Renee Zellweger is wearing a ‘fat suit’ to play a convicted killer in a miniseries

2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

It’s one thing if an actor wants to go “method” and authentically transform their body for a role. Think Tom Hanks in Philadelphia and Cast Away, Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, Charlize Theron in Monster and Tully, etc. I understand that there are health issues with that kind of extreme weight gain or loss, but there is authenticity to their transformations which adds a lived-in quality to their performances. In recent years, actors have moved away from those kinds of transformations though, opting to just wear face prosthetics, fat suits, and more. Gary Oldman won an Oscar for playing a sh-tty, terrible version of Winston Churchill in a fat suit. Sarah Paulson is currently in American Crime Story: Impeachment, wearing a fat suit to play Linda Tripp. Jared Leto is wearing some kind of body-altering something in House of Gucci. And on and on.

It’s seriously gotten to the point where only young, thin, white actors are hired for every role and then they just use prosthetics and fat suits to get into character. This is because in Hollywood, apparently it would be the worst thing in the world to hire someone overweight, or hire someone in their 60s to play a character in their 60s, or to not constantly be surrounded by young, white and thin people at all times. I believe at some point, there will be more of a movement to call this out as the offensive “fat drag” it is. Hopefully, there will also be a movement to simply cast movies and TV shows properly as well.

I bring all of this up because Renee Zellweger has been photographed in a fat suit, as she films a new project in Louisiana. The project: a miniseries called The Thing About Pam. It’s for network television, it will air on NBC. It’s based on the true story of convicted murderer Pam Hupp. Renee plays Hupp, a woman who is currently 63 years old. At the time of her conviction (the time in which Renee is playing), Hupp was about 57-58. Renee is 52. Hupp was also a bigger woman at the time, thus Renee’s fat suit.

Renee famously gained weight (about 20-30 pounds) to play Bridget Jones in the first two films and that still seems to hang over her head in a bizarre way. Renee has also said that her doctors told her she shouldn’t do that kind of weight gain again, so …just don’t play overweight characters?? But that’s the catch, of course – Renee wasn’t merely an actress for hire, badly miscast by some douchebag producer. No, of course not. She’s the executive producer on this series, so she cast her skinny self with the knowledge that she would do fat drag. Enough.

Renee Zellweger arrives at the European premiere of "Judy"

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

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37 Responses to “Renee Zellweger is wearing a ‘fat suit’ to play a convicted killer in a miniseries”

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  1. Izzy says:

    It’s obnoxious and insulting. There are several talented actresses who could have been cast for this and would not have needed to wear fat drag. It’s saying bigger people aren’t worthy of being onscreen in better roles, save those for the skinny people.

  2. Driver8 says:


    • Ronaldinhio says:

      I think her weight gain for Bridget Jones did a number on her.
      Afterward she became very thin as though throwing the character and her giant ( er ) size off was key
      It all screamed, ‘I am thin, I am’ to me anyway and I felt very unhappy observing her afterward

  3. SarahCS says:

    I understand that having a recognised ‘name’ can help with funding, attracting audiences, etc. But are there really no actors out there with great actings skills who also happen to now be thin/young/white? This is ridiculous.

    Just cast someone who looks the part. Are casting people just that lazy now?

    • Noki says:

      I remember many years ago Matt Damon said something like ‘you cant get an agent unless you have been in a movie,and you cant be in a movie unless you have an agent’. So there may very well be great plus sized actresses out there but they simply dont have the pull. And sadly plus sized actors are usually relegated to ‘sidekicks,the funny,sad or pathetic friends’ which impedes their chance to ever be A list enough to carry a movie.

      • SarahCS says:

        This is the issue. The talent is there but there are no opportunities and the system perpetuates more of the same.

    • WithTheAmerican says:

      The producers blame the audiences for this, because if we showed up for no name people they could give us no name people, but the truth is every decision is about calculations of box office draw now, which is why so much that comes out of Hollywood is such boring crap

  4. CommentingBunny says:

    Gross. The podcast was fascinating, and I could see wby she’d want to play Pam. But to paraphrase the Stones … you shouldn’t always get what you want.

  5. atorontogal says:

    It’s like Sarah Paulson wearing a fat suit to play Linda Tripp. I am very sure there are actresses out there that would have done an amazing job without having to wear a padded suit. Did we learn nothing from Shallow Hal?

    • ElleV says:

      exactly. gross.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Or maybe think about someone who doesn’t exactly replicate the size & shape of the character, much as Nicole Kidman in no way resembles Lucille Ball. Just get somebody’s who’s a good actor. (Then again, maybe that’s not a good example….) And here, Renee looks like she’s wearing a fat suit. This doesn’t look close to real, her hands & wrists are a dead giveaway.

  6. OriginalLala says:

    Purely from an aesthetic perspective (which is all Hollywood cares about anyway) fat suits just look weird, they make actors look like caricatures even for serious roles/films -so I don’t know why they keep insisting on them. They look fake and stupid.

    • Chaine says:

      Exactly, they’re always obvious and distracting

    • BeanieBean says:

      Agreed. Look at Renee’s hands & wrists, she looks ridiculous in this thing.

    • JJ says:

      EXACTLY!! Fat suits look nothing like real plus sized people, and move nothing like real plus sized people. it’s just so weird that Hollywood likes to pretend it looks passable.

  7. Noki says:

    Seeing how she did the weight gain and loss during the Bridget Jones era and it really affected her,I can see how she doesnt want to go through that again. And now that she is older bouncing back takes longer and a bigger toll on the body.

    • ElleV says:

      which is why – instead of screwing with her body or donning a fat suit – she should have passed on this role.

      • BothSidesNow says:

        Exactly!!! There are plenty of women that could have been cast as Pam, but no, RZ HAD to play Pam? Why?

        BTW, Theron in Monster was an amazing transformation!! She certainly looked nothing like her true self.

        Melissa McCarthy, Brooke Elliot and Camryn Manheim. There are more, but I am pulling on who I think could pull off being a killer.

    • Izzy says:

      Then she should cast an age- and size-appropriate actress instead.

    • LillyfromLillooet says:

      @Noki This was my first thought–I think big weight fluctuations for actors present serious health and behavioral challenges and in the end, makeup and costume artists can lots of things possible without asking an actor to starve or gain.

      I loved Zellweger’s transformation in the Judy Garland biopic, and degrees of transformation an actor takes to play a part start to become lines in the sand. I think that actors can and should take parts they find compelling that feel connected to. I think that connection exists across identities.

      We know how showbiz works, right, and the value of having an actor who, consistently over time and parts, proves her worth in being able to open and carry movies? Stars are stars. They make studios not just millions, but billions for studios. People invest in movies because of the talent attached.

      Because of this, I find myself unable to get up a lot of indignation about “there being so many people out there who are living this reality and it would be more just for them to play this role.” Yeah, welcome to planet Earth. I know I will spend money to see Renee Zellweger in whatever.

      @noki is right in the Matt Damon quote–this system is self-perpetuating and a closed loop. And it decisively favors a beauty and age type. It’s been fantastic to see examples, and I hope more and more come–of stars who age out of mega stardom get woke and start companies and negotiations with an eye for bringing in diverse and underrepresented talent. I’m so excited about Mindy Kaling–as a creator and producer, she’s doing breakthrough casting. Melissa McCarthy is one of my favorites–and now that I’m typing this, it occurs to me how the reverse of this would feel, to offer a part to someone because of one aspect of their personal identity–“we need a plus-size actress to play the role, you are large, so can you do this?”

      • Coco says:

        @ LillyfromLillooet

        ( to offer a part to someone because of one aspect of their personal identity–”we need a plus-size actress to play the role, you are large, so can you do this?”)

        Why would this be a bad thing? It would be like hey the character is a dark skinned woman and offering the role only to dark skinned women. Instead of offering it to light skin or non-POC women and having to black face or use tones make-up to make them dark skinned.

      • Mrs.Krabapple says:

        If the body size of the character is not important, then why use a fat suit? If size is important enough that it calls for a fat suit, then just use one of the many talented actresses who are close to the correct size. There are many other roles that Zellweger and other thin actresses can get, she doesn’t need this one as well. Try a little body diversity for a change.

  8. Natters says:

    There aren’t many great parts for women, much less older women in Hollywood. All these actresses these days have founded their own production companies because they have to sought out the roles that will fulfill them and it looks like that is what Reneé has done. She is a great actress, not just a name and I’m sure the other producers and director know that she will bring her all to this part. She has already done the method part and that is not working for her at this point in her life. I always feel the best actor should get the role otherwise in the future only gay people will play just gay roles, minorities just minorities, etc. That is not very fulfilling for an actor to have to be stymied in their acting choices. Hollywood needs to be more like England where beauty/weight is not the reason you get a role, it’s because you were the best for the part. That is why you get all types of actors there in high profile projects.

    • ElleV says:

      bold of you to assume the thin, white established actress in a fat suit is the best person for the part?

      and yes – visible minority parts should be played by people from those communities – or are we relitigating whitewashing and blackface?

      the solution to the lack of great parts for older (thin, white and established) actresses isn’t to coopt parts for more marginalized actors – it’s to create and support more diverse and interesting projects, and boycott BS like this

      • Natters says:

        Yes I am bold. May the best actor get the part.

      • Merricat says:

        But is she the best actor? I have a hard time believing that there isn’t a weight-appropriate actor who is talented enough to play the part. I wish acting, and every other field, actually, were built on merits, but it/they mostly is/are not.

    • WithTheAmerican says:

      There’s so much truth to this, too. There are no parts for women over a certain age, so they’ve all made their own production companies to prove that audiences will show up for them.

      Hollywood still believes audiences only show up for men and naked teenagers. I remember their shock over Sandra Bullock’s space movie success. Acting like women aren’t a minority is getting old, when they certainly are power wise.

  9. Monica says:

    You know why they put thin, white, conventionally attractive people in fat suits for roles? Because red carpets and photoshoots are what sell the movies.

  10. TeamMeg says:

    In my view, this is as offensive as hiring a white actor to play a person of color. Just no.

    • Andie says:

      I disagree. Wearing a fat suit isn’t equivalent to racism.

      • Crooksandnannies says:

        This. No one wants to get into a hierarchy of discrimination, but when someone outright compares fat phobia to racism- no.

        Racism is abhorrent and is discrimination based on an immutable trait. Being overweight, is, in the extreme majority of cases, not immutable. I recognize there are people who have health issues- issues that make it hard to lose weight and issues with medications that can mess with appetite, and more. But to pretend that is the norm is wrong and weird.

        No one should hate, judge, or be cruel to fat people. I am not saying “oh people can’t change their race so racism is bad but fat people can usually change their weight so fat phobia isn’t bad.”

        My point is that they are both bad, but different, and it minimizes one to compare it to the other.

  11. Renee says:

    I’m so tired of the fat suit trope! The reason there are not many “well known” “box office draw” larger size actresses is because THEY DO NOT CAST IN MANY PARTS! The argument that they want to use a named actress just keeps feeding the problem. There will never be a variety of named actresses that are larger if they never get cast. It’s a catch-22.

    P.S. Renee knows better but doesn’t care……

  12. TeeBee says:

    This is an interesting topic, and I am curious what people here think of Amanda Peet when she played Betty Broderick for the Dirty John series. She looked nothing like the real Betty, and I even wondered why they chose her, It’s clear they weren’t going for verisimilitude. I knew the story and it was a little jarring initially to become immersed in the telling of the tale because of this. In the end though, Amanda gave a great performance, and their efforts humanized what was initially just a woman scorned true crime drama. If they had cosplayed Broderick with prosthetics, I think I would never have been able to overcome that silliness, so I am glad they didn’t.

    If I am able, I will probably check this out, I love true crime, but I have a feeling I won’t be able to stop thinking about how it’s Renee in a fat suit.

  13. Kristen says:

    I’m overweight and I don’t have a problem with fat suits. Actors transform themselves for movies all the time.

  14. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I apologize beforehand. After reading this, Renee directing herself into a fat suit, the only word that entered my head was bitch.

  15. Jill says:

    I stopped watching Friends back in the day because of the “Fat Monica” stuff, aka a very thin actress in a fat suit for laughs. I’ve always been larger, and that was absolutely humiliating. I’ve never watched any of the other “fat suit” movies for the same reason.

  16. Andrea says:

    The sad thing is Renee was only 136 lbs in Bridget Jones, which is the weight where I thought I was fat years ago and now I’d kill for. Lol She looks painfully underweight now. She probably would look better at Bridget’s weight.