Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) is a modern woman on a quest to marvel at and travel the world while rediscovering and reconnecting with her true inner self in Eat Pray Love. At a crossroads after a divorce, Gilbert takes a year-long sabbatical from her job and uncharacteristically steps out of her comfort zone, risking everything to change her life. In her wondrous and exotic travels, she experiences the simple pleasure of eating in Italy, the power of prayer in India, and, finally and unexpectedly, the inner peace and balance of love in Bali. Based on an inspiring true story, Eat Pray Love proves that there really is more than one way to let yourself go and see the world.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Julia Roberts read Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir Eat Pray Love when it was first released in 2006. She sent it to one of her best friends and they read it at the same time, and both immediately connected with the story. "Everybody has a journey, a moment in their lives when they need to redefine who they are and what they're looking for," says Roberts. "Liz's journey is very specific and very visual, in a way that's very appealing as a story, but it's also a universal story that can apply to anybody."
Gilbert's memoir - a self-described search for everything - has achieved extraordinary success, selling over 6.2 million copies in the United States, and overseas, it has been translated into 40 languages. It is the book that attracted Roberts to the project, along with the chance to work with Ryan Murphy, the film's co-writer/director. "I love the way the book talks about life experience, searching for answers, and how meaningful people can be in our lives. I think that's really such a vibrant story. It's great to be part of it, and part of it with Ryan at the helm of it - it was a delicious endeavor," says the actress.
Murphy, best known for his work with the Golden Globe-winning television series "Nip/Tuck" and "Glee," has garnered acclaim for his keen and realistic dialogue. He wrote the screenplay with Jennifer Salt, with whom he previously collaborated on "Nip/Tuck." "Ryan and Jennifer did a very reverential adaptation," says Roberts. "Ryan was really in sync with Liz Gilbert and talked to her a lot - they tried to be very true to the book. There comes a moment in any film adaptation where things have to be a little bit different, but we always protected the spine of the story - Liz's journey of self-discovery."
"The beauty of the book - and, I think, the reason we all wanted to do it - is that it says, 'Get out of your box,'" says Murphy. "I love that idea - that was a very personal idea for me, because I can be very rigid in my choices, repeating a pattern day after day after day. For example, I love the scene in Rome where Julia spends the afternoon on the floor, eating a perfect meal. I think of that in my day-to-day life; I try to savor the little experiences and try not to have an outcome to the day. That's what I learned on a personal level by being part of this project."
"Ryan handed me the book under completely non-movie circumstances - he recommended it as a friend," says Salt. "He said, 'I'm reading this book and I feel like I'm listening to you talk. You're going to love this.' And I adored it, because it was so honest, so authentic. When Ryan told me that he was going to get the rights and he wanted me to write it with him… It was just a magical moment for me."
The book's theme of being true to one's self became the driving force behind the story and the script. Though Gilbert makes an exotic and beautiful literal journey, traveling around the world, that is only part of the story. The reason the book has resonated with so many is that her inner journey, her quest for self-discovery, rings true - and it can be done anywhere. Says Gardner, "Liz Gilbert's curiosity for the unfamiliar is one of the things that was compelling to me. You can literally go around the corner and meet someone you haven't met before, or encounter a new language, food, culture, or set of behaviors."
In fact, finding that balance between the external and internal journeys was the key in adapting the material for the screen. The plot that keeps the drama moving forward is Liz's travel from New York to Italy to India to Indonesia, and it was important to the filmmakers to convey to the audience the personal challenge that Liz poses to herself by traveling around the world by herself: "It's lonely, and it's not easy," says Gardner. It's that plot that would bring the story off the page and come alive on film.
As they penned the adaptation, Murphy and his screenwriting partner, Jennifer Salt, held brainstorming meetings with Roberts and Gardner, each contributing the parts of the book that resonated most with them. There was much overlap, of course, but also some moments that each related to individually. These intimate discussions became the grass roots for the making of the film script.
Another important resource for Murphy and Salt, of course, was the author, Elizabeth Gilbert. During the writing process, Murphy and Gilbert had a regular email exchange; whenever they had a question about their character's motivation, they found they had a useful ally in the author herself. For example, when writing the Italy section of the film, it seemed to Murphy and Salt that the Thanksgiving meal with all of her Italian friends would be the key that would unlock the entire act of the film. What was it about that meal that was so important to Gilbert? The author responded that at that moment - at the very beginning of her journey - she was still not sure she could feel happiness for herself, but she was certain she could be happy for others. "She said this moment was like a spark of life," Gardner says. "It is moments like this that helped us immensely and helped us be able to keep moving forward in the storytelling."
From the very beginning, when Gardner first read the book, the only choice to play Elizabeth Gilbert was Julia Roberts. "It sang out to me as obvious - this should be Julia Roberts," says the producer. "I have never worked with Julia before and I am just awestruck by her talent. In this role, she runs the gamut in tone, from vulnerability to toughness and from indecision to confidence. She understands when Liz is ebbing and flowing."
"Liz goes through a wide range of emotions - as you'd expect, because the story covers a year of her life," says Roberts. "Between going through divorce and dating and traveling and meeting strangers and not knowing what to do, it's a great opportunity to play a complex and fascinating character."
"At the beginning of the movie, Liz is unraveling a bit, and she's not sure why," Roberts adds. "She's a traveler - she's always traveled - so that was an instinct for her to pack her bags. Obviously, not everybody can do what she did, but it's not really about that. It's fun to watch her go around the world in the movie, but it's really about her own self-examination and figuring out what she wants out of life."
Roberts says that kind of reflection isn't easy and it's what makes Gilbert's journey remarkable. "For her to take that time for herself is what is deeply interesting and encouraging to other people," she says. "I think that's courageous and admirable; it's such a busy, rapid-fire world, so to try to stop and figure out what's right for you is a good thing."
Viola Davis, who plays Delia, Liz's best friend in the film, says that she too saw the connection between Liz Gilbert and Julia Roberts. "As I was reading Eat Pray Love, I thought to myself, Liz probably doesn't even realize how fantastic she is. She can make friends as soon as she walks in a room. And I feel the same way about Julia - people are attracted to her spirit. She's a light."
Roberts had the opportunity to meet the real Elizabeth Gilbert in Rome. "Ryan had a relationship with her through pre-production, but I felt it was important for me in portraying her to go with my instincts, to get enough filming done that I was already on a course by the time that I met her," says Roberts. "She's a lovely, lovely person, and she has a great way of talking and very specific mannerisms, and I didn't want to imitate her. She's a beautiful human being."
Like with the casting of Julia Roberts, the filmmakers couldn't see any other choice than shooting in the real locations that Gilbert visited on her journey. "That was our holy grail - we were going to go to as many places as we could where Liz Gilbert went," says Murphy. "Some were easy, especially some of the famous places in Rome that Liz visited." In other instances, Murphy says, they were lucky - the production was able to shoot at the real home of Ketut Liyer, a key character in the Bali sequence. "We spent a lot of time in pre-production, going to the different countries three times, finding the exact locations. If we couldn't shoot at a real location for reasons that were beyond our control, we took an unbelievable amount of pictures and we would re-create them. Because the book is so well-known and loved, it was important to me, as the director, to be true to where she went," Murphy continues.
Richard Jenkins, who takes on a key role in the India sequence as Richard From Texas, explains what it meant to the film that they were able to shoot in these exotic locations. "When I was a kid, growing up in a small town in the Midwest, movies were how I saw the world. I went places in films that I couldn't go in any other way," he says. "So to have this shot in India - you couldn't have done it anywhere else. The heat, the feeling, the air, the people. It's a whole different vibe."
But not only would the production shoot in the real locations. They would also shoot in chronological order - first in New York, then Italy, then India, then Bali. Doing so, Roberts says, added a layer to her performance. "We experienced all the same emotional responses Liz goes through," she says. "It made it an incredible experience."
"In talking with Ryan and Dede, it was clear there was something so special about each of these international locations, and people will want to go on a journey similar to Liz's when they come and see this movie," says executive producer Stan Wlodkowski. "So it was unanimous by filmmakers and studio alike that we would film in New York, Italy, India, and Bali, in the same progression that Liz experiences in her book. I don't think I will ever experience again in my career a schedule like this. We were literally making four separate movies."
One of their first puzzles was in putting together the shooting schedule for the film. Not only would they have to account for the availability of the actors, but local weather, crews, and getting around. Some of the international locations had film infrastructure and had hosted many movies there before, while others, like Bali, had never had a film of this size shoot there.
"When we began shooting in New York, there was always a production office open somewhere in the world. This movie was open for business 24 hours a day. We had casting offices, art departments, construction departments, and wardrobe departments all across the globe," says Gardner.
Production began in New York, where the reasons for Liz's need to get away is explored and established through her relationships with two men: her ex-husband, Stephen, and her lover, David.
Casting Stephen correctly was critical, says Gardner. "This is a couple that has fallen out of love - they have material blessings, but they want different things in life. They're not meant to be together, but this does not make their time together any less valuable or worthwhile. Getting the casting right for the role of Stephen was critical, because you need to convey in some way, why they fell in love in the first place, but also, why they fell out of love. And that such a journey is okay, is human, has happened before and will happen again - that such an event doesn't require a villain." Read more
Italy, and specifically Rome, was the beginning of nourishment of Liz Gilbert's soul. She took time out of her life to enjoy the simple pleasures of eating, philosophizing with friends, and the joy of "dolce far niente" - the sweetness of doing nothing. "Rome welcomes you with open arms," says Roberts. "I have been lucky to work there several times. It's a very welcoming place and a great choice for Liz's first stop on her journey." "Rome is all about living in the moment - something Americans tend not to do very well," says Gardner. "But Rome forces you to live in the moment. There's tremendous value in that, and once you get past the frustrations and settle in, you think Italians might be on to something." Read more
If Rome was about Liz letting go of her old life and learning to be happy being alone, then India was stepping into another world. Having learned she can enjoy life, Liz feels the need to become grounded once again. As Gardner explains, Liz moves from dolce far niente - the beauty of doing nothing - to experience something much more profound. "India is a hectic place, yet Liz was there to be still," says the producer. "Her goal was to meditate and look inward, and that is certainly what the Ashram represents, and what Richard from Texas is constantly saying to her. She had to stop trying to control things. Just stop." "Liz enters India like a young girl with a backpack, with this dream of going to an Ashram and finding peace," says Roberts. "What she finds is that it doesn't really come that simply." Read more
Only after learning the joy of indulgence in Italy and the power of inner peace in India is Liz ready to receive the messages of Bali: balance. "Liz had been to Bali before," Roberts notes. "She had heard a prophecy that she'd return one day. I think that guided her to the final leg of her journey. And the lesson she learns in Bali - seek balance - is something she isn't quite ready to receive when she first arrives, but we all need to learn that life is not linear or logical." What Liz isn't expecting when she arrives in Bali is to meet a new love. One of the reasons she felt she had to upend her life is that she has also been in a relationship or just getting out of one; now, in Bali, she has just figured out how to be happy on her own. But when she meets Felipe, she can't get him out of her head. Is she ready to risk her newfound strength by letting him fully into her life? Read more
ABOUT THE COSTUMES AND DESIGN
On any film, the production designer and costume designer work closely with the director as they begin designing the look of the film. The idea is that the images on screen reinforce and underscore the story and character arcs. For production designer Bill Groom and costume designer Michael Dennison, Eat Pray Love required four different movie looks - one for each of the film's locations. They had to decide how this journey would unfold for Liz, and how her journey would be underscored by the sets and wardrobe. When Groom interviewed for the job with Murphy and Gardner, he sensed a creative energy that he wanted to be part of. "I had faith from that initial meeting that this film was going to be a very interesting process, and I was not disappointed," he says. Groom prepped for six months on this film prior to the beginning of shooting. Read more
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
RYAN MURPHY (Director/Screenplay by) is the Golden Globe Award-winning creator, writer, and director of FX's original drama series "Nip/Tuck" and the Fox phenomenon "Glee."
Murphy began his career as a journalist, writing for such publications as The Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, The New York Daily News and Entertainment Weekly. His screenwriting career began in the late 1990s when Steven Spielberg purchased his romantic comedy Why Can't I Be Audrey Hepburn?. Murphy's next effort was The WB's "Popular," an award-winning black comedy/satire which he created and produced with his fellow "Nip/Tuck" executive producers Greer Shephard and Michael M. Robin.
In 2009, Murphy's "Glee" premiered on Fox. Since then, the show has gone on to high ratings and great critical acclaim. The #1 new scripted show of the season, "Glee" won the Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy and was nominated for three acting awards. "Glee" also won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. In addition, Murphy was nominated for a Directors Guild of America award for his work in directing the pilot episode. The show has also spawned three #1 soundtrack albums so far. "Glee" was also honored with a Peabody Award.
In 2003, Murphy's "Nip/Tuck" premiered on the FX Network. The show would soon become one of the network's most popular and most well-known series. "Nip/Tuck" was named to the American Film Institute's list of the 10 Best Television Shows of 2003 and 2004 and was the only first-year drama series in 2004 to earn a Golden Globe® Award for Best TV Series, Drama. In 2004, Murphy earned an Emmy® Award nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.
In 2006, Murphy expanded to the big screen by writing, directing and producing his adaptation of the best-selling book Running with Scissors starring Annette Bening and Gwyneth Paltrow.
JENNIFER SALT (Screenplay by) is a natural talent both in front of and behind the camera. Her years spent as an actress and most recently as a screenwriter have established her as one of the few women in Hollywood to have had a successful two-part career. Salt continues to carry on her family legacy as a firm presence in the film industry; following the affluent acting career of her mother and the Academy Award winning writing career of her father.
Currently, Salt is developing a script based on the Rachel DeWoskin book Foreign Babes in Beijing which focuses on contemporary ex-pat life in Beijing.
Most recently, Salt wrote and produced eight seasons of the Golden Globe Award winning series "Nip/Tuck," which earned her a Writers Guild Nomination for her episode, "Rhea Reynolds."
Salt's connection to Eat Pray Love extends beyond the screenplay as her voice and personal experiences are similar to that of author Elizabeth Gilberts. A true seeker at heart, Salt was always looking for something beyond the obvious. For ten summers on and off, Salt studied yoga and meditation with the same guru featured in Gilbert's book. She lived near and worked at the Ashram in upstate New York, all the while practicing devotion and meditation.
Before finding her way as a writer, Salt developed a reputation for her talents as an actress on the stage, screen and television. After graduating from the High School of Performing Arts and Sarah Lawrence College, Salt began acting professionally at regional theaters and made her Broadway debut in Oliver Hailey's Father's Day.
She began her film career with a featured role in Midnight Cowboy and went on to star in Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud, Brian DePalma's Hi Mom and Sisters, Paul Williams' The Revolutionary and Woody Allen's Play It Again Sam.
It was about that time that Salt and fellow actress friend, Margot Kidder, shared a house in Malibu, which became a destination for many emerging young icons of the "seventies cinema," including DePalma, Spielberg, Scorsese, Schrader and DeNiro. The group's legendary antics were made famous in Julia Phillips' book You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again and Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.
After her key role as Eunice Tate in the groundbreaking series "Soap," Salt spent ten more years acting in film, theater and television until 1991, when she made the decision to leave acting behind and enter the family business of screenwriting. She quickly emerged as a noted screenwriter and began writing theatrical screenplays and telefilms. Her first series job was with "Sins of the City" for USA network and was followed by "Nero Wolfe Mysteries" for A&E.
Salt is the daughter of renowned screenwriter Waldo Salt, who survived the Hollywood blacklist and went on to win two Academy Awards for his screenplays Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home, as well as an Oscar® nomination for Serpico. She inherited the love of the stage from her mother, actress Mary Davenport who was a member of the well-respected Actor's Lab in Hollywood.
ELIZABETH GILBERT (based on the book by) is an award-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her short story collection Pilgrims was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award, and her novel Stern Men was a New York Times notable book. Her 2002 book The Last American Man was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Since its initial publication in January 2006, her most recent book Eat, Pray, Love spent 57 weeks in the #1 spot on the New York Times paperback bestseller list. It has shipped over 6 million copies in the US and has been published in over thirty languages.
THE ART OF ADAPTATION