Actress Emma Roberts taps into that feel-good rom-com love
For Little Italy star Emma Roberts, rom-coms never went away.
“For me, they’ve always been around,” she says. “I’ve had My Best Friend’s Wedding and Notting Hill on repeat since I was seven. Rom-coms make me so happy.”
Roberts, 27, plays Nikki, a Cordon Bleu chef freshly returned to Toronto from England. She’s back in her parents’ pizzeria and rekindling her childhood crush with Leo (Hayden Christensen). But Nikki and Leo’s dads, once in business together, operate competing restaurants.
Directed by Donald Petrie (Mystic Pizza) from a script by Vinay Virmani and Steve Galluccio, the film also features Jane Seymour, Andrea Martin, Danny Aiello, Alyssa Milano, Linda Kash, Adam Ferrara, Gary Basaraba and Kim’s Convenience star Andrew Phung.
“Rom-coms are something that everybody loves,” Roberts says, “and I feel that we need to have things that we can watch that are going to make us smile and make us laugh and aren’t so serious. Real life, right now, is serious enough.”
Q Your director on Little Italy, Donald Petrie, worked with your aunt Julia Roberts in Mystic Pizza 30 years ago. What was that like?
A It was totally amazing. It was fun because we got to throw in a couple of little winks to Mystic Pizza. In Little Italy, I wear a new version of the shirt my aunt wore in Mystic Pizza. Q Your character Nikki puts figs on pizza. Is that good?
A It’s delicious. But I put ranch dressing on my pizza. I won’t eat it if there’s no ranch.
Q You’re a pretty good cook in the movie, but how are you in the kitchen in real life?
A I am not a good cook. I’ve been known to store sweaters in my oven (laughs). But I just got a new book called Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, and it’s all about learning to cook and learning to cook without a recipe. That is something I want to learn to do.
Q You didn’t pick up any techniques from the cooking scenes in the movie? A No (laughs), it was all acting.
Q You eat a lot of Italian food in this movie. What’s your favourite Italian dish? A Penne alla vodka. I love a pink sauce.
Q The film is a love letter to Toronto. Did you find yourself falling in love with the city?
A I love Toronto — and I’m not just saying that. My best friend came up here while I was shooting and we had the best time eating, shopping, sitting in the park, reading and just walking around. Q You’ve done TV and lots of movies. What else is on your acting bucket list?
A I would love to do more romantic comedies. Turning a Nicholas Sparks book into a movie is on my bucket list (laughs).
Q And you’re not just into acting. You started your own book club, Belletrist. How did that come about?
A I love to read. Books and storytelling have been something that has excited me since I was a kid. I really just wanted to create a place that curated books for people, especially young women. I feel like there are so many amazing books out there that you never hear of and I really wanted to not only showcase authors we all know, but authors you’ve never heard of … I truly believe that reading one book can change your life and to be curating a list for people in hopes of that is exciting for me.
Q So what are your favourite books?
A Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates.IthasabitofaGoneGirl vibe to it. Blue Nights by Joan Didion. It’s just a heart wrenching, lyrical book. Then Slow Days, Fast Company by Eve Babitz. It’s a great book about Los Angeles in the ’60s and ’70s.
Q What movie would you bring with you to a desert island?
A My favourite movie ever is My Best Friend’s Wedding — and not because it stars my aunt. I watch it all the time and I know every line in it.
Q All right, last question: Why is Little Italy the perfect movie for a date night?
A It’ll just make you feel good and I feel we’re living in a difficult time right now. You should go and see a movie that’ll make you smile and laugh with the people you love.
Emma Roberts, centre, seen with Alyssa Milano and Adam Ferrara in Little Italy, may star in a film about Italian cuisine, but she says she’s not much of a cook when she’s at home in her own kitchen.