Renee Zellweger has not acted in a film since 2010 but is now about to release a new one. She has thus re-appeared in the public eye and surprised many people because she looks different. Very different. It is not just that she has gone through the normal changes of aging over five years and is an older version of herself but that she looks so different that one might not have recognized her.
This has started off a furious discussion in the media as to whether she has undergone extensive cosmetic surgery and onto broader questions as to whether she should have done so and on the pressures on women by society in general and Hollywood in particular to look young, even though she is only 45, just a kid by my standards.
I was only marginally interested in this issue. After all, why should others care what she does with her body? Whether she wants to change her looks is entirely up to her and the rest of the world should leave her alone.
But what perked up my interest was this article that wondered whether we were the victims of some hoax in which someone else was passing herself off as Zellweger. The article gives possible reasons for doing so, such as to create a splash for her new film (the way that Joaquin Phoenix played a hoax on the public before the release of his film I’m Still Here), but I found those somewhat implausible.
What interested me is the whole issue of whether it is possible for someone to re-emerge after an extended absence and be able to pass themselves off as someone else, fooling even those who were close to them. This has been the theme of several films and I first encountered it in The Return of Martin Guerre (1982) with Gerard Depardieu based upon a true story of an imposter who returned after an eight-year absence and supposedly fooled even the man’s wife, though there were suspicions that she colluded with the imposter and that her acceptance of him paved the way to overcoming the skepticism of others.
I found the film interesting but the story implausible, since it seemed to me to be unlikely that an imposter could maintain that kind of pretense for long. But the very fact that the same possibility is being raised about Zellweger suggests that, though far-fetched, it may not be as far-fetched as I thought.