Julie and Julia is a story of two women at its core -- Julia Child most famously, but also Julie Powers with her own fascinating culinary journey to self-discovery.
"I wanted the Julia Child of this to be something that Julie Powell would imagine -- so that there wouldn't be some sense of the turn of the century, versus the turn of the next century," filmmaker Ephron said of how her star, Meryl Streep, should play the chef.
Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, a woman at a crossroads in life who is yearning for much more than is in front of her. She's happily married, but something is missing. When she sees Julia Child's famous book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she sets out on a journey to create Child's entire cookbook in one year. Oh, and she's going to blog about the entire endeavor that would evolve into the best-seller, Julie and Julia, My Year of Cooking Dangerously.
Ephron is not surprised that the real-life Powell would hatch an idea that would eventually result in her own book on cooking, but also Ephron's latest project.
"It's that thing that happens when you're cooking from a cookbook and you get very involved with the person who wrote it. You start having little fantasies about how you wish they would come to dinner," Ephron said. "Sometimes, they've been dead quite a long time (laughs) and you still have this fantasy about them."
Streep, with her most honored actress in history resume, found a connection to Child that was instant. "She was a television personality in the pre-television age. Before we were used to packaging who these people are that are on our television by committee to decide if they're right. She came onto television already fully formed. She was 50 years old," Streep said and laughed. "There weren't any changes made. I can relate to that."
Adams tackled the role of Powell and her friends, for one, thank her for her latest acting experience that has produced more cooking prowess within the already food-adoring Adams. "I do cook in real life. I don't have as much time to do it as I'd like or be as adventurous. It tends to be pretty basic – chicken, steamed vegetables," Adams said. "But, I do love to cook and I love to cook for friends."
An added bonus to her tackling the role of Julie Powell is her ability with knives. It's not what you think!
"I've learned to cut. Now, I cut everything," Adams said with pride. "When you learn to do it right, you can do it so fast."
As the two stories are melded across two different centuries, Ephron also found another element of society that was easy to contrast on screen. "Letter writing as we know it -- as Julia Child and her husband practiced it -- banished for about the last 20 years. Remember what it was like when you got a letter from someone and it was so intimate? That just went away and was replaced by email," Ephron said. "Email is not intimate, but weirdly enough, it has caused a whole generation to be very comfortable with their voices."
One of those voices was Powell and her blog (and subsequent book) that took readers through the Julia Child journey for the 21st century woman.
"There's an anonymity to blogging. There's not a lot of consequence. You send it out and people pick it up either are moved or upset, or whatever, it's very empowering for people," Adams adds.
For Child, her words are heard through letters between her husband Paul Child and herself.
Ephron insists the all-supportive male as seen in Julie and Julia through Paul Child (Stanley Tucci) was more prevalent in that time period than people realize. "Those men exist and it's amazing to me that people talk about it like we have somehow unearthed some rare species of dinosaur," Ephron said and laughed.
"There are men who take great pleasure in their wives' success and in their wives' happiness. Paul Child happens to have been one of them. Their careers, it's very interesting in his specific case, his career was kind of over and he was retiring -- when suddenly hers' burst out like a rocket. He was there for every second of it."
Streep found the gig on Julie and Julia a little different than most because of the permeation of Child's persona on our culture. "She's so vivid in everybody's mind. You can just call up her size, her shape, her voice, her laugh...her way of breathing. It is so familiar to us -- in a way it's sort of like my work was half done," Streep said and laughed. "I didn't have to make anything up. There she was – I just had to live inside and discover what animated her. (I had) to find the private Julia, at least my own imagined one. I gave myself an out -- my Julia is Julie Powell's idea of what Julia Child was, not really who she was. But I do wish that I met her in person."
There is a narrative that audiences will adore in Ephron's script. "I was so excited by Nora's adaptation and the way she brought you back and forth between these two stories and intertwined them," Adams said. "And also as a woman in her '30s going, 'what now?' I saw in my '20s, you never think about life when you're in your '20s. You're like, 'there's life after you turn 30?' That experience was so meaningful in my own life."
The actress also hopes that viewers will make the Julie and Julia film going experience one to share with friends. If it sounds like Adams thinks she has a summer event movie, you're right.
"Food is very social. It's where we sit down together at a meal and nourish ourselves. It's a thing that feeds us -- it's essential. To be able to cook and feed the people you love and nourish them, then sit down and share that together it's an amazing thing," Adams said. "We can go into a garden right now and make something that grew from the earth."
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