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'Jerry Maguire' at 25: Renée Zellweger says Tom Cruise really had her at 'hello' when they first met

·3 min read
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  • Tom Cruise
    Tom Cruise
    American actor and producer
  • Renée Zellweger
    Renée Zellweger
    American actress and producer

If Renée Zellweger was nervous en route to her try out for Jerry Maguire, the 1996 hit that would ultimately help turn the up-and-coming Texas-born actress into one of Hollywood’s most in-demand performers, she had a solid coping mechanism to deal with it.

“I drove to my audition that day, and I was laughing to myself the whole time,” Zellweger said of her experience landing the film — released 25 years ago, on Dec. 10, 1996 — during a 2016 Role Recall interview (watch above). “That was just hilarious to me, you know? Because Tom Cruise was down at Sony waiting for me [laughs]. I mean, that’s funny, you know?”

At the time, Zellweger’s profile was steadily rising after roles in such films as Reality Bites, 8 Seconds, Love and a .45 and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, opposite fellow up-and-coming Texan Matthew McConaughey. Cruise, however, had already been cemented as one of the world’s most bankable movie stars, and was fresh from a string of acclaimed films, including A Few Good Men, The Firm and Interview With the Vampire.

Tom Cruise and Renée Zellweger in 'Jerry Maguire' (The Everett Collection/TriStar)
Tom Cruise and Renée Zellweger in Jerry Maguire. (Photo: The Everett Collection/TriStar)

Zellweger fondly recalls her first meeting with Cruise where, to quote her loyal colleague-turned-love interest Dorothy Boyd, he had her at “hello.”

“You walk in the room, and the whole superstar thing of this person disappears. And the truth of who he is is right there,” she said. “He shakes your hand, looks you in the eye, [says] ‘Happy to meet you,’ and he is. And he’s curious about you and wants to get to know you. And it’s very easy to like him.”

Cruise clearly liked Zellweger back. Among the other actresses reportedly considered for the part were the more well-established Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Uma Thurman, Marisa Tomei and Winona Ryder. The part of the eponymous sports agent whose moral epiphany gets him forced out of a job was actually written by filmmaker Cameron Crowe with Tom Hanks in mind. But Crowe took so long writing the script, he’d ultimately deem Hanks too old for the part, so it instead went to Cruise, six years his junior.

Jerry Maguire was both a major commercial and critical hit, earning $153 million in the U.S. and $273 worldwide. It earned five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, with Cuba Gooding Jr. winning Best Supporting Actor for his live-wire performance as football player Rod Tidwell.

It was the 18th highest grossing movie of 1996, but probably the No. 1 most quotable thanks to lines like “Show me the money!,” “You complete me” and Zellweger’s own “You had me at ‘hello.’”

Zellweger admits she initially grappled with the line, which reportedly made no sense to her when she first read it.

“I asked Cameron about it a lot,” said Zellweger, who has won two Academy Awards since (for Cold Mountain and Judy), and has been nominated two other times (for Bridget Jones’s Diary and Chicago).

“And we did it a couple times. He would throw out suggestions [for alternate lines], and keeps it rolling. And he did that a lot and I loved it. I loved it. Because you didn’t have to stop and reset everything in order to get back to where you were, in order to sort of branch out from there and see where it would go. You could just keep on expanding on what it is that you’re exploring. I loved it.”