It was at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun under the blazing Mexican sun that we had the privilege of meeting Julia Roberts. The star of Pretty Woman is back in Ryan Murphy's recent film Eat Pray Love. This autobiographical story is about a 40-something American woman who rediscovers happiness by, among other things, eating in restaurants in Rome and sampling the local wines.
How would you summarise Eat Pray Love, the best-seller by Elizabeth Gilbert that Ryan Murphy has recently made into a film?
It's the story of a woman in her 40s who is lost and can no longer stand the routine of her life or the fact that her future is all mapped out for her. Overnight, she decides to walk out on everything. Her city, her husband, her friends, her job! She packs her bags and decides to travel the world. Her rites-of-passage trips to India, Indonesia and Rome allow her to think about herself, open up to others, and to discover unconditional love and the pleasures of eating and drinking.
There is a lovely scene in the film where we see your character go into raptures over a superb plate of spaghetti served al dente in an Italian restaurant. For you, are a good meal and a fine wine also the key to happiness?
There's no question about it! Especially in Italy, and even more so in Rome. It was the third time that I'd been to the city, and each time, it works its charm. The scene that you mention is really a metaphor. With the plate of pasta, we wanted to show Elizabeth finally letting herself go. A mouth-watering spaghetti paired with a good wine are one of the keys to relieving the pressure that she's been putting on herself all her life! In eating this meal, she finally begins to take care of herself.
How many times did you film the scene?
At least ten times! Since the pasta was delicious, I managed to finish the plate several times. Same for the wine. It was so amazing that I couldn't spit it out! By the end of the day, I was pretty perky!
And the importance of wine for you personally?
I will never understand people drinking water when enjoying good meat. Wine is the yin! Fish, shellfish, pasta, a good stew…the yang! They are inseparable. While on the subject, I remember a visit to Paris that was eye-opening. Sitting behind me, there was a young American couple who were eating a roast chicken with cola! I couldn't stop myself from calling over the sommelier and telling him, 'See the people at that table over there? Could you bring them a Côte de Brouilly and tell them it's on the house? Put the bottle on my bill, of course.'
Do you have a wine cellar, Julia?
Let's say that I have a few bottles of wine that I keep in a wine cabinet! It's practical and preserves the wine well, but it doesn't have the same charm as a vaulted cellar.
What was the last wine that you drank?
A Burgundy! A Chablis to be exact. It was last night! Unfortunately, I was drinking it during a discussion that made me feel nauseous – the BP oil spill. What's happened in the Gulf of Mexico made me lose my appetite.
Exactly 20 years ago, you became an international star with Pretty Woman. Do you have good memories of the shoot?
Not exclusively, but generally, I do, yes. We filmed at the Beverly Wilshire, one of the most highly rated luxury hotels on the west coast of the US. Richard [Gere] and I became buddies with the sommeliers, so we were able to enjoy vintage wines from well before I was born.
Interview in Cancun, Mexico by Frank Rousseau