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Woman Searches Worldwide for Meaning of Life, Fulfillment in 'Eat, Pray, Love'

Julia Roberts as "Liz Gilbert" in Italy in Columbia Pictures' EAT PRAY LOVE
Julia Roberts as "Liz Gilbert" in Italy in Columbia Pictures' EAT PRAY LOVE

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Oscar-winner Julia Roberts stars in the film version of a best-selling memoir about one woman's worldwide search for fulfillment and meaning in her life. Here's a look at Hollywood's version of Eat, Pray, Love.



"Since I was 15 I've either been with a guy or breaking up with a guy. I haven't had so much as two weeks just to deal with myself."


It's not that Elizabeth Gilbert has such terrible life. A travel writer, she gets to visit all sorts of exotic locations and then return to her comfortable New York City home. But she feels like something is missing:

"I used this appetite for food, for life… and it's just gone. I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something."

Julia Roberts as "Elizabeth Gilbert" in Columbia Pictures' EAT, PRAY, LOVE
Julia Roberts as "Elizabeth Gilbert" in Columbia Pictures' EAT, PRAY, LOVE

Rebounding from a contentious divorce, she decides to take a year off and find her appetites again. Echoing the "new age" philosophy in the book, star Julia Roberts, who plays Liz in the film, says following in the character's footsteps helped her understand the journey.

"I think you have to find a way to relate to all of it," Roberts says. "This particular journey that she goes on is a lot for me to try to think about and intellectualize and then let all that go and just connect to all the people that she encounters as a very open vessel, which is what I think she did."



"The meditation room is within."


"Do you always talk in 'bumper sticker?'"

"I do… and here's another one. You have to learn to select your thoughts the same way that you select your clothes every day. That's a power that you can cultivate. You want to come here and control your life so badly… work on the mind and that's the only thing you should be trying to control, because if you can't master your thoughts you are in trouble forever."

"I relate to her search and her pursuit," explains Roberts. "It was definitely great to have a fulfilled sense of my own life: [after] playing some of these scenes I'd go home and say 'okay, everybody is here. We're good."

Julia Roberts as "Elizabeth Gilbert" in Columbia Pictures' EAT, PRAY, LOVE
Julia Roberts as "Elizabeth Gilbert" in Columbia Pictures' EAT, PRAY, LOVE

The author's journey takes her first to Italy where she discovers an earthy connection with food.

"I'm in love. I'm having a relationship with my pizza."

From there she travels to India in search of enlightenment at an "ashram" spiritual retreat.

Then, it's on to the resort island of Bali in Indonesia where she studies with a native healer and learns to heal her own wounds of the heart, discovering new love with a dashing Brazilian.

"The next attraction of the tour: food from Bali."
"Oh, good, I'm starving. Where should we go?"
"We should go to the best restaurant in town… my place."
"Subtle."

Julia Roberts as "Elizabeth Gilbert" and Hadi Subiyanto as "Ketut Liyer" in Columbia Pictures' EAT, PRAY, LOVE
Julia Roberts as "Elizabeth Gilbert" and Hadi Subiyanto as "Ketut Liyer" in Columbia Pictures' EAT, PRAY, LOVE

Typically (and for economic reasons) Hollywood movies are shot "out of sequence," so an actor might wind up doing the emotional climax on the first day of filming. However, Roberts says she is grateful that most of Eat, Pray, Love was made "in sequence" and at the locations where the story is taking place.

"For me, it was a great luxury to shoot it in chronological order," Roberts admits. "I think it was almost a necessity of emotional evolution; but I think it was important for us to create the steps that she took and understand very clearly how she got from one point to the next and one place to the next and how the relationships evolved and what she gleaned from each one to the next."

Director and co-writer Ryan Murphy says the worldwide success of the Elizabeth Gilbert memoir, first published in 2006, put pressure on the film to "get it right."

"It's meant so much to so many people - particularly women - and I worked really closely with Liz Gilbert," Murphy says. "That was very important to me. She read every draft, she had notes and I really wanted to pay it justice. It's changed me. Making the movie changed my life as I had hoped that it would. I came out the other end of it a different person. I had never traveled like that and never experienced many of those things, so I consider it to be one of the great gifts of my life."

Julia Roberts as "Elizabeth Gilbert" in Columbia Pictures' EAT, PRAY, LOVE
Julia Roberts as "Elizabeth Gilbert" in Columbia Pictures' EAT, PRAY, LOVE

True, women readers made the book a best-seller; but star Julia Roberts believes it transcends gender.

"I think are universal themes of heartache, guilt, confusion, feeling lost or just wanting to renew your life in some way and just change things in some way. I think we've all gone through that," Roberts says.

"You will live a long time, have many friends and many experiences. You will have two marriages: one long, one short."
"Am I in the long one or the short one?"
"Can't tell. Also, you will lose all your money. Don't worry. You will get it all back again."

While Julia Roberts is in every scene of Eat, Pray, Love, she is supported by an ensemble that includes Javier Bardem as the sensitive Brazilian lover; Billy Crudup is the first husband; James Franco plays the stage actor with whom she has a love affair; Richard Jenkins is the insightful Texan who gives her guidance at the Indian Ashram; and Viola Davis is her supportive best friend back home in New York.

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