PRETTY HUN­GRY

SHE’S HAD HER OWN FAILED RE­LA­TION­SHIPS, BUT IS NOW HAP­PILY MAR­RIED WITH THREE CHIL­DREN. HOW HARD WAS IT FOR JU­LIA ROBERTS TO PLAY A WOMAN WHO LEAVES HER MAR­RIAGE TO SEARCH THE WORLD FOR PER­SONAL FUL­FIL­MENT? THERE

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Ju­lia Roberts re­ally en­joyed the eat­ing part of her new movie, Eat Pray Love.

are times when even a pretty woman has to let her­self go, and for Ju­lia Roberts one of those mo­ments came at a pizze­ria in Naples dur­ing the mak­ing of her new film, “I ate eight slices of pizza in 45 min­utes,” Roberts says. “Sure, the ut­ter de­li­cious­ness of it wore off on slice 7, but there I was, just wolfing it down for wom­ankind across the globe.” Eight slices? Re­ally? “I was so ex­cited to be in Naples that I had my char­ac­ter shove an en­tire slice of pizza into her mouth dur­ing the first take,” Roberts says, laugh­ing. “I didn’t even know why. And there were sev­eral takes to go.”

If any of that pizza went to her hips, it’s not ap­par­ent on a cool sum­mer morn­ing in Cal­i­for­nia’s Napa Val­ley as the 42-year-old ac­tress set­tles in for an in­ter­view at a posh ho­tel. Ar­riv­ing in a li­mou­sine, Roberts walks past a bar full of va­ca­tion­ing wine afi­ciona­dos who don’t look up as she passes, and sits down to talk about

Look­ing wil­lowy thin in black, pleated pants and a white-silk Givenchy shirt, Roberts wears her hair dark and flow­ing over her thin face, and her smile is su­per­sized.

In the film, di­rected by Ryan Mur­phy and based on the best-sell­ing mem­oir by El­iz­a­beth Gil­bert, Roberts plays Gil­bert, who finds her­self trapped in un­healthy habits af­ter a painful divorce and de­cides to make a rad­i­cal break with her past, head­ing on an around-the­world trip that in­cludes ex­tended stays in Italy, In­dia and Bali, where she re­spec­tively learns to eat, to pray and to love again. Billy Crudup plays her ex, with Javier Bar­dem as Gil­bert’s fu­ture hus­band, Felipe.

“I gained un­der 10 pounds (4.5kg) for this movie,” Roberts says. “Let’s set the record straight, be­cause I’ve read it was much, much more. I packed on the pounds dur­ing the Italy part of the shoot,” she says, “but then

Eat Pray Love.

Pray Love.

C I N DY PE A R L M A N

Eat peo­ple said, ‘Oh, you’ll lose it when you film in In­dia.”’ She rolls her eyes. “Some­how I didn’t get that memo,” she says.

It took a great deal of con­sid­er­a­tion, Roberts says, be­fore she signed on to “When I first had lunch with Ryan, I didn’t have any clue if I’d ac­tu­ally do this project,” she says. “For starters, I’m a mother of three young chil­dren and this was a huge work load. This wasn’t just driv­ing to Sony three days a week to shoot on a sound stage. It was shoot­ing around the world. I didn’t know if I could com­mit my fam­ily. And the other is­sue was Ryan Mur­phy, who sat there as the most re­laxed man in the world. I thought, ‘Who is this guy?”’ To her sur­prise, in­stead of giv­ing her a hard sell, Mur­phy told her that he didn’t want her to take the part un­less she could jump in with both feet. “He didn’t want me if I couldn’t give heart and soul,” she says. “And now I’m so glad I did the movie, be­cause I leave it as in love with Ryan as I was on that first day.” The two are de­vel­op­ing a new ro­man­tic com­edy to shoot next year.

The biggest sell­ing point, how­ever, was Gil­bert’s mem­oir, which – like mil­lions of other women – Roberts had de­voured when it first ap­peared. “I read the book be­fore it was hugely pop­u­lar,” she says. “I’m some­one who is eas­ily swayed. I’m al­ways de­ter­mined not to like some­thing or to like it bet­ter than any­one else. When I heard about this book, I didn’t wait for the buzz: I bought two copies and sent one to my best friend in Chicago. I said, ‘This seems spe­cial. Let’s read it to­gether.”’

She de­cided to meet Gil­bert her­self only af­ter she had sorted out how she would play the char­ac­ter. “I didn’t want to meet her un­til we got to the first lo­ca­tion, which was Rome,” Roberts says. “It was one of the smarter things I’ve done in the last four years. I knew Liz Gil­bert on paper, from the book and the script, which

Eat Pray Love.

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