With two quick swipes of a dusty pink lipstick, and not even a glance in the mirror, Renee Zellweger turned and smiled.
“What a lovely top,” she said as she reached for the glass bottle of water on the table beside her.
Don’t start the timer, she instructed the producer.
“You’ve got to give her some more time because I’m taking it up here drinking my water,” she added in her slight Texan twang.
Who knew four minutes with Renee Zellweger could be so intense?
The American actor is in Australia for the premiere of Judy — a film that delves into the tragic decline of the singer and actress Judy Garland.
Zellweger’s performance has been highly praised.
There’s talk of a best actress Oscar gong.
Zellweger’s arrival in Melbourne couldn’t be more different to the woman she portrays.
Garland was last in Melbourne in May 1964. It was simply a disaster.
She stumbled onto the stage and made headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons, chastised by audience members for turning up late.
Her appearance was considered unsalvageable.
Zellweger, on the other hand, arrived in Melbourne on a high.
She is the woman of the moment. Understandably News Breakfast was keen to get a slot on her media schedule.
That “slot” was a negotiated four-minute window, with a warning to turn up at the five-star hotel where the interviews were taking place 15 minutes ahead of time.
The lobby where Zellweger was ensconced was the meeting place for entertainment reporters and personalities in their own right.
Mainstays of the industry Richard Wilkins and Angela Bishop were there.
As was comedian Dave Hughes.
To say I was a fish out of water is to put it politely.
In more than a decade overseas for the ABC in postings in the US and Europe, I’ve managed to skip most of the film junkets and happily let colleagues enjoy the moment.
On one occasion, correspondent James Glenday returned to the London bureau and informed us that the famous actor we’d been jealous he was interviewing had, upon seeing James enter the room, held his hands to his forehead and declared, “I have a headache, please be quiet.”
That’s never a great start to an interview.
I had none of those fears with this particular encounter.
For starters, Zellweger is considered a darling of the industry. Private but polite, smart and funny.
And I’d recalled the enjoyable exchanges between 7.30’s Leigh Sales and Zellweger on one of her previous Australian visits in 2016.
Waiting in the lobby, my call time of 12.05pm passed as the film company’s young staffer told me Zellweger was in an expansive mood and the previous print interviews had gone overtime.
I was taken to one of the upper floors and sat on a chair in the hallway, a security guard at one end and the sound of Zellweger’s voice coming from a suite at the other.
She was doing an interview “down the line” — with a commercial TV reporter in Sydney.
When I was ushered into the room the camera crews were getting ready for the next interview and a makeup artist listened as Zellweger laughed her way through a story about a red carpet event in France.
“This was in Cannes,” she said as an aside to me as I took my seat, wanting to immediately involve me in the joke.
“I’ve clearly lost my audience,” she said with a laugh as she realised no-one else in the room was paying any attention.
It was then she took the lipstick from the hand of the makeup artist and with a confidence that left me in awe, swiped once, then twice and without a glance in the mirror or even a hesitation, turned on the sparkle.
Her performance in Judy will only add to her reputation as one of this generation’s great actors.
As the producer by her side signalled the ticking minutes and then gave me the wind up sign, Zellweger wrapped up her last answer and thanked me for coming.
I’d barely stood from my seat before the Today Show’s Richard Wilkins slipped in to get a beaming smile from the Hollywood star.
“Hello Richard, it’s been too long,” she said warmly.
And then the timer started again.