Movie changed stars’ lives

2010-08-12 00:00

WHO hasn’t wanted to do it? Pack bags and catch a plane to a faraway land. Escape the world, reflect on life and reclaim your soul from modern fast foods, hectic careers and speed dating.

The new movie Eat, Pray, Love debuts­ in United States theatres tomorrow as among the most highly anticipated­ films of the U.S. summer. It is based on the best-selling memoir of Elizabeth­ Gilbert and her globe-trotting quest for self-discovery after her divorce.

While big-budget Hollywood movies often are dreamt up around a fantasy, the stars of Eat, Pray, Love, Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, say that their film is different because it is real­. And, in some ways, it helped change their own lives.

“We’ve all thought about leaving everything and taking a journey to someplace else,” says Bardem, who plays Felipe, Gilbert’s love interest and who recently married actress Penelope Cruz following the film’s production.

“The movie speaks about people who are trying to face doubts, fears, insecurities and that speaks to everybody,” he said.

Roberts, who portrays Gilbert, said in an interview that she could relate to Gilbert’s soul-searching.

The actress (42), was once one of Hollywood’s highest paid stars. She won an Oscar in 2000 for her role in legal drama Erin Brockovich, but since then she has starred in mostly small roles and she has taken time to get married and have three children.

“I haven’t done a main part in a movie in a long time and I wondered if that kind of workload would still be interesting to me. I was very happy at the end of this that I felt incredibly fulfilled as a creative person,” she said.

Roberts made headlines this week when she said that she was now practising Hinduism.

The film charts Gilbert’s year-long trek to Italy, India and Indonesia, where she seeks new horizons through large portions of pasta, prayer and spiritual guidance from a Balinese medicine man.

She carries heavy emotional baggage­ too — an ex-husband (Billy Crudup) with whom she went through a nasty divorce to which has difficulty reconciling herself and an ex-boyfriend (James Franco) with whom she had a torrid affair after her marriage­.

The excess weight of these bad love affairs eases as Gilbert regains her footing and learns to move on.

Yet letting yourself go — the crux of Gilbert’s story and the film’s mantra­ — opening yourself up to new experiences and taking risks was not an easy endeavour.

Nor was it simple for Roberts and director Ryan Murphy­, the co-creator of the tele- vision­ hit Glee as they made the film.

“I was definitely outside of my comfort zone but, I mean, as an actor that’s what you want to go to work for. It’s to find a thing that’s challenging and unnerving and far reaching,” Roberts said.

Part of the challenge for the tall, slender Roberts was gaining weight. She put on roughly 4,5 kilograms in Rome, wolfing down eight slices of pizza in under an hour for one scene. In another instance, she ate about six bowls of pasta in one sitting relishing, she said, every bite.

Like the others, Murphy admitted to coming out of the film a different person because of the travel to exotic locales and experiencing different people and cultures.

With shooting spanning four continents, the cast and crew went off the beaten track, filming at actual locations that Gilbert­ visited, even shooting at an ashram in India and at the real home of a Balinese healer, who is an important­ figure in the book and film.

The cast faced brutal conditions in India, including viral infections, building sets in Bali from scratch and a revolving door of production crew at each new location.

Murphy, who worked closely with Gilbert throughout the production, said that he read her memoir for insight at every stage.

By his count he’s walked in Gilbert’s footsteps at least 120 times and he still has the first handful of copies he bought.

At the end of his trip, the books’ dog-eared and heavily underlined pages had to be carefully pieced back together.

“I feel like the only person in the world who knows that book better than me is Liz Gilbert,” Murphy said.

— Reuters.


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