Renée Zellweger’s acting résumé to date is a mixed bag of (mostly) generational posturing. The 26-year-old graduate of the University of Texas at Austin had a nonspeaking role in Dazed and Confused, then took on heftier parts in films like Love and a .45 and Empire Records. But Zellweger, who hails from Katy, is about to put childish things behind her with a dazzling double flourish. First up, her artistic flowering: a nuanced turn as West Texas teacher Novalyne Price in The Whole Wide World, the story of Price’s friendship with Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard. Next, her Hollywood breakthrough: Just as The Whole Wide World premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January came the news that Zellweger had landed the female lead opposite Tom Cruise in the sports-agent comedy Jerry Maguire. “Doesn’t suck, huh?” says the plucky actress, who is sweetly mannered if a bit loopy. “Am I lucky, or what?” Or what, actually. If her lovely, lacerating work in The Whole Wide World is any indication, luck had very little to do with it.
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