Academy Award-winning actress Renée Zellweger illustrated just how hard it is to keep those pounds off Thursday (Feb. 5), donning a fat suit to prove she was worthy of the shiny Pudding Pot that comes with being named the Woman of the Year by the Hasty Pudding Theatricals.
Zellweger, who famously gained and then lost 20 pounds for her role in the romantic comedy “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” good-naturedly endured the traditional roast of the Woman of the Year winners, who have included such luminaries as Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Katharine Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor.
The roast was conducted by two Harvard seniors, Hasty Pudding President David Andersson and cast Vice President Tom Compton. Zellweger, who will add the Pudding Pot to a trophy case already crowded with Oscars, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild awards, and many others, laughed along with the jokes, but got her revenge in the end.
“I’ve always felt the nation’s future is sound as long as Harvard continues to deliver us her brightest and best,” Zellweger said in her short acceptance speech. “And after what I’ve seen today … I’ll have to rethink all that.”
The tongue-in-cheek event was the kickoff of the production “Acropolis Now,” by the Harvard student group, Hasty Pudding Theatricals. The Hasty Pudding Man of the Year, James Franco, will receive his Pudding Pot after a roast on opening night, Feb. 13. The show runs through March 15 in Cambridge, before moving to New York and then Bermuda for final performances March 26 to 28.
The Woman and Man of the Year awards are presented to those who have made a “lasting and impressive contribution to the world of entertainment.” The Woman of the Year award was established in 1951 and the Man of the Year award was first given in 1963.
Zellweger, who has starred in such notable films as “Cold Mountain,” “Cinderella Man,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Chicago,” “Jerry Maguire,” and the just-released “New in Town,” kicked off the Woman of the Year celebrations Thursday morning with a tour of Harvard Yard led by Hasty Pudding members.
Bundled in a black overcoat against temperatures in the single digits and wind chills below zero, Zellweger chatted amiably about the possibility of grazing cattle in the Yard and the size of Widener Library’s book collections with Brian Polk ’09, a cast member who led the tour.
A small crowd including Zellweger and Polk, together with Andersson, Compton, band Vice President Alec Brown ’10, and press manager Talisa Friedman, as well as friends who traveled with Zellweger, walked from Johnston Gate to the John Harvard Statue, into Tercentenary Theatre, past Widener Library, and then out past Lamont Library onto Quincy Street.
On hearing the story of John Harvard Statue’s “three lies,” including that Harvard was an early benefactor rather than the University’s “founder” as the statue states, Zellweger quipped that perhaps the inscription could be changed to “helper.”
Zellweger also endured the bitter February weather during the annual Hasty Pudding parade, which made its way down Massachusetts Avenue just before the roast. Zellweger, who sat in an open convertible with male cast members dressed in drag, drew a crowd of fans who took pictures, asked for autographs, and crowded the car enough to keep the parade’s procession slow and stately despite the chill.
Hasty Pudding Theatricals presented its first show in 1844 and, save for several years during World War I and II, has done so annually since. “Acropolis Now” is the club’s 161st.