After a weekend of eating and drinking in Napa Valley, you too might feel a bit like Elizabeth Gilbert, the journalist who wrote the travelogue/inspirational book Eat Pray Love—which centers on a year she spent abroad, searching for herself while eating in Rome, praying in India and loving in Bali. Julia Roberts plays Gilbert in the new film adaptation, adding her own spin on things and relying on her co-stars Billy Crudup, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins – and writer/director Ryan Murphy – to keep it all balanced. We joined Roberts and her men in the heart of wine country to talk about their experiences making the film. So, without further ado, let's eat, pray and love...
On the “Eat” part:
Julia Roberts: When we went to Naples, I began my day eating eight entire slices of pizza in 45 minutes. The deliciousness of it wore off at about slice seven, because I was basically speed eating, but I did relish wolfing down that pizza. Ryan keeps saying I gained 10 pounds, but it was a little less than that.
Ryan Murphy: Sorry. But what I loved about Julia was that she thought the book was so popular because it gave women permission to eat. In our culture right now, there's so much guilt around food and everybody's on a diet. And to have this scene in which a woman eats with unabashed joy is amazing and lovely -- and revolutionary.
On the “Love” part:
Roberts: There's my love affair with Ryan Murphy! I put a lot of eggs in his basket, and he, for never even one second of five months of traveling, ever let me down. He was always there to hold my hand, coax me into another bowl of pasta or give me that extra piece of encouragement that I needed. And we leave [this film] in love as much as the first day we met, which says a lot. Because we went through a lot, and we haven't stopped calling each other and staying interested in each other.
On the “Pray” part:
Roberts: I think if you've gotten to a place where you've found a capacity to … nourish your life in that way, that somewhere along the way you've figured out your own identity and how to pray and relate to an energy or a creation that's more than you. And how you do it and how you relate to it and what you name it, I think, becomes insignificant to the act of understanding it. Javier told me that once, so I'm just repeating it. [Laughter] Now [looking at Javier Bardem] tell them your line... this is my favorite.
Javier Bardem: I don't believe in God, I believe in Al Pacino, who is my God. There are some other gods I would respect, so long as they respect me. Which is a lot to ask.
Julia, on her favorite sight and favorite bite from each place: Oh, god, that's going to take some thinking, which is what I try to avoid in these scenarios.
On Italy: They did go to great, elaborate pains to make amazing food that I had to eat endlessly, in the heat. And there was this one plate of pasta that I remember the most. It was delicious. Super simple spaghetti, with a little tomato sauce. My favorite sight? When I think about Rome, I remember that lunch scene I have with all my friends where I order for everyone. And sitting at the head of that table, looking at all these really lovely people, who were doing everything possible to make it work, that was a beautiful sight.
On India: Well, let me just say this. I, as a mother, packed a 10 pound box of snacks, so that may have been my favorite bite AND favorite sight, every time I turned to that little box for a granola bar, late at night. Oh, and also these profoundly stunning women we met in this village, wearing the bright colors and jewelry and the embroidery. I asked why they wore such brilliant clothes and was told that showed that they were married. If their husbands died, they'd take it all off.
On Bali: There's no bad sight in Bali. And favorite bites? Their fruits -- fresh mangos, after granola bars at night, was refreshing.
On the book and meeting their real-life counterparts:
Roberts: The first step that I took was putting my complete trust in Ryan because I knew [Elizabeth Gilbert] and Ryan were in close communication. I was also worried about falling too in love with her, and I would try to BE her, rather than just interpret her as an actor. That's why I didn't want to meet her until Rome, after we had already done so much, and I couldn't change it. She came to Rome and she was a delight. She was like a warm hug the second I laid eyes on her.
Bardem: I met Felipe in New York, and we had a beautiful talk, three hours, about everything. I saw him as an attractive, smart, sweet guy and I wondered why they wanted me to play him. Then he blessed me and told me I could do whatever I wanted, don't worry. I won't be disappointed.
Richard Jenkins: I didn't really want to call Richard from Texas. But Ryan said I should, that there was something about this guy I should experience. So I did, and he answered the phone. I said 'This is Richard Jenkins...is this a bad time?' And he said, 'I'm just cooking on the grill, can you call me back in about an hour?' I called back and he was incredible. He was funny, he was direct. I thought I was just going to pick his brain, but he helped me. He died a little over a month ago, so I never got to meet him. But I'm sure glad I got to talk to him.
Crudup: Uh, I met Felipe, too, so I think I screwed up. That's my fault.
Murphy: I think Billy had the hardest part because in the book, Liz makes a point about not talking about the [ex] husband. So when I was writing the script, I did call Liz and I wanted to talk most about Billy's character. I thought it was fascinating to do a movie where people fall out of love and how difficult that it is. How nobody's right and nobody's wrong. We worked hard on those scenes because breaking someone's heart can be as painful as having your own broken.
On working with Julia:
Roberts: Oh, god, can I be excused?
Crudup: She's a very present actor with a lot of intelligence and charm and wit. I'm always grateful as an actor to work with someone who makes you more engaged.
Jenkins: She sees everything when you're doing scenes with her. She doesn't miss anything.
Bardem: When you go into a set that has been working for three months already, you're the new kid in town and insecure for hundreds of thousands of reasons. The moment I met her and was on the set with her, I felt relaxed. She made me feel like part of the journey, especially for someone who is carrying the whole weight of the movie. If I were her, I'd be a selfish motherf***er. I'd be, 'It's all about ME!'
Julia, on self fulfillment:
Roberts: I definitely knew my life would continue to evolve until I found that place that I could fully occupy and live in. I can relate to [Liz's] search and her pursuit, but it was definitely great to have a fulfilled sense of my own life, and come home at the end of the day knowing everything was good.
And finally, on giving advice to a young girl about love:
Roberts: Talk to your mother. Really, get your mom to tell you what she really knows. And don't take advice from actors. We don't know anything.