Renée Zellweger won best actress at the 92nd Academy Awards for her portrayal of Hollywood icon Judy Garland in “Judy.”
The actress took the stage celebrating heroes, and her hero Garland. “This past year of conversations celebrating Judy Garland across generations and across cultures has been a really cool reminder that our heroes unite us,” Zellweger said. “The best among us, who inspire us to find the best in ourselves, when they unite us, when we look to our heroes, we agree, you know? And that matters.”
She continued to list several famous figures of inspiration, including Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, Venus and Serena Williams, Selena, Bob Dylan, Martin Scorsese, Fred Rogers and Harriet Tubman.
“Judy Garland did not receive this honor in her time,” the actress continued. “I am certain that this moment is an extension of the celebration of her legacy that began on our film set and is also representative of the fact that her legacy of unique exceptionalism and inclusivity and generosity of spirit, it transcends any one artistic achievement. Ms. Garland, you are certainly among the heroes who unite and define us and this is certainly for you. I am so grateful.”
It’s Zellweger’s second Oscar, previously winning supporting actress in 2004 for “Cold Mountain.” She’d received two other best actress Oscar nominations before that, in 2003 for “Chicago” and in 2002 for “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”
Zellweger received widespread acclaim for starring in the Garland biopic and was generally considered the front-runner going into this year’s ceremony, having already picked up pre-Oscar prizes at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Her performance didn’t come without a little bit of controversy, with Garland’s daughters, Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft, saying they don’t plan on seeing “Judy.” Zellweger, however, insists that it’s a tribute to their mother, despite its candid look at the final chapter of Garland’s life.
“They should know that everybody on that set was motivated by their love for her and their appreciation for … her work [and] her legacy that touched them,” Zellweger said. “We just wanted to do our best for her.”
Backstage, Zellweger was asked to reflect on the 17 years between her “Judy” win and when she was last onstage in 2004.
“How much time do you have?” she joked. “At that time, I think I was so busy that I wasn’t in the moment. I have a different perspective, I’m a little more present now. The time away and the time in between has helped me to appreciate it in a different way.”
Zellweger won best actress over Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”), Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”), Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”) and Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”).