She subsequently starred in the romantic comedy Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), obtaining nominations for the Academy Award and BAFTA Award for Best Leading Actress.Her role in musical Chicago (2002) earned her another Oscar nomination for Best Actress, and her second Golden Globe Award.
She has received critical acclaim and many accolades, including an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.The movie had a negative critical reception but Zellweger was considered a stand out among the cast members; Rotten Tomatoes' consensus was: "Despite a terrific soundtrack and a strong early performance from Renee Zellweger, Empire Records is mostly a silly and predictable teen dramedy." Zellweger became widely known to audiences with Jerry Maguire (1996), in which she played the romantic interest of Jerry, Tom Cruise' character.The film marked the actress' big break on screen as it received widespread critical acclaim and grossed over US$273 million worldwide.Following the success of Chicago, she starred with Ewan Mc Gregor in the romantic comedy Down with Love (2003), in which she played a woman who advocates female independence in the patriarchal and male chauvinist society of the 1950s and early 1960s.The film received mixed reviews and proved to be a commercial bomb.
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Later in 2003, she appeared in Anthony Minghella's war drama Cold Mountain, opposite Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, playing Ruby Thewes, a woman who helps Kidman's character work on her farm after her father's presumed death.The film garnered several award nominations and wins for its actors; Zellweger won the award for Best Supporting Actress at the 76th Academy Awards, the 61st Golden Globe Awards, the 10th Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the 57th British Academy Film Awards.It received a release in selected theaters, garnering mostly favorable comments from critics. Marc Savlov of Austin Chronicle applauded the main cast saying they were "all excellent in their roles" and noted that "Zellweger's character – all squeals and caged sexuality – seems a bit too close to Juliette Lewis' Mallory Knox (of Natural Born Killers) to be as fresh as it should be".The film, released in 2000, was a commercial success, in which she played a Kansas waitress who suffers a nervous breakdown after witnessing her husband's murder, and starts obsessively pursuing her favorite soap actor.