Friday, August 13, 2010

Devouring life 'Eat Pray Love' star found herself nourished by co- stars, exotic locales

The burning question for Oscar winner Julia Roberts is exactly how many bowls of pasta did she eat in Rome for a dining scene in "Eat Pray Love"?

According to Roberts, it was six.

"It was all delicious," assures the actress, who doesn't appear to have retained a single ounce of what she might have picked up from her round-the-world, carb-filled moviemaking adventure.

"(Director) Ryan Murphy and (producer) Dede Gardner hired people who would just be in charge of making it look great and taste great," she adds, referring to food stylist Susan Spungen, who previously provided her expertise on the hit film "Julie & Julia."

"Eat Pray Love" is a romantic drama based on Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir about a peripatetic divorcee on a quest to replenish her heart and soul after her marriage ends.

During production, a fully committed Roberts also devoured eight slices of pizza during a 45-minute span one morning for another scene involving her character indulging in the gastronomical pleasures of Naples.

"In that scene, in particular, I sort of relished just wolfing down (the pizza) because I felt like my character was excited to be there, to be eating this pizza," she recalls.

In all, the 42-year-old Roberts figures she gained about 10 pounds during the five-month shoot that took her from New York to Italy to India to Bali. Willingly subjecting herself to the delectable delicacies of Italy, the heat and mystery of India and the tropical beauty of Bali, were well worth it, she says. Of course, the wife and mother of three had to give careful consideration to taking on the project not only because of the time commitment but also traveling far from home.

"A lot more math goes into a decision like this than just, 'Do I want to drive to Sony (Pictures in Hollywood) for three days a week for a couple of months,'" she says.

As for "Eat Pray Love," the convincing factors to take on such a demanding and time-consuming role were twofold: Roberts loved the book, even before it became a best seller, and she wanted to work with Ryan Murphy, the creatordirector of the award-winning drama "Nip/Tuck" and the hot new musical TV series, "Glee."

"I saw 'Nip/Tuck,' and I knew he was going to be a bright guy," says Roberts. "I was really impressed with him. That's what kept me in it when I was still wondering about it. He gave me all the room and all the time to consider it because he didn't want me if I wasn't fully invested in the amount of this commitment."

So Roberts packed up the family and did what many actors aspire to do -- to see the world, work with a terrific cast and crew and make an entertaining movie.

Murphy deliberately chose to shoot the film chronologically -- which doesn't always happen in moviemaking -- and that suited Roberts just fine.

"It was a great luxury," the actress says. "But it also was a necessity of emotional evolution. You can't start any movie in Bali and then leave. So there's that. ... It was important for us to create the steps that she took and understand very clearly how she got from one point to the next and one place to the next, and how the relationships evolved and what she gleaned from each one to the next."

That meant spending a few weeks at a time working with various cast members. In New York, she co-starred with Billy Crudup and James Franco, who play her husband and lover, respectively. Then it was off to Rome, where she co-starred with European actors including Luca Argentero and Tuva Novotny, who play a couple who fall in love while showing her around. Having satiated her desire

for physical nourishment, Liz moves on to India where she joins an Ashram, in hopes of getting in touch with her spiritual side. Among her fellow seekers are Richard from Texas (played by Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins) and an anxious young bride-to-be. After fi nding inner peace, Liz travels to Bali, where she meets a divorced dad (Javier Bardem) who is trying to come to terms with his adult son's leaving the nest. Despite their instant chemistry, Liz wavers on whether she wants to enter a serious relationship having just recently rediscovered herself.

For Roberts it was like making four movies consecutively. As one segment finished, it was off to the next location, and a whole new set of co-stars. She counts herself lucky to have had the opportunity to work with so many different people.

"I have to say Billy Crudup is one of my favorite actors," she says during a press conference, making her co-star blush. "I've seen him onstage. I've seen him in movies. He's just always been one of my very favorites."

She admits she was a little intimidated by Jenkins when she fi rst met him.

"We'd had such a great time in rehearsal," she recalls. "But I was probably the most nervous (with him) because that relationship (between the characters) sort of informs a certain anxiety and nervousness in my character."

Working with the Oscar winner Bardem in Bali three or four months into the shoot was a whole other experience.

"Javier showed up and it was like deciding to get a puppy," she says with her trademark Julia Roberts laugh. "He came in with all this gusto and enthusiasm and excitement and he was like, 'Do you want to read some of the scenes and go over stuff?' and I was like 'Uh, not really,' but his excitement was so contagious, it really did infuse us with energies we thought were long gone."

Like her character, Roberts has evolved over the two decades that she's been in the public eye.

"Not in the urgent pursuit way that (Liz) experiences it," she says of becoming a wife and mother. "I defi nitely knew my life would continue to evolve until I found that place where I could fully occupy and live in, which is the home I have now. But I relate to her search and her pursuit. It was definitely great to have a fulfilled sense of my own life and be playing some of these scenes, and then come home at the end of the day and be like, 'OK, everybody's here. We're good.'"

Originally published by B Entertainment News Wire.

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