Billy Crudup is enjoying his time in Napa, California, discussing Eat Pray Love. After all, Napa is a fitting site to discuss the finer points of bringing Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love to the big screen with his role in the Julia Roberts film from director Ryan Murphy of Glee fame.
Crudup had the difficult task of taking a character in the book Eat Pray Love, who is hardly mentioned at all and bringing him to life in a screen version that embellishes his character a bit. This is hardly a challenge for a seasoned actor. Billy Crudup is synonymous with great performances in turns from Watchmen, Public Enemies, Almost Famous and The Hi-Lo Country.
Billy Crudup is a product of the New York stage scene and his consummate talent gets its due ironically in a small Eat Pray Love role opposite Julia Roberts. Crudup makes a guy in Eat Pray Love, who could easily be seen as the villain, adorably endearing.
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SheKnows: How difficult was it to take a role in Eat Pray Love that is almost non-existent in the book, and make him a full-fledged character in a Julia Roberts-starring movie?
Billy Crudup: Well, the context was presented to me and they sort of let me know what the story was and then they sent me the script. When I read it there wasn’t much on the page yet and Ryan (Murphy, director) was sort of like, “I want you to develop this part.” I said, “You know, he’s nice but there’s not a lot to go on. I don’t want to play him like a jerk.” See, it wouldn’t be interesting to me if this was a character that was vilified in some way and that the reason she left the marriage wasn’t because he was underperforming as a person.
SheKnows: Did you focus on the aspect of being part of a relationship that simply fell apart?
Billy Crudup: Yes, totally. It’s just that they had grown differently. One of the ways that we tried to explore that was if he had a kind of goofy charm or if he was comfortable with himself. It was much different developmentally where Julia got. We started to talk about two people that fell in love in college and were very similar in a lot of ways but in a kind of adolescent, over-optimistic, fun-loving sort of way. Her career had taken her in a much different direction than him. And so what the script is talking about was that context that I could be a fully developed person in a role that wasn’t going to be fully developed. That was okay with me.
SheKnows: How did it develop then?
Billy Crudup: During the rehearsal process, Ryan really encouraged me to explore as much nuance and develop as much history between them as I could. I put in as many quirky qualities as I could bring to this character to ultimately make the story about her just leaving a marriage — a marriage that stopped working for her in some way that she didn’t know how to describe. She needed, in fact, to go on a journey to learn where she was in her life because it was so confusing to her. The best way to do it is to not give the audience a reason to hate him. Just have him sort of as baffled as she is and she is as baffled as he is. I think that’s the way some relationships fall apart. You just find yourself in a life that you didn’t try to create for yourself. It’s a product of where you were at some point and you need to change that.
SheKnows: Are you upset of all the men in Julia’s life in Eat Pray Love, you’re the one who had to stay put in the US?
Billy Crudup: Actually, I went to India for three days because we had to shoot a scene on top of a roof [laughs]. I got to go there!
SheKnows: That was shot in India? Wow, I could have sworn that could have been done on a soundstage.
Billy Crudup: You know what [laughs]? They perversely shot the wedding sequence there, too [laughs].
SheKnows: In India?
Billy Crudup: Yeah! It’s supposed to take place in Connecticut. Apparently every Caucasian ex-patriot in all of India they found for the scene [laughs]. But, I did get to go there. Frankly, to be able to work at home, I live in New York, so to be able to work at home and still sleep in my bed, that’s gold. So I was happy with the plan.
Up next…Billy Crudup dishes working with some of the great directors from Martin Scorsese to Cameron Crowe to Eat Pray Love‘s Ryan Murphy.