How it all began! Renée Zellweger revealed the origin story of her red-hot romance with boyfriend Ant Anstead! The Oscar winner, 52 opened up about the “serendipitous” meeting between her and the British television host, 42, in 2021 that ended up igniting their love for each other. While the introduction was undoubtedly an adorable meet-cute, there was also a shadow of sadness to it, as Renee was grieving the loss of her good friend and publicist Nanci Ryder, who passed away in June 2020 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
As the The Thing About Pam star told Bazaar for its April issue, she was thinking about how to celebrate the two nurses — twin brothers named Jerome Cowan and Jerald Cowan — who cared for Nanci before her death when she happened upon an HGTV show called Celebrity IOU, where a famous person pays tribute to someone in their life by renovating the person’s home. “It was around Judy,” Renee explained, saying she was working on her Oscar-winning role of Judy Garland at the time. “Late night, and I remember I watched the Property Brothers with Brad Pitt.” With a spinoff in the works — Celebrity IOU: Joyride hosted by Ant — Renee signed up to give back to Jerome and Jerald.
Production on the new show began in June 2021, bringing Renee and Ant together for the first time, and gifting Jerome and Jerald a pair of gorgeous classic cars. With the actress and the car enthusiast still going from strength to strength since the fateful meeting, Renee was asked if she thinks Nanci somehow had a hand in the couple’s matchmaking. “Yeah, we do joke about that,” Renee agreed. “She’s always doing her best. It made me smile. It made me smile to think on this, yeah, the serendipity of it all.”
After Renee and Ant began dating, they kept their budding romance relatively private before the pair attended their first public event together in August 2021 when they went to a Radford Motors gala in California. In September, they darling duo made it Instagram official. Ant opened up about their romance during his interview with PEOPLE at the time, revealing that he was “grateful” for the relationship. “Everyone knows that Renee and I are dating,” he said. “I’m really grateful to the show because these amazing things happen in your world and sometimes when things collide, they collide at the most obscure times when you least expect them.” Ant added, “And that’s what happened in this case. I’m grateful for that.”