
"I asked to do the film because I was a fan, a superfan of Judy Garland,"
says Temime. "We also had the
chance to recreate the very beautiful looks of 1968 London and iconic 1930s
Hollywood. That was a box
of dreams and I styled all of the costumes in 1938 in that spirit; like a
Hollywood film in the biggest
period of Hollywood."
JUDY was not Temime's first time working with Zellweger: "I worked with Renee
a long time ago on
Bridget Jones and we kept in contact. She is such an incredible actress and she
does Judy incredibly well.
The first shot we had of her singing in her screen test, I was almost crying."
The onstage and offstage looks for Garland were distinctly different,
comments Temime: "The way she is
in her stage costume was inspired by what Judy Garland herself wore; shiny,
gold, expensive. She wears a
show costume because she is a woman who can give a show. Then for Judy in real
life, I thought to dress
her as if with leftovers from the films she did because I think lots of
actresses were taking home what
they wore in film. Renee is actually wearing my mum's Chanel bag and Hermes
scarf! Even in normal life
she looked ready for any paparazzi. But when she is in the hotel on her own,
everything comes down."
Temime's favorite outfit to design was the powder blue outfit for her wedding
to Mickey Deans: "There
is something so tender about it. I was told she designed it herself. She is
marrying a man much too young
for her and she is really trying too hard; what she designed for herself is
light blue, full of feathers - she
looked like a chicken! But it is beautiful and we made a dress inspired by that
original, and Renee wears it
with so much panache."
Working together, Woodhead and Temime hope they've created something special
"We wanted to create that period feel without making it musty and fusty.
Hopefully it's all quite alive,"
"It was such a process, getting as close as we could to creating a believable
likeness without stepping over
into something that felt like it was inauthentic," says Zellweger.
David Livingstone was stunned by the sum of the various parts that added up
to Renee's total
"Renee's wearing colored contacts, some - admittedly subtle - prosthetics,
and a wig. Her body posture is
based on studying Judy over many hours. She's been listening obsessively to
recordings of Judy's
performances to get close to her mannerisms and turns of phrase. It's an
The other cast and crew were blown away by Renee in the role.
"It's not really till you go 'action' on the first day that you know what
you're going to get. I remember my
shoulders easing after the first take and going 'ok she's brilliant'" recalls
For Wilder, who remembered the real Judy as she was back then, the physical
stunning: "Renee Zellweger has this unique ability to turn herself into whoever
it is she's asked to be.
When I saw how the make-up and the dress transformed her, I was absolutely
stunned. I had never seen
such a transformation in my life; it was almost impossible to believe."
"When you watch her on the monitors or on set, it's scary how much she just
comes alive," adds Jessie
Buckley. "There are moments when she just completely drops into it and Renee
doesn't look like Renee
anymore. She just looks like Judy; her physicality, her voice, her wit and her
fear are just there in her
It was a somewhat discombobulating experience for Rufus Sewell, who as Sid
Luft was only on set for a
short period of time and hadn't had much chance to meet Zellweger before seeing
her as Judy:
"That was part of the excitement of reading the script, knowing it was her. When
you meet her in the
flesh, in the makeup and hair, it's kind of spooky. I've come to know her in
character without really
meeting the actress, and there is a real vulnerability, a fragility there."
Tom Edge agrees on the elements that Zellweger brings to the role: "There's a
jitteriness and a fragility to
her physicality, which Renee absolutely captured. She was learning to sing like
Judy Garland at the end of
her career, where the voice was cracked, where there were notes that were
missing. Renee is able to give
you those small moments where you see Garland's confusion and pain poking
Despite playing the leading lady, however, Zellweger only ever felt like a
small part of a larger team, each
working in their own way to bring Judy to life: "With Jany's work on the
clothes, Brett Tyne's work with
the dialect, Matt's beautiful arrangements and Rupert's direction, it all came
together and was something
that felt true."
"Renee's incredibly generous and curious. There's no big diva sweep, she's
one of the ensemble who
wants to muscle things out and create something together," says Buckley.
"Renee is kind to her bones" adds Tom Edge. "Even in the early hours of the
longest night shoots, she'd
be the person walking round saying to supporting actors 'How are you doing?' I
think the whole crew
went the extra mile time and again, and they did it for her because of how hard
she worked, and how kind
and generous she was through that process."
Casting the film
With 1960s Judy cast, the next major step for the filmmakers was finding a
young actress who could
embody Judy as a child at the time of her breakout role in The Wizard of Oz.
"If I'm really honest, I was probably more concerned about finding a young
Judy than how Renee would
be," says Rupert Goold. "Weirdly, the young Judy is better known than the old
Judy because everybody's
seen The Wizard of Oz; they all know what she is meant to look like. So there's
a physical thing you've got
to get right, and you've got to get the speaking voice right too. I saw this
tape, this girl with a really strong
Liverpool accent, very sweet, very self-conscious almost, and the moment her mum
started recording her
on her phone, she just had this incredible old-fashioned acting quality and I
couldn't believe it."
That girl was 15 year old Darci Shaw: "When I was offered the role, I was
just overcome. Everyone
knows her, she's a world-wide star, and she's an absolute legend and an icon to
so many people. It's an
absolute honor. Although I'd heard of her, I didn't know much about her
background. I'm an even bigger
Understanding how her character was treated as a child also helped Shaw
understand how that fed into
Judy's problems in later life and why being a good mother was of such importance
to her: "She had a
really tough childhood - she didn't really have time to be a child. I think that
and being vulnerable wasn't helped by the people around her - it was significant
in who she became as
she got older."
Shaw's level of emotional maturity impressed Rupert Goold, too: "Often you're
worried about a young
performer, but she was just incredible; so real and so honest. I remember that
scene with Louis B Mayer,
I was at the monitor listening to the performance and all I would hear was the
beating of her heart. I have
a real hunch about her - I think she's got something really magical. I think
we'll hear a lot more from
Alongside Zellweger, Jessie Buckley played Rosalyn Wilder.
Hailing from a musical theatre background, Judy Garland figured large in
Buckley's life as a child: "The
first film I saw was Meet Me in St Louis - it's been like a Christmas special in
the Buckley household since
then. When I moved to London, I was doing lots of singing and musicals. I hadn't
trained and I would
just watch clips of Judy singing with that raw vulnerability, giving of every
ounce of herself."
Having the real Rosalyn on hand to discuss the character was an obvious
benefit to Buckley: "It was a real
gift. The first time we met up for a cup of tea I just wanted to dig into as
much of her experience and
look for little nuances. She has the most immaculate nails in the world so I
immediately went out and
bought some nail varnish!"
"We sat in a cafe one Saturday morning and just chatted, and looked at each
other," says Rosalyn Wilder.
"I suppose what I really wanted to do was give her an idea of the period that it
was all set in, because
London and entertainment was very different then."
"It's been interesting talking to her too about her relationship with Judy,
and her regret that she was
helpless in a certain way to help Judy because of professional etiquette," adds
Wilder approved of her on-screen counterpart: "I saw her and went 'Oh my
goodness, there I am.'
Fortunately Jessie is just amazing. She's just extraordinary, she's marvelous
and I'm absolutely thrilled to
pieces that she's doing it."
Zellweger was also pleased to be sharing the screen with Buckley so often:
"We had a lot of fun. I always
hate to admit that because it sounds like you weren't working, but we had a lot
of fun! She's fantastic and
so talented too."
"Jessie and Renee were a wonderful pair to lead the set. They really got on
like a house on fire," adds
Rupert Goold. "Jessie is so emotionally resonant and she's one of those
actresses that you know will be
so interesting to watch mature because she's already great."
Another foil to Zellweger's Garland was her fifth and final husband, Mickey
Deans, played by American
actor Finn Wittrock: "I think that Judy needed Mickey at that time in her life.
I think she needed a certain
influx of energy and I think he brought a youthful joie de vivre, a kind of
masculine energy that she was
"Mickey Deans was a complex piece of casting because on the one hand he has
some of the elements you
might associate with a villain, but he also brings something joyful to her,"
explains Rupert Goold. "At
some level he's the Toto of the story. He's Judy's puppy-ish companion!".
"He's just got a charisma and sex appeal that you can see sizzling and
bouncing off Renee. You warm to
him and are nervous of him at the same time," says David Livingstone.
Zellweger responded to Wittrock's presence, too: "He's just so charming and
has charisma that you can
see coming a mile away. There was so much ambiguity about the nature of Judy's
Mickey and so many people's contradictory accounts of what that relationship was
like. But you can sense
what Mickey meant to Judy in Finn's portrayal of the man and I think that's a
testament to his skill."
Finn Wittrock feels there was a real love and need for stability at the heart
of Mickey and Judy's
relationship: "He loves how iconic she is and he is attracted to the star
quality, but there's also something
very genuine in his attraction to her - he wants to take care of someone."
"I think Renee is just pure energy; I like the kind of ebullient joy she
brings to set," says Wittrock. "You
see some footage of Judy and it's the same kind of bubbly energy. There's some
source of light inside her
that's always on and I think I connected to that."
Playing Judy's ex-husband and father to her two young children, Lorna and
Joey, was Rufus Sewell:
"I haven't responded to a script like that in a long, long time; my personal
reaction to it was quite
emotional. I saw the movie as I was reading it and I jumped at the chance to be
in it. What Sid cares
about is the children, and for all of her magic, warmth and kindness, and
everything that was amazing
about her, Judy was not a reliable mother".
"What I love about Rufus is that he always brings something very electric and
kind of dark but he's got
something very romantic, too," says Rupert Goold. "I really wanted an actor who
you believe in; however
seemingly hostile he may be to Judy, you believe in their relationship. I wanted
everyone to feel that for
all the flaws and the chaos in their marriage, which was in a sense an abusive
relationship on both sides,
Sid was the great love of her life."
Zellweger is full of admiration for Sewell: "He played a wonderful Sid Luft.
It's so clear that there was
this deep connection between them that was just so beautiful; when you read
people's accounts of Sid
and Judy's relationship, you know it's one of those timeless things where the
love never really goes away."
Two small but vital roles in the film are those of Stan and Dan played by
Andy Nyman and Daniel
Cerqueira, who represent Judy's global fanbase and specifically her large LGBT
following. Although they
are fictional characters, Judy was known to wander off by herself into West End
bars and make friends
with the other customers.
"Stan and Dan were a brilliant idea of Tom's that came out of discussion
about how we flesh out Judy's
experience in London, and the need to see Judy through the eyes of her audience
at some level," explains
Rupert Goold. "The gay community weren't allowed to lead normal lives, and there
is an interesting
parallel with Garland, who's trying to find a normal life for herself and her
children. I spoke to academics
who've investigated ideas of sexuality through the prism of Garland. For the
'Friends of Dorothy' is a strong affirmative voice against discrimination."
"Stan and Dan are absolutely a highlight of the film; they bring humor and
love and magic." adds David
Livingstone. "They help us understand Judy's role as an icon whilst also
embodying the love she
generated from her fans."
The two final pieces of the casting puzzle were theatre impresario Bernard
Delfont, and The Talk of the
Town bandleader, Burt Rhodes.
Playing Delfont is Sir Michael Gambon.
"I really adore Michael. He's a very shy, quiet man but he brings this
incredible stature, dignity, and a kind
of love," continues Goold.
Royce Pierreson plays Burt Rhodes, and found his biggest challenge was
playing someone real on whom
you have very limited information: "You know these are real people and you want
to portray them in the
right way. Luckily, I read somewhere that a lot of the musicians he worked with
called him the musician's
musician. He worked best in the shadows. He stepped back and let the big star do
their thing, but he
knew when to step in; he knew how to control the big personalities."
Remembering her time working with Garland and Rhodes, Rosalyn Wilder can't
stress enough the
importance of Rhodes to someone like Judy: "When she left me, when she left the
prompt corner and
went on to the stage, the next prop that she looked for was always the musical
director, Burt Rhodes."
The Music of Judy
Getting the music of JUDY right was of vital importance to the sense of
authenticity within the film, and
there were to be no half measures - to pull it off would require preparation,
practice and plenty of passion
from Zellweger and her vocal team.
"I've never been asked to sing several belters in a row, let alone do a live
explains Zellweger. "I just figured we'd start a year before and work regularly
to see if there was any truth
to the saying that you really can strengthen your vocal chords like any other
muscle. The big thing to
remember was that I wasn't doing an impersonation or trying to emulate this
We could have hired an impressionist, but I didn't want to obsess about the
voice," adds Rupert Goold.
"Renee is a lovely singer and a great musician, but Judy was a professional who
had been on stage night
after night her entire life so it's a big thing to take on. I kept saying to
Renee, 'I don't want an
impersonation, make it your own, I want to see Renee Zellweger in there.
Somewhere in her anxiety
about delivering the role is what's brilliant about her performance."
Renee's journey to Judy began in Los Angeles: "I started with a voice coach,
Eric Vetro in LA; he's an old
pal and I love him, so any excuse to stand next to his piano and hang out with
his poodle, Belle, is a good
one! Then I came over to London and I worked with Eric on Facetime and with Mark
Meylan at his
studio. Mark actually came to set quite a few times to make sure that I didn't
damage myself, because if
you could do it to your voice, I did it during this process! There was
laryngitis, vocal strain, inflammation,
and plain old fatigue. Throughout, I continued training with Matt Dunkley our
genius maestro Musical
"We weren't trying to do an impression of Judy Garland because she had a
unique voice, " explains
Dunkley, "Renee naturally has a higher voice; what we call a head voice whereas
Judy, at this stage of her
life, had a very low voice, down in the chest, so we worked with Renee to get
her singing in that way.
She's done a remarkable job."
Cast and crew were astounded by Renee's vocal ability, despite her limited
live singing experience.
"Renee can sing! And not just sing, she really captures the spirit of Judy's
voice," says Finn Wittrock.
For David Livingstone, being able to sing live without the backing of a full
orchestra during filming was
all the more impressive: "She's singing to the sound of a band that's playing in
her ear piece. It's bold and
courageous for her to do it. She's not only singing, but performing and exposing
every last detail of her
voice without it being submerged in a band."
For his part, working on the film allowed Dunkley the opportunity to delve
into a part of his work that he
hasn't often had the chance to do before: "Judy Garland's live set had these
great arrangements by people
like Billy May and Nelson Riddle and all these classic arrangements. As an
arranger, you very rarely get a
chance to revisit these types of things. It's been fascinating to recreate the
charts and dig into how these
were reconstructed; looking under the bonnet of these classic arrangements.
Rupert and David were very
keen that we did this properly, so we had a proper big band and strings and
really took our time on it, to
be able to create a really authentic and respectful tribute."
The choice of song was very specific in the script for each live performance,
to get across a specific
feeling or idea to the audience, as Tom Edge explains: "For the song 'By
Myself.' we really wanted the
sense that the audience is hesitant - which Garland has shown up tonight? How
will this go? Does she
still have that voice? That song begins small and contained, and then rises and
rises and becomes more
intense. That felt like a great number to track the audience's emotion."
The most powerful moment was saved for last, as Edge explains further:
"'Somewhere Over the
Rainbow' is the song she usually ended her sets with at London's Talk of the
Town; it was a song that had
followed her all of her life and a song that was iconic almost from the moment
she first sang it in The
Wizard of Oz.
"In that song, the moment we wanted to recreate was a true event (even if it
did not take place at The
Talk of the Town) when her audience sang the song back to her when her voice had
failed and she was
unable to go on. It was one of those fleeting moments where Garland, who had
given so much to her
audiences, for all of her life, really felt the audience giving something back."
The song gave Zellweger the opportunity to create something special for
Judy's swansong on The Talk of
the Town set - one that neither cast, crew nor any extra in attendance will ever
"When a singer begins a great song, you feel the audience collectively
breathe in and then they release at
the delivery" says Rupert Goold. "She starts and it's so gorgeous, and then her
voice gives out and the
audience has to sing for her, to finish the song. We were lucky on this film in
that we had a really
wonderful collection of crowd artists, 300-odd people dressed up to the nines in
their 60's gear. Renee
must have felt incredibly intimidated coming onto the stage in a big theatre to
perform to them. But if
you look in the background you can see people really crying, which might well
have been third or fourth
takes. It was because they fell in love with her."
After a year of training, fear was never an option for Renee Zellweger:
"Those people I worked with took
all the fear out of it. I didn't have time to think about being judged; I just
had to hush the critics in my
Working with Rupert
With a long and distinguished career in theatre, Rupert Goold made his first
foray into film direction with
2015's True Story. David Livingstone believed that the innate theatricality of
the story of JUDY would
appeal to Goold: "Judy is a performance piece and I knew Rupert was intrigued by
the story which you
can never underestimate. He's an ideas fountain, constantly firing out new
thoughts even as we're
Zellweger responded to Goold's methods immediately: "He comes from theatre
and he knows how
powerful the in-between moments can be. I think what I loved most was that he's
so patient, and I don't
just mean with the process but I mean in what he's collecting. He's looking for
something that is not
contrived and he's looking for something that isn't necessarily mapped out, but
authentic, something that's emotionally significant. If he's found that then
he's happy, and I trust that."
The other actors had a similar appreciation of Goold's methods.
For Rufus Sewell, who was only on set for a few days, the speed at which he
felt at ease was down to the
atmosphere that Goold propagated on the shoot: "Rupert has an ability to create
a very relaxed
atmosphere; somehow as the day or the evening progresses you don't feel the
pressure mounting. There
is a lightness. What seems to be possible is a relaxation, and an ability to
play with the material."
The same feeling was true among the creative team, too. His collaborative
approach was what appealed to
Tom Edge: "Rupert is a terrific director and lovely human being. He's a great
collaborator, and I think
that really tells in his working practices. He teases the best out of you with a
series of very smart
provocations to think about things in another way, or try things from another
Recreating the World of Judy
If depicting the life and look of one of the greatest performers of all time
was a challenge for Renee
Zellweger and the creative team behind the film, then recreating the worlds of
the 1930's and 1960's that
the film inhabits was equally demanding: "It is a sad but inspirational and
beautiful story, and a very
colorful period to design for," says Production Designer Kave Quinn. "We have
the Hollywood 1930's
look, with the movie colors of that period (Technicolor, Kodachrome); and then
you have the 1960's and
more modern film stock."
The team chose Pinewood Studios as the ideal location for recreating the MGM
"We decided that we were going to do it inside, and just keep everything
about her life as a movie star
totally artificial," says Quinn.
"Pinewood seemed appropriate not least because of its heritage, explains
"There is an unfailing magic about going into a huge empty sound stage and a
few weeks later you come
back and you're in a forest they've created. It's just amazing." continues
The nostalgia imbued in the set had the same effect on Rufus Sewell, too:
"The first time I met Renee
was at Pinewood and as I walked through the Wizard of Oz set on the way to meet
her; I walked through
For 1960s London, Kave and the Production Design team had to work to find two
locations; for both
the exterior and interior of The Talk of the Town nightclub. Formerly housed in
London's West End at
the London Hippodrome, now a casino, a suitable new venue had to be sought.
Luckily for them, they had someone with inside theatre knowledge in the form
of director Rupert Goold.
"Rupert has an extensive knowledge of theatres, and thought that the Noel
Coward Theatre on St
Martin's Lane would probably be best, because it's quiet compared to Charing
Cross Road where the
Hippodrome actually is," says Quinn. "The sign is the thing that everybody knew
about The Talk of the
Town, so we shot the sign as part of the build and then they extended it in
post-production and put it on
For the inside, Quinn needed an intact interior space with the right level of
"The Hackney Empire is a slightly scaled down version of the Hippodrome
Theatre, so it's got a flavor of
The Talk of the Town without copying it. Frank Matcham designed quite a few key
theatres in London,
including the Hippodrome and the Hackney Empire" explains Quinn.
The ultimate seal of approval for Quinn and the production team was from
someone who remembered
The Talk of the Town as it was back then - Rosalyn Wilder: "When I was talking
to David in the
beginning and the various people in production who were enormously kind and
asked me various things,
I said "I know you're going to think this is really mad, but one of the most
important things was that it
had a black stage. I walked on set one morning and saw a black stage and thought
that's it: this is The
Talk of The Town!"
David Livingstone was delighted with Quinn's work: "I defy anyone to not be
seduced by the world that
she has created."
For Rupert Goold, the space designed and dressed by Quinn at the Hackney
Empire allowed the shots of
Renee's performance to be much more expansive: "I was very keen to try to shoot
these big songs in
single takes or in as few takes as possible, which is very challenging for Renee
but also challenging for the
focus pullers, for the camera operator, and the grips. I felt the whole unit
were working almost as if they
were at a live gig or a theatre event."
Zellweger fed off the energy and enthusiasm that coursed through the cast and
crew during the shoot:
"The atmosphere on set was so celebratory. It's hard to imagine but it was as if
the grips and the camera
guys, all the crew and all the background artists, every one of us was there,
every day, to celebrate her.
Fifty years after her passing it was such a beautiful thing to be a part of;
this was truly a celebration of
what Judy Garland meant."
A new legacy
With so many conflicting stories of Garland out there already, the
filmmakers' hope is that the film will
cast a new light on an often misunderstood and misrepresented figure endowed
with a towering talent.
"What is it about her that connects? I think that throughout her career she had
a huge emotional
availability, a transparency. There's no mask. There's just her," says Rupert
"She managed to triumph over so much adversity. Her sheer genius and natural
ability is one in a hundred
million years," adds Renee Zellweger.
I hope a lot of people have more of an understanding of who Judy was as a
person, and they have an
understanding what she went through," says Darci Shaw.
For Jessie Buckley, the musical legacy of Judy is what the film aims to
celebrate: "She turned herself
inside out in order to give as human a performance as possible. When she sings,
she wants to move
people and give people hope. That's what audiences came for - to find hope in
life. When somebody can
do that as humanely as Judy did, that's magic."
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Judy Garland's death and the 80th
anniversary of the release of The
Wizard of Oz, the film that turned her into a star overnight. But the story of
Judy's life still feels relevant,
all the more so in the #metoo era where Judy stands as a symbol of defiance.
For screenwriter Tom Edge, he hopes that the film shows a different side to
Judy Garland that people
might not know about: "You can never make the claim that your picture of her is
definitive. All you can
really do is get a sense of her, and try to find a narrative that conveys your
truth to the audience. The
portrait of Garland that the film offers is a sincere attempt to capture the
essence of her, her warmth, her
generosity, and her spirit. I hope we do justice to her."
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