Years after a 2014 appearance caused a frenzy about Renée Zellweger‘s supposed changing looks, the actress is opening up about the humiliation it brought into her daily life.
The plastic surgery rumors started after Zellweger posed on a red carpet and fans said she looked unrecognizable. Though the actress gave an exclusive statement to PEOPLE at the time saying she was “glad” people thought she looked different, she has since admitted the toll the speculation took on her.
On particularly “painful” moment came when she was on the London subway and a man sitting next to her started talking to the two women he was with.
“They were talking about Hollywood and how Hollywood ladies are so silly, especially that Renée Zellweger,” Zellweger, now 50, told SiriusXM’s Jess Cagle during a Town Hall session.
“How could she do that? Why would she go and have surgery on her face like we wouldn’t know? She doesn’t look like herself, and you can’t just do that where you go and don’t look like yourself, ‘cause we expect you to look like yourself,” Zellweger recalled the man saying.
“And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s interesting. Anyway, here’s my stop,’ ” Zellweger continued. “So I get up and I stand next to the door waiting for it to open and the man is still talking about how stupid I am. And he looked up and he said, ‘Oh God, you’re not — you are! Oh my God, but you look just like yourself!’ And I said, ‘Yeah, it’s funny how that works, isn’t it?’ “
Zellweger said the moment stung, but she was able to move past it without letting it affect her daily life.
“It’s only momentarily where you go, ‘Jeez, wow, that’s pretty painful.’ But I don’t live in that,” she continued. “It just visits my life here and there and I’m not really privy on that stuff until someone sends it to me. I don’t seek it out.”
“And I’m busy! You know, I have dogs and they have to have shots and they need pills twice a day. There’s a lot, you know. I have other things to do,” the actress joked.
Earlier this month, Zellweger, who has been garnering Oscar buzz for her turn as Judy Garland in the upcoming biopic Judy, told New York Magazine in that the experience actually helped free her.
“Nothing like international humiliation to set your perspective right!” she said. “It clarifies what’s important to you. And it shakes off any sort of clingy superficiality … that you didn’t have time for anyway.”
“One of the fears that maybe, as artists, we all share — because we have this public experience of being criticized not just for our work but as human beings — is when it gets to be too much, when you learn that your skin is not quite as thick as you need it to be, what is that gonna feel like? Well, now I know,” Zellweger added. “I got the hardest kick. And it ain’t the end.”
Judy hits theaters Sept. 27.