Behind-the-Scenes: The Food in 'Julie and Julia'
Unlike other recent food film releases, Julie & Julia is not trying to make a statement about rejecting corn syrup or starting a compost pile. As director Nora Ephron said in a preview for food and film bloggers yesterday (it officially opens on August 7), it's about the joy of cooking, eating, and living. And a lot of buttah.
"I've never gone through so much butter before," said food stylist and former Martha Stewart Living food editor Susan Spungen who worked on the film. But her biggest challenge was making cheese look melty on screen. It had to be hot enough to stretch "from the soup to the lips" (the script's orders), but not scorch the actor's tongue, and in Julie & Julia, the actors actually eat most of the food (though that red wine was all Welch's).
Spungen resorted to her electric paint remover, a popular secret weapon for food stylists. When it's not stripping paint from houses, the hand-held gadget is great for French onion soup special effects. To facilitate meltification even more, Spungen used (shh, don't tell the French) mozzarella instead of Gruyere, which just doesn't pull off the same silly putty stretch on camera.
Food porn on screen is pretty different from that in print. In a glossy magazine, you can see every hair on a raspberry. The job involves tweezers. But in Julie & Julia, the food on screen wasn't trying to look perfect, just stuffable in the mouth.
In one scene, Julie (Amy Adams) and her husband Eric (Chris Messina) eat bruschetta. The tomatoes looked so red, the bread so rustic (and audibly ka-runchy), and with every mouth rip, olive oil juices rain all over the table. Yeah, who doesn't want to eat that. Turns out the scene was shot in March, totally not tomato season, and those were heirloom tomatoes grown in Shushan, New York.
There are others foods in the movie you really don't want to eat. Like the aspic. "Mmm, I don't we ever have to go back there," Powell said in the Q&A after the film. Tums were inhaled in many scenes—so much that you kinda want to send them a product placement bill. On one day of filming, Messina swallowed 32 of them. He was not feeling too hot the next day.
The film hops back and forth between the Child and Powell worlds very fluidly. "It blends two stories together, like my favorite movie, The Godfather II," Ephron said with a smile. Channeling Martin Scorcese yet again, she said that in the opening scene, when Julia and her husband Paul (played brilliantly by Stanley Tucci) are in a French restaurant, moaning over a still-sizzling, just-deboned sole filet, Ephron "wanted to call up Martin Scorcese and say, 'you've never shot a fish like that before.' "
It's true. Don't see this movie hungry. Eat beforehand or at the very least, pack some string cheese.
Julie & Julia opens August 7. Thanks to Sony Pictures for the preview yesterday and Le Cordon Bleu chefs Kirk Bachmann and Brian Malarkey for recreating some of the foods in the film afterward, including the holy grail, the Beef Bourguignon.