'Judy': 6 of the Film's Stars and Their Real-Life Inspirations

5:54 AM 11/4/2019

by Kelsey Lentz

Renée Zellweger plays the actress and singer in the Rupert Goold-directed biopic about the year before the troubled icon died of an accidental overdose.

David Hindley

Renee Zellweger stars as Judy Garland in Judy, a biopic about the troubled singer-actress' final year before her death.

The Rupert Goold-directed film, currently in theaters, was adapted by Tom Edge from Peter Quilter's play End of the Rainbow.

Judy chronicles Garland’s last few performances in London, the romance she embarks on with musician Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock) and her struggles with depression and addiction.

Rufus Sewell, Bella Ramsey, Lewin Lloyd, Gemma-Leah Devereux, Fenella Woolgar, Jessie Buckley and Michael Gambon round out the cast, with Darci Shaw playing a young version of Garland.

Zellweger is already getting awards attention for her role as Garland. In his review of Judy, The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Farber wrote Zellweger "looks uncannily like Garland (kudos to the hair and makeup designers)" and "captures sides of Garland’s personality that not everyone acknowledges, particularly her self-deprecating sense of humor."

He continues: "In other scenes of the singer in a state of disheveled disarray, Zellweger tells us everything we need to know about Judy’s damaged past — without any flashbacks. Then there are the musical performances, which are nothing short of extraordinary. Zellweger’s rendition of one of Garland’s classics, 'I’ll Go My Way by Myself,' is a breathtaking tour de force, and the actress is equally electrifying when she sings 'Come Rain or Come Shine.'"

The main characters in Judy are all based on real people from Garland’s life. Below, read more about the cast and the people they portrayed.

  • Judy Garland, portrayed by Renée Zellweger

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Garland was just 13 when she signed a contract with MGM and began acting in major movies and shows. Her breakthrough role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz catapulted her career and still remains her most memorable big-screen performance. Following the success of that film, she became one of the best-known actresses in Hollywood, starring in hits like A Star Is Born, Meet Me in St. Louis and Summer Stock. Garland had a successful career as a singer, as well.

    Despite this, her life was riddled with addiction, mental health issues, failed marriages and a declining career up until her accidental overdose at the age of 47.

    Zellweger, who plays the star, told People she is hoping the film will help audiences see Garland in a new light.

    "When there’s a better understanding of what it takes for a person to continue under certain circumstances, there is a level of empathy and respect that you can’t help but feel," said Zellweger.

    Beyond the hair, makeup and costumes that transformed her into Garland, Zellweger did extensive research and worked with a choreographer and took voice lessons to portray the icon.

    "I put the music on and then I started digging for the books and I ordered the books and then I dug around on the internet every day and I just took in very greedily everything I could find. I was just in love and I got more and more greedy," she told Reuters. "I didn’t want to be away from it."

  • Sidney Luft, portrayed by Rufus Sewell

    David M. Benett/Getty Images; Courtesy of Photofest

    Sidney Luft was a producer and the third husband of Garland. Their relationship originally began as an affair while they were still married to other people, but it led to a 13-year marriage, Garland’s longest, during which they had two children.

    Luft had a reputation for heavy drinking, gambling and fighting, but he was influential in engineering Garland’s career comeback. She had just been fired from MGM but, under Luft's management, Garland turned her focus to singing, which created a resurgence in her career. The two also produced A Star Is Born together. 

    The couple had a rocky marriage, and Garland filed for divorce in 1963 on the grounds of mental cruelty, and also alleged that Luft hit her multiple times while he was drinking.

    Luft is portrayed by English actor Rufus Sewell.

  • Lorna Luft, portrayed by Bella Ramsey

    David Hindley/Roadside Attractions; Courtesy of Photofest

    Lorna Luft is Garland and Sidney Luft’s daughter. As a child, she sang alongside her mother, brother Joey (portrayed in the film by Lewin Lloyd) and half-sister Liza Minnelli on concert tours and an episode of The Judy Garland Show. She was 16 when her mother died. Luft has since followed in Garland’s footsteps, becoming a singer and actress herself. Her screen credits include Grease 2; Trapper John, M.D.; and Murder She Wrote.

    Luft also wrote the 1998 memoir Me and My Shadows, about her life and that of her mother, which was adapted into a 2001 ABC miniseries, Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, which won five Emmys and a Golden Globe.

    Despite her mom’s reputation, Luft told The Mirror that to her, Garland was just her mother.

    “I’m so grateful to have had her as my mother. She was everyone’s icon and everyone’s legend but she was my mum. I didn’t think of her as anything else other than the lady in the kitchen in the bathrobe,” Luft said. “Then I’d watch her put her makeup on and she’d turn into Judy Garland.”

    Luft told Great Britain Today shortly before Judy hit theaters that she didn't plan to see the film.

    "I'm really protective of my mom's legacy and my mother's legendary career," Luft said. "And I feel that if you really want to know about my mom, go see her movies, go listen to her recordings, and go watch her television shows, and that's how you'll know about her."

    Luft is depicted as a child by Game of Thrones actress Bella Ramsey.




  • Liza Minnelli, portrayed by Gemma-Leah Devereux

    Mike Marsland/WireImage; Courtesy of Photofest

    Liza Minnelli is the daughter of Garland and director Vincent Minnelli, Garland’s second husband. Like her mother, Minnelli went on to become a singer and actress as well, earning just as much of a legendary reputation and winning an Oscar for her role in Cabaret.

    Minnelli is played by Irish actress Gemma-Leah Devereux, who told the Irish Film and Television Network, “I am over the moon to be playing the iconic Liza Minnelli. Being directed by the very talented Rupert Goold and to be playing opposite Renée Zellweger is every actress' dream. The day my agent called to say I got the part I had just watched Discovering: Judy Garland on Sky Arts. I took it as a good sign. This is a very exciting chapter in my career. I have grown up watching Liza with a "z" and I feel honored to be playing her.”

  • Margaret Hamilton, portrayed by Fenella Woolgar

    Anthony Harvey/WireImage; Courtesy of Photofest

    Margaret Hamilton was an actress best known for her role as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, one of the most memorable onscreen villains. Hamilton reprised her role as the iconic witch on episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to explain that it was just a character, since she feared that children, whom she cared deeply about, would get the wrong idea of who she really was.

    Hamilton also had an impressive career in radio, television and on stage. She starred in various soap operas, a radio series, Broadway musicals and TV shows. In 1968, Hamilton reunited with her Wizard of Oz co-star Garland for an appearance on The Merv Griffin Show.

    English actress Fennella Woolgar plays Hamilton in Judy.

  • Mickey Deans, portrayed by Finn Wittrock

    David Hindley/Roadside Attractions; Courtesy of Photofest

    Mickey Deans was Garland’s fifth and final husband. Deans was only married to Garland for three months before her untimely death, but he never married again, claiming she was the love of his life.

    Deans is played by actor Finn Wittrock of American Horror Story fame.