A Timeline Of Renee Zellweger's Love Life

The following article references suicide.

From her charming performance in "Jerry Maguire" to that perfect faux-British diction in the "Bridget Jones" flicks, Renée Zellweger has proven herself a highly versatile actor, who has endeared fans for decades. Equally, her complicated love life has intrigued the public ever since she first stole our collective heart in the '90s.

Throughout the years, Zellweger has been linked to various men in both high profile and low-key romances. But it seems she has often struggled to find Mr. Right. Opening up to The Mirror, the actor revealed what she wants in a partner. "I look for heart," she began. "I like compassion. I like a man to have the ability to be empathic. I like for him to be aware of what his footprints look like behind him and what his trail is." She added, "I think that more than we learn about men, we learn about ourselves." Indeed, the more we learn about the numerous beaus who have jostled their way into the arms of Miss Zellweger, the more we learn about her. The actor clearly has a type; there's no denying that she finds a certain allure to musicians in particular, though her most recent paramour is a decidedly different character altogether.

Put on your detective caps: it's time for a deep dive into Renée Zellweger's love life timeline. This one has way more twists and turns than the "Bridget Jones" triad.

The actor's tragic romance with Sims Ellison

The dawn of Renée Zellweger's (public) romantic history takes us to the early '90s. Back then, she was an up-and-coming star making her way into the Hollywood big leagues with a role in "Reality Bites" and a brief scream queen stint in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation" alongside fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey. During this period, she was linked to musician Sims Ellison of the band Pariah. According to the Daily Mail, the couple dated for around five years until Zellweger decided to move to Florida in 1995 — without Ellison. Tragically, Ellison died by suicide that year.

In an interview with the Mail, Ellison's mom, Bonnie, reflected on the impact Zellweger had on her son's life. "It was clear that he loved her a lot. Renée was his favorite girlfriend. There were others after her, Sims always had a date, but I never knew their names," Bonnie said. "Renée spoke at his funeral... I don't remember what she said, but I'm sure it was wonderful."

Although Zellweger has never spoken publicly about her grief, Ellison's mom says that the actor still thinks about her tragic first love and keeps in touch with her. Bonnie also claims that her son was Zellweger's first true love. "Renée has acknowledged that Sims was her big love," Bonnie told Radar. "They were deeply in love. Renée says she still has an incredibly fond place in her heart for Sims."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​

Hooking up with co-star Rory Cochrane

Shortly after her relationship with Sims Ellison, Renée Zellweger landed a role in classic Gen X flick "Empire Records." As noted by Marie Claire, she hooked up with her co-star Rory Cochrane and they dated for two years. Funny enough, the pair had previously worked together on 1993's "Dazed and Confused," in which Zellweger had a fleeting cameo. According Mental Floss, legend has it Cochrane was the one who talked Zellweger into taking on her role in "Empire Records," ostensibly launching her Hollywood career.

Other than that, little is known about the erstwhile lovers. But in an interview with InStyle, Zellweger reflected on media intrusion into her private life during the early days of her stardom, perhaps referring to her youthful tryst with Cochrane. When asked whether she had always been able to deal with gossip surrounding her love life, Zellweger replied, "Well, no. But I learned pretty early on. I was devastated about a breakup, and it was plastered all over the tabloids." She could, however, see the lighter side to being so intensely scrutinized by the press. "I was at a supermarket with my brother. And he saw some of those magazines," she recalled. "He opened one while I'm driving down Sunset Boulevard, and I looked over, and his shoulders were shaking... he was laughing so hard, he could barely breathe."

While the '90s lovers couldn't make it work, Zellweger would soon add a number of high profile beaus to her name.

A love affair with Josh Pate

Renée Zellweger connected with her next love interest at work. Josh Pate and his brother, Jonas Pate, directed Zellweger in the 1997 film "Deceiver" and the set soon heated up. As with many directors, Pate fell in love with the movie's star and this cliché was not lost on him. "It was the classic young director mistake — fall in love with the leading lady," Pate joked to the Los Angeles Times. "That's what Tim [Roth] would say every day — 'Young man's mistake!' We were trying to be professional until Renée wrapped; we tried to keep it secret, but everyone knew, all the way down to craft services."

In a 1997 interview with Vanity Fair, a then 28-year-old Zellweger gushed about Josh. "It never occurred to me that we would be more than friends," she confessed. "He's convinced that I'm lying when I say that. He says he knew, and that I knew subconsciously. He's my age, too, which is the first time that's happened. ... He's from the Carolinas, and I just went down there with him. I got so many chiggers." 

A New York Magazine profile from 1998 mentions that the couple was still dating then, though it appears that the rendezvous between Josh Pate and his leading lady soon fizzled thereafter.

Renée Zellweger was 'very special' to Jim Carrey

When they starred together in 2000 comedy "Me, Myself and Irene," Renée Zellweger and Jim Carrey didn't immediately embark on a passionate love affair, though Carrey would certainly have liked things to pan out that way. "They weren't making out, which is what he wanted to do," director Bobby Farrelly joked to CNN. Instead, Zellweger opted to keep things professional. "There were no advances," Zellweger emphasized to the outlet, adding, "He's too professional to show up with it on a big name tag: Jim's Longing."

Eventually, Zellweger realized that Carrey's love for her was indeed reciprocal. "I went home and I went, 'God, I do miss him,'" she told CNN, adding, "I loved being around him... because we had fun." Noting his girlfriend's differing sensibilities, Carrey quipped to Entertainment Weekly, "She thinks having a good time is renting a U-Haul and taking furniture to Texas."

But the fire burned out as quickly as it was lit. After just one year, the couple called it quits. "He's hurt," Carrey's pal Jamie Masada told People. "But who comes out of [a relationship] and doesn't get hurt?" Sadly, it seems that the pressures of Hollywood bore a toll on their relationship. "In this case, the media attention just heightened the pressure," director Ron Howard explained. While promoting his book "Memoirs and Misinformation" on "The Howard Stern Show" in 2020, Carrey waxed nostalgic about his time with Zellweger. "She definitely was special to me, very special," he poignantly reflected.

Jack White fell in love with a girl

A year after her breakup with Jim Carrey, Renée Zellweger swapped Riddler for rocker when she embarked on a romance with White Stripes frontman Jack White. The pair met on the set of Oscar-winning flick "Cold Mountain," for which White contributed to the soundtrack and also played Zellweger's husband, per the Daily Mail.

There was some unfortunate drama to their relationship, and not the kind that usually fills gossip columns. In 2003, Zellweger and White were involved in a car crash, resulting in catastrophic injuries for the musician, who told NME that his finger had been "destroyed" in the accident. Alas, the unlikely pairing was not meant to be and in December 2004, they broke up. Zellweger's publicist told People that the duo "remain good friends," emphasizing that there was "No scandal. No new relationships" precipitating the breakup.

The following year, a source told tabloid Daily Star (via Digital Spy) that White was still pining for his actor ex. The insider told the not entirely reliable paper that White's then wife, model Karen Elson, was jealous that her hubby was chatting with Zellweger on the phone. "She knows that although Jack is very fond of her, she will never measure up to Renée," the source alleged. "And she's terrified he will rekindle his romance with her. But he assured her the last thing Renée wants right now is another relationship."

Damien Rice was another rocker beau

After not quite hitting the white with White, Renée Zellweger reportedly moved onto another musician, '90s mainstay Damien Rice. A Hollywood superstar and an understated singer-songwriter hardly sounds like a match for which the stars were aligned

In 2005, The Mirror highlighted the disparity in Zellweger and Rice's respective personalities, resulting in the musician's hesitancy to attend the Oscars with his alleged lady love. "Renée feels the time is right to introduce Damien to everyone and really wants him to be her date," a source told the paper, which noted that the duo met at one of Rice's private concerts. "She is hoping she can quietly slip him into the awards... But Damien is still deciding if he wants to show up or not. He knows there is likely to be a huge amount of interest in their relationship and he's a very private person." Ultimately, however, Zellweger attended the ceremony solo.

When the Irish Examiner queried Rice about the relationship, the musician denied that he and Zellweger were anything but pals. "People would see us hanging out and immediately think — well, you know... I learned a lot from her, and we became very close and sweet new friends... I'm glad I met her," he stated. He may deny the rumors, but referring to his relationship with Zellweger in the past tense suggests that there may be a grain of truth to rumors of Rice's sizzling romance with the star.

Wedding bells for Renée Zellweger and Kenny Chesney

Bridget Jones may have lamented "smug married couples," but the actor who embodied her joined what Jones deemed a dastardly league of newlyweds in 2005. After meeting at a Tsunami benefit in January 2005, Renée Zellweger tied the knot with country musician Kenny Chesney that May. "She said she's been waiting for all these years for the right person to come into her life," a friend told People. "When she met Kenny, she knew. She said she didn't want to wait to find out if it was right." Meanwhile, Chesney was absolutely smitten. "I may well be the luckiest man alive," he gushed. "To be so in love with someone who is so perfect for me."

Sadly, the pair annulled their marriage just four months after saying "I do." According to an interview with The Advocate, Zellweger cited fraud as the reason she divorced Chesney. Refusing to elaborate on what said fraud was, she told the outlet, "I feel you devalue yourself as a human being when you share very personal things with a bajillion strangers who are making fun of you. I just don't see that there's any dignity in that." 

Chesney told Anderson Cooper that the term "fraud" was cited because it was "the least harmful" cause for their annulment. "The only fraud that was committed was me thinking... that I really understood what it was like to be married, and I really didn't," he admitted.

Renée Zellweger allegedly pursued a Beatle

In 2007, Renée Zellweger was linked to Sir Paul McCartney after the two were seen getting cozy at a Tom Petty concert. "Renée smiled and laughed and hung on McCartney's very word. She has a history of dating musicians," a source told regional outlet Boston at the time. There was a major age gap between the pair, with Sir Paul having recently celebrated his 65th birthday when he was spotted with the then-38-year-old "Chicago" star. It seems that McCartney needn't have asked, "Will you still need me... when I'm 64?"

Days later, the Daily Mail reported that the two were on a "romantic date" at a restaurant. An onlooker told the Mail, "It's an extremely romantic place to meet for dinner. The dining rooms are very dimly lit, mostly with candlelight. Sir Paul and Renée left separately — but they looked like they were enjoying themselves."

Despite steamy tabloid rumors, Zellweger has remained tight-lipped about the nature of her relationship with the rock legend. Addressing the gossip in an interview with People, she enthused, "My God, that's like new news! But I have to say, I'm not disappointed. He's as lovely as I expected." As the publication notes, Zellweger rather coyly added, "I'm not single, I'm busy." Nevertheless, McCartney denied the story, stating (via Metro), "We're not dating. We're in the same group of friends and that's it." For Zellweger and McCartney, it's best if we let it be.

On the rebound with Dan Abrams

Hollywood stars don't typically date reporters; the potential for the relationship to go awry via gossip columns is far too great and enough to make any celeb yell, "Down with love!" But if rumors are to be believed, Renée Zellweger is anything but a typical Hollywood starlet.

In 2009, Page Six reported that she was on the rebound with news correspondent Dan Abrams following her swift annulment from Kenny Chesney. The outlet claims that the pair were seen on a cozy date at a swanky hotel. Gawker then reported that the seemingly loved up rumored couple went on a date to buy wine, where they were photographed getting rather intimate indeed. Just Jared soon published photos of the pair on what appeared to be yet another romantic outing. While neither party ever confirmed or denied the rumors, a New York Times profile listed Zellweger among Abrams' many lady loves.

Discussing the unusual pairing of a media reporter and a media magnet, New York Magazine was incredulous. "If he can date Renée Zellweger, like in real life, then we're going to be forced to look long and hard at why we're not dating Bradley Cooper," the mag wrote. "Because if media-celebrity couples are truly possible, well, we've been wasting a lot of time dating and marrying within our caste." Bradley Cooper, you say? You haven't heard the last of him...

Bradley Cooper seemingly gushed about Renée Zellweger

A superstar couple is born. Having starred together in 2009 horror film "Case 39," Renée Zellweger and Bradley Cooper reportedly began dating. According to People, Zellweger spent Christmas with Cooper's parents in 2009 and tried to warm her way into the heart of his beloved mom. "Bradley's mom is Italian-American and it was obvious that Renée was making an effort to impress Bradley's mom with Christmas dishes," an insider claimed. In 2010, a separate People article reported that the couple were seen taking a gander at Cooper's multimillion dollar Los Angeles home, with a source telling the outlet that Zellweger planned on moving in. 

While he didn't name the lucky lady in question, Cooper gushed to E! about his girlfriend in 2010, the time in which he was linked to Zellweger. "I can't say enough about her. I just love her," he enthused. "I [loved] coming to work. I love acting with her. I can learn so much from her." The following year, Zellweger ditched her appearance at the Golden Globes to comfort her rumored beau, who sadly lost his father, per People.

A couple of months later, the two apparently called it quits. A source told Us Weekly, "If I had to pick any possible mistress it would be Brad's career. He worked really hard to get into leading man status." The insider added that Cooper's career came first, with Zellweger having "to take a backseat" for his sake.

More than a dalliance with Doyle Bramhall II

There's no denying that Renée Zellweger has a thing for musicians. In 2013, Us Weekly reported that she had been dating guitarist Doyle Bramhall II since 2012, though the mag notes that the pair apparently first crossed paths in Texas when they were in their 20s. "Renée's really happy and has a new life," an insider said. Chatting with People at a charity event in 2015, Zellweger sweetly said of her boyfriend, "Isn't he cute? He's a very sweet man. I'm very, very happy right now."

By far, this romance appears to be the actor's longest relationship on record. Speaking with Us Weekly in 2017, Zellweger waxed lyrically about her long-term beau, exclaiming, "He's a very special person!" 

That year, E! revealed that Zellweger was left having to financially support Bramhall following his divorce from fellow musician Susannah Melvoin. According to financial records, Zellweger was paying "$4,000 to $5,000 a month" for her partner's credit card bills and in 2015 she almost forked out a whopping $60,000 to cover his expenses. We can't help but think this is a plot line straight out of "Bridget Jones," to which the exasperated titular heroine would no doubt reply, "Shut up, please."

Unfortunately, by 2019, the pair appeared to have broken up. Sources spilled to Radar that the once besotted duo "might have split, or at the least having problems."

Is Ant Anstead Renée's Mr. Darcy?

Just like her British alter-ego Bridget Jones, Renée Zellweger has apparently been searching for her Mr. Darcy. And, it seems, she may have finally found him by looking across the pond. In 2021, Zellweger began dating British TV presenter Ant Anstead, best known for hosting "Wheeler Dealers." In June of that year, TMZ reported that there were sparks flying between the unlikely pair, who met during the filming of "Celebrity IOU Joyride," which Anstead hosts. 

The following month, ET published PDA-packed snaps of the couple smooching during a romantic bike ride, or rather, joyride. Anstead confirmed the romance on Instagram where he shared a romantic snap of the couple cuddling and giving us all the feels. Speaking with ET, Anstead gushed about how much he enjoys traveling with Zellweger following a trip to New Orleans. "We wandered into this little jazz room, and it was really amazing," he said. "She's a good traveler and she's been to that city before, so it's nice. Looking forward to getting back." In another interview with ET, Anstead praised Zellweger's "kindness."

Anstead was previously married to fellow TV star Christina Haack, with whom he has a son. It seems that Zellweger is playing stepmom to the young boy, with the Daily Mail reporting that she doted on the child during a family outing. While Zellweger once told The London Times (via People) that "motherhood has never been an ambition," perhaps this wholesome blended brood is all she really needs.