Meryl Streep is Julia Child and Amy Adams is writer Julie Powell in Nora Ephron's comedy Julie & Julia.
Before Ina, before Rachael, before Emeril, there was Julia, the woman who forever changed the way America cooks. But in 1948, Julia Child (Meryl Streep) was just an American woman living in France. Her husband's job has brought them to Paris, and with her indefatigable spirit, she yearned for something to do.
Fifty years later, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is stuck. Pushing 30, living in Queens and working in a cubicle as her friends achieve stunning successes, she seizes on a seemingly insane plan to focus her energies. Julie decides to spend exactly a year cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which Child co-wrote with Louise Bertholle and Simone Beck) - and write a blog about her experiences.
Director-writer-producer Nora Ephron seamlessly melds these two remarkable true stories into a comedy that proves that if you have the right combination of passion, obsession, and butter, you can change your life and achieve your dreams.
ABOUT THE FILM
"It's about love, it's about marriage, it's about changing your life," says Ephron of the themes that motivated her to make Julie & Julia. "I'm obsessed with food, but there were at least eight other reasons why I had to do it, like doing things you care about and finding happiness through that."
"What unites these two stories is passion," says producer Laurence Mark. "Julie Powell and Julia Child both discovered a passion - in each case, a passion for food - that got them through tough or uncertain times. The movie is also about marriage - how it's a delicate balancing act. Julie and Julia have both somehow figured this out, and no matter the ups and downs, they're crazy about their spouses and their spouses are crazy about them."
The film takes the remarkable approach of adapting and interweaving two celebrated memoirs: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme. My Life in France is Child's own story of her years in post-World War II Paris as the wife of American foreign-service employee Paul Child, when she was able to turn her ardor for French cooking into a dedicated mission to spread its pleasures to American households. After becoming the first American woman to study at the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school, she popularized French cuisine in America by co-writing the English-language cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book's popularity led to a cooking show career that made her a household name in the United States. More than anyone else, Child steered American eaters away from the canned, the frozen and the processed and into food that was fresh, flavorful and made with unbridled joy, a wonderful metaphor for approaching life.
"When you talk about passion, Julia Child didn't just have it for her husband or cooking, she had a passion for living," says Streep. "Real, true joie de vivre. She loved being alive, and that's inspirational in and of itself."
A half-century later, in 2002, New Yorker Julie Powell was nearing 30, dissatisfied as a writer, and facing an emotionally depleting day job working for an organization devoted to rebuilding the World Trade Center site after 9/11 and helping displaced residents resettle. Spurred to change her life, she decided to cook her way through Child's masterpiece - 524 recipes in 365 days - and chronicle her efforts in a blog. With the encouragement of her husband Eric--who was happy to devour the fruits of her labors--Julie began detailing the ups and downs of her time-consuming project.
Today, blogging is part of the fabric of our lives, but in 2002, Powell was a blogging pioneer. Mark says, "I think at the outset of this endeavor, Julie may not have realized just how ambitious it actually was. But since she was clearly getting a kick out of it, and the results were so delicious, it all became somewhat more manageable."
Powell's writings became so popular that, like Child, she got her own culinary adventure published: Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously was released by Little, Brown in 2005. But before Powell even had a book deal, producer Eric Steel had taken notice of her, including in a New York Times profile written by food writer Amanda Hesser. "Julie was really one of the first bloggers to sort of break out of the tiny orbit that some of these people live in," Steel explains. "She had a real audience. By the time I found her, she had thousands of people reading her blog every day."
At the same time producer Amy Robinson was looking to turn the love story of Julia and Paul Child into a movie. Hearing about Steel's option on the rights to Powell's story, Robinson proposed the two combine their narratives. "I thought, 'You can combine these two things, these two marriages, these two women looking to find who they are,'" says Robinson.
The project attracted the interest of writer/director Nora Ephron, with her witty sensibility and interest in food as it relates to life, and producer Laurence Mark and executive producer Scott Rudin came on board to shepherd the project.
"As soon as I heard the idea, I thought, 'Oh, I have to do that,'" says Ephron. "In 1962 or so, when I first moved to New York, everybody was buying a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking - it was a way of saying you were intelligent and therefore you were going to cook in a way that a smart person was going to cook. So Julia Child became an imaginary friend for me and for the millions of women who bought this cookbook, and, years later, I think the same thing was true for Julie Powell."
"When I started, I never expected that I'd have a book, or that book would be optioned, or that Nora Ephron would become attached to write and direct the movie, or that Meryl Streep and Amy Adams would be in it," says Julie Powell. "They've made a beautiful movie, a movie about marriage, and being brave, and creating yourself. This has all been an amazing experience."
CASTING THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS
"Both stories were going to be about marriage and food, two things that certainly go together in most people's lives," says Ephron. "When you're in the romantic comedy business, the movie ends when people say 'Will you marry me?' It's very rare to find something about what happens next, where you've got two equally smart people in a relationship who adore each other. It's one of the reasons I think Meryl was completely drawn to the movie."
It's no surprise that the Academy Award-winning Streep was the logical choice to play Julia Child. Ephron was inspired to cast Streep after running into the actress at a Shakespeare in the Park performance. Streep asked what Ephron was working on, Ephron replied, and Streep immediately went into her Child impression: "Bon Appétit!" Before it even began, the casting search was over. Read more
CLOTHING: A TALL ORDER
Creating the world of Julie & Julia meant in effect bringing to life two separate movies: one relatively contemporary, the other a period piece taking place fifty years ago. For the Julia Child segments, Academy Award-winning costume designer Ann Roth -- who has worked many times with Meryl Streep on such films as Doubt, The Hours, and Mamma Mia! -- found herself re-creating an era with which she was very familiar, having lived through it herself. "The life of Julia Child was something I know a lot about," she says, "and I know what people wore at that time. I knew what the girdle was, and the glove and the hat, and when you wore a hat and when you wore a glove, and how many sweaters you had and how many cashmere sweaters you didn't have. It's a life that I knew very well. I mean, I was in school in the '50s. So I felt pretty secure in that period." Roth had previously called upon her memories and research for her Academy Award-nominated costume designs for The Talented Mr. Ripley, which took place in the same period. Read more
PRODUCTION DESIGN: EVERYTHING AND THE KITCHEN SINK
While Ann Roth was researching costumes, production designer Mark Ricker and his crew took over two huge stages at Silvercup East Studios, across the East River from Manhattan, to build a whole series of kitchen sets--some eleven in all, most of which were period kitchens from the mid-20th century for the Julia Child scenes. "All had to be functional, working kitchens," says Ricker "And they had to have every implement that you could possibly imagine for Meryl, for Nora, for Amy. It all had to be there. So it wasn't just the presentation of the food, it was the implementation of the food. And it informed everything that we did, and it just had to be great. I think Nora used the word 'pornographic' at one point to describe the level of what the food should be in this film, so we all knew the food was going to be a major element in determining what the look of the film would be." Read more
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
"We hope you leave this movie wanting something to eat," says producer says producer Laurence Mark.
With such a delectable subject as French cuisine, the filming of Julie & Julia was marked by the constant presence of food. So many scenes involved food preparation and consumption that matters of quality and authenticity were paramount. This was the domain of culinary consultant Susan Spungen and executive chef Colin Flynn, both of whom brought years of experience in restaurant work and food journalism to this unusual temporary job. Spungen had served as the founding editorial director for food and entertaining at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and launched Everyday Food, the company's first all-food title. Spungen also authored two cookbooks, one with Stewart, and currently writes about food for several publications. Chef Flynn graduated from the French Culinary Institute before taking on positions at the prestigious Manhattan restaurants Bayard and Zoe; he eventually became sous-chef at Alison on Dominick. Their work on Julie & Julia required them to prepare all the food used in the film and to serve as technical advisors. Nearly every day of filming at the studio, the stage would be filled with the aromas of that particular day's onscreen menu. Spungen and Flynn had their own kitchen area built onto each stage, where they worked wonders turning out multiple versions for multiple takes of everything from bruschetta to boeuf bourguignon to boned duck. "We didn't get anything sent back," jokes Flynn. Read more
FROM NEW YORK TO PARIS
Once the Julie Powell section of filming was completed, the Julia Child portion began, and cast and crew were plunged fifty years into the past. At Silvercup East Studios, production designer Mark Ricker and his team designed and built an exquisite version of the home Julia and Paul shared in Paris. Read more
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
NORA EPHRON (Writer-director-producer) is a journalist, novelist, playwright, screenwriter and director. Her film credits include Heartburn, Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail and the play "Imaginary Friends." She received three Oscar® nominations for screenwriting. Her books include Crazy Salad, Scribble, Scribble and Heartburn. Her latest book, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, was a number one best seller. Her play "Love, Loss and What I Wore," written with her sister Delia Ephron, will be produced Off-Broadway in September. She lives in New York City.
SUSAN SPUNGEN (Culinary Consultant) is a recognized cook, food stylist, recipe developer, editor and author. She began her career as a teenager in the 1970s at the influential Philadelphia restaurant Commissary, where she first developed a love of food. During her college years at Philadelphia College of Art, she continued to support herself with restaurant jobs. After moving to New York, she signed on as pastry chef at Pino Luongo's popular Upper East Side Tuscan restaurant Coco Pazzo.
Soon she was invited to join the editorial staff of the fledgling Martha Stewart Living magazine as food editor. While maintaining this position, she also co-authored the award-winning bestseller Martha Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvres Handbook and helped launch the first Martha Stewart all-food title Everyday Food. She appeared regularly on Martha Stewart Living TV and helped create a line of kitchenware for K-Mart. Her bi-monthly column, "Easy Entertaining," appeared in Martha Stewart Living through 2004 and was filled with practical tips on how to entertain and impress without stress.
Spungen's 2006 IACP award-winning cookbook, RECIPES: A Collection for the Modern Cook, reflects her talents and experiences. She remains in demand as a contributor to other cookbooks and magazines, including More, Food & Wine, and O the Oprah Magazine. She also appears frequently on national morning shows such as Today, Good Morning America, and Fox & Friends.
COLIN FLYNN (Executive chef) grew up in Greenfield Center, New York. At thirteen, despite American child labor laws, he found his first restaurant job as a dishwasher. To his surprise, he enjoyed it, and soon moved up in the kitchen's heirarchy. He went on to earn a degree from the French Culinary Institute.
After graduating, Colin worked at several well-known Manhattan restaurants including Bayard and Zoe and eventually became sous-chef at Alison on Dominick. In 2001 he switched gears and began assisting several prominent food stylists. This led to food styling work of his own, including work on his first film, the Coen Brothers' 2008 Burn After Reading. That film's property master, Diana Burton, brought him on to Julie & Julia.
JULIA CHILD (Based on the book My Life in France) was renowned as a cook, author, and television personality who helped popularize French cooking in America by bringing it out of the hands of restaurant chefs and into home kitchens. Her 1961 book Mastering the Art of French Cooking (co-authored with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle) became a culinary landmark and helped launch her NET television series The French Chef, which ran nationally for ten years and won both an Emmy and a Peabody.
Child was born and raised in Pasadena, California, and met her future husband Paul when they were both working for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. They married after the war and moved to France when Paul was transferred there as a member of the United States Information Agency. Julia's introduction to French food on French soil was a revelation to her, and it sparked the passion for cooking that would mark the rest of her life.
Almost supernaturally prolific, Child went on to write seventeen more books, and to create and host six more TV cooking series through the 1990s. By the time of her death in 2004, she had received the French Legion of Honor and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as honorary doctorates from Harvard, Smith College, and several other colleges and universities. She was also the subject of a PBS American Masters special and an episode of A&E's Biography.
JULIE POWELL (Based on the book Julie & Julia) thrust herself from obscurity -- and an uninspiring temp job -- to cyber-celebrityhood when, in 2002, she embarked on an ambitious yearlong cooking (and blogging) expedition through all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Aptly named "The Julie/Julia Project," her blog inspired enormous numbers of readers, home cooks, national media attention, and the 2005 bestselling memoir Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (Little, Brown and Company), which is now a major motion picture. Like her spiritual mentor Julia Child, Powell determinedly changed her life through a newfound passion for food and cooking, and is now about as far away from that depressing day job as it is possible to get. Her highly anticipated second book, Cleaving, will be published in December, 2009.
THE ART OF ADAPTATION