RSVIP: "Eat Pray Love" Debuts at the Ziegfeld
Remarkably, Gilbert, who wrote the tale of her epic travels to Italy for cuisine, India for spiritual guidance, and Bali for love, has the same thin, impossibly broad smile as Roberts. "She's lovely like a candle," said Gilbert. "She's like a little flickering flame." No one says Gilbert can't turn a phrase. In fact, that night, her runaway best seller made it to the big screen, one of Manhattan's very biggest, with an after fete at New York's gilded era Metropolitan Club on Fifth avenue. Think soaring ceiling, much marble and a sea of ballroom chairs.
To my left on the carpet, Bardem, in a blue suit, blue suede shoes, and some gray scruff, was telling a camera that he had known "the work" but hadn't known Julia Roberts "the person" before this project and that they "laughed and laughed" on location, where, by the way, he was joined by his soon-to-be wife, Penelope Cruz. Moving stealth from crew to crew, Roberts was dressed like a publicist in black but with a short skirt or shorts and long black jacket. We overheard her mentioned how lucky she was to "bring her kids to work" and that she had tried to distance herself from the "popularity of the book."
Before watching the film, Luxist wondered if one could forget Roberts the movie star and picture her as the insightful, conflicted writer Liz Gilbert, escaping depression through travel, gluttony, prayer, and romance. But the depression angle nearly evaporated onscreen as Hollywood remolded the story.
"Julia Roberts is a very beautiful version of Elizabeth Gilbert," offered screenwriter Jennifer Salt.
And was Salt writing for Roberts? "It was always Julia," she said. "And we talked about Javier from the very beginning. Julia Roberts brought humor and warmth. She has a natural kind of spiritual intelligence."
And does Gilbert approve of the script? "I think she loves it," said Salt. "She's here smiling."
A movie can't be a book, Salt explained. "The book is a very intimate memoir of what is in the author's head," she said. "And it can't be a movie about what's in her head. You have to find ways to dramatize some things--fill in her back story, for example."
In the film, Roberts, as author, acts as a kind of voiceover queen. Only her sparkling clear voice makes so much narration plausible.
Richard Jenkins creates a breakout role bonding with Roberts as Richard from Texas when their characters visit an ashram in India. Jenkins told Luxist that, sadly, the real-life Richard from Texas passed away before he saw the film. "He died about eight weeks ago," said Jenkins. "He was such a cool guy, it was beyond heartbreaking. They say they found him in his chair with a smile on his face."
The director, Ryan Murphy, had told me, 'You should call him and talk to him, There is a great vibe there.' So I talked to him on the phone before we started shooting," mentioned Jenkins. "He was an incredible person. He said, 'Ask me anything you want.' And I did. And I said, 'I hope I honor you.' And he said, 'Don't worry about it, man. Do what you need to do.'"
Arelene Tur plays Armenia, the glamorous Brazilian woman who teaches Liz to dress up and introduces her to the male expat population in Bali. "I'm actually Cuban, from Miami," said Tur, who towered on the red carpet in a shimmering dress by Salvatore Ferragamo and Ferragamo heels with reflective silver straps. "But I have a lot of Brazilian friends."
Tur claims that the role taught her to glamorize in real life. "Her line was that just because everybody is miserable doesn't mean they have to look miserable," she said. "I used to dress down a lot, and now it's high-heeled shoes and purses. I have fun with it, and it's working."
And in Bali, yes, Tur partied with the stars. "We had cocktail parties at the beach. I talked to Javier and Penelope, who were really, really fun. He's such a cool guy."
And could she feel the heat between Bardem and Roberts? "Great chemistry," she said. "He had one line, "I made a mixed tape of Sting.'" We shot it 40 times on camera, and 40 times, Julia and I broke up laughing."
Christine Hakim, the Indonesian actress who plays Wayan Nuriasih, a Balinese healer, in the film, walked the carpet with a sprawling fan, fat gold earrings piercing her lobes, bright red lips, and an oversized black Cindy Crawford beauty mark. Her big dark hair ballooned like an Imelda Marcos coif, with gold foil tucked into her tresses on long gold nails. One came out on the carpet, and it looked like a magic act as she reinserted the pointy claw.
Jewelry designer Ranjana Khan, with vintage golden bracelets jangling at her ankles, hung on the arm of her husband, New York fashion designer Naeem Khan. Both hail from India, and Mrs. Khan indicated that she had created prayer beads for HSN, one of numerous commercial tie-ins to the film. "They're prayer beads with attitude," she told Luxist. "Classic prayer beads look hippie, but these are not hippie-dippy."
The jewelry designer also mentioned that she'd noticed one detail in the film that didn't appear quite accurate. "In India, they don't sway during meditation," she said. "Everyone is in their own trance. . . . that's not India."