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BRIDGET JONES'S BABY

About The Production
On 28 February 1995, a small, unassuming column by then-unknown author Helen Fielding appeared in the British newspaper The Independent. It was written from the point of view of a single young woman by the name of Bridget Jones (age: 32, weight: nine stone, three pounds) who lived and worked in London. The columns quickly gained popularity, and as Bridget became a household name, in rolled offers for her creator. Within 10 years of Fielding's first words on her appearing, Bridget Jones had found herself in two international best-selling books and two global box-office hits.

Fielding never set out to create a role model, and yet in our heroine she crafted someone who had been overlooked by popular culture. This was a woman who, in spite of her independence, was not afraid to reveal her flaws and insecurities.

Save the author, no one knows Jones better than the performer who's embodied her all these years. "Bridget is eternally optimistic, self-effacing and finds humour whenever facing adversity," reflects RenEe Zellweger. "Tenacious and determined, she will not be defeated. She's perfectly imperfect, and that's what people relate to in her."

Producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner of Working Title Films shepherded the team in bringing Bridget back to the screen. Fellner discusses the character's longtime resonance with audiences: "Bridget is constitutionally optimistic and is able to take anything that is thrown at her life with a positive stride. She has a sense of humour that engages, and people love her because they identify with her travails. Bridget does everything with such great style and humour that it's a pleasure to spend time with her. Whatever is thrown at her, she comes back stoic, solidly, and usually with a laugh."

"She's aspirational, isn't she?" adds fellow producer Debra Hayward, who also has been with the series since well before the first film began production. "Bridget still has to be this sort of every woman and you've got to recognise yourself in her, even if the dilemma is not something you could ever see yourself in."

At the heart of our protagonist's quandary is her fear of ending up alone; that translates into independence at a cost. "One of the reasons the first film worked was not just because of the comedy but because people identified with Bridget's fear of loneliness," says Sharon Maguire, who bookends the trilogy with her directorial work on this chapter. "It's a universal fear, and one that's still a prominent theme in the character's journey. This is an integral point of access for the audience to empathise with Bridget. The universal undercurrent is that everyone is afraid of being lonely."

Fellner offers that Maguire was the only choice for a director when they began this journey: "Sharon knows this world and these characters better than most. When the opportunity arose to work with her again, we leapt at the chance. She understands the scenarios that the actors play out, and there is no one better to have made this film."

When Bridget was imagined, singletons around the globe realised they were not alone with conflicting aspirations and insecurities. Calorie obsessing, the rules of makeup and shaving, conflicts of the heart and mind, nothing was hidden. "I'm having a Bridget moment" became part of the vernacular, along with "F**kwittage" and "wanton sex goddess." Bridget optimised a new breed of woman.

So why the long wait to bring Bridget back? "After the first and second film, we always hoped that there would be another chapter for Bridget," Hayward continues. "We started talking about it some years ago with Helen, and it took a few years to evolve the story. It was quite some time in the making, but we wanted to get it right."

Bridget is now an award-winning producer of a major news show. She's given up cigarettes, cut down on chardonnay, doesn't obsess about her weight, and her self-help books have been replaced with political literature. "We've given Bridget a much better job," says Hayward. "It's a quite relevant show that she is determined to keep important and serious, yet increasingly she's under pressure to make it more populist."

When audiences first met Bridget she was 32 years old, and in Edge of Reason, she was 34. In Bridget Jones's Baby, she celebrates her 43rd birthday. When the producers brought Maguire onto the project, one of the things that was important for the director was that the story reflect what happens to adults in these key transitional years, both emotionally and professionally.

Despite her success, in the new story, Bridget maintains that wonderful awkwardness that has made her so appealing. "Everybody's hoped for something and been disappointed. The way that Bridget manages to persevere-despite circumstances that might bring her down-inspires people," says Zellweger. "She's suffering the same things we all do and, especially in her private moments, you're able to connect to her."

"Bridget can be ditsy and clumsy, but she is very clever; she's erudite, smart and well educated, yet she fluffs things," Hayward adds. "Bridget's characterization is always delicate, because if you go too far one way she can become stupid. It's getting that balance right, and that balance is the trickiest thing in the film actually. She's human and certainly makes mistakes in love; still, she is unique and idiosyncratic."

Despite her independence, Bridget remains fiercely single. "We wanted to isolate her," explains Hayward. "Every single one of her friends has moved on, even Tom [JAMES CALLIS], her gay best friend, has settled down and adopted a baby. She is the last one standing."

"Bridget is still dealing with some of the same issues," says Maguire. "She still has a fear of loneliness and is floundering around looking for meaning in her life. She's so imperfect and so flawed. Things are never all neatly sewed up with a bow on top."

As her close friend Miranda [SARAH SOLEMANI], points out, Bridget "made us award-winning, and as a result she has no life, because everyone mercilessly abused the fact she is a lonely, single, childless SPILF [Spinster I'd Like to F**k] who works all hours." "That said, she's still the same Bridget we know and love," insists Hayward. "She'd love to down a bottle of Chardonnay, but she's a bit more sensible now."

Despite Bridget's denials, dreams of romance and children are ever present. "We discussed why that is and it's partly because she never quite got over Mark Darcy, even though that is not where you find her at the beginning of the film," explains Hayward. "From the beginning we thought it was going be the story of Bridget finding herself pregnant and not knowing who the father was," confirms Hayward.

Whilst Fielding was very involved with the development, owing to her increasing commitments, she agreed to have another writer join the project. "Originally this was developed with Helen, and then writer Dan Mazer," explains Hayward. "With Helen's approval, we brought Emma Thompson on board."

Fellner discusses how the multihyphenate was folded into the production: "Emma Thompson is an actress and writer who we have been incredibly fortunate to work with quite a lot over the years-memorably in Love Actually and in two Nanny McPhee movies. We were looking for a writer to come on board and help us with the screenplay, and she seemed a natural choice. She did an incredible job, and in the process she built up a character called Dr Rawlings. We then turned it around and told her she'd made that character, she now needed to play her. She did so brilliantly."

Maguire appreciated that Thompson brought in more obstacles and more laughs. "Bridget's world is familiar, so we had to give audiences twists turns and surprises," says the director. "I also wanted to bring in fresh and younger blood. I was keen we made her friends at work, like Miranda, part of the new generation of Bridget, who have a slightly different outlook on relationships-a lot more free and amoral. I thought there was much fun to be had with Miranda and Cathy, the makeup lady [JOANNA SCANLAN]."

Whilst humour was imperative, so too was truth. "I wanted the story to be plausible, but funny," Maguire continues. "I know people who have been faced with this predicament, so I was intrigued how Bridget would handle it." Having had no successive men in her life, now they are turning up like buses, both wanting to be the father. "When I came on board we took that part of the story and ran with it, putting her in more awkward situations, like going to two scans and drawing her doctor into the subterfuge."

"I like to think of it as a coming-of-age film that's set at a later point in the character's life," muses Zellweger. "As you go through life, you realize that there isn't a point that you reach where you have it all figured out. This chapter in Bridget's story explores the differences between what you imagine your life is going to be versus the reality of where you find yourself."

One of the most powerful perspectives that Maguire brought to the production was that she could relate to today's Bridget as much as she did to the first incarnation. In fact, after Bridget Jones's Diary wrapped, Maguire moved to Los Angeles to work and, as it turns out, become a mother. It was upon returning to London in 2014 that the producers approached her. "I was scared, but also curious as I wanted to see what had happened to all the characters 11 years on," says the director. "I wanted to know whether their fantasies had come true. It felt strange for me to read it because I had to go back 15 years to my life and look at my own fantasies and whether they had come true."

"Bringing Sharon back was key," says Hayward. "More than anybody, Sharon embodies the spirit of Bridget and all the qualities that made the first film so relatable. We were quite pleased with ourselves when she was agreeable. Sharon was so responsible for the success of the first film-the feeling, tone, humour, laughter, tears and the romance-and of course she is one of the characters in Helen's original book."

In addition to Maguire's connection with Bridget, she came to motherhood late in life, so she speaks directly to some of the themes in the story. "She inspired the character of Shazza/Sharon," reveals Zellweger. "But I always felt she was more like Bridget. When she's laughing at what we're filming that day, that's when Bridget comes to life in the room. She's somewhere between Sharon and myself. I can't imagine a more fun and exciting collaboration than the one that we shared."

As a documentarian, the filmmaker takes a sharp eye toward comedy. "Directing comedy is a hard thing to do as it's so subjective," says Maguire. "I have to trust my instincts on what is funny. If I read something or I think of an idea that makes me laugh, it's worth pursuing. Similarly, if the actors experiment, and I laugh, we go with it."

Finding a window when the cast would be available was one of the great challenges. Still, he stars aligned in September 2015 and the cameras started rolling on Bridget Jones's Baby. Any fears that in the 21st century Jones might not be relevant were instantly quashed. The crew were followed by packs of photographers whose pictures were splashed across front pages and discussed at length by an eager fan base.

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