Nora Ephron: interview

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Journalist-screenwriter-director Nora Ephron's latest film is 'Julie

Was it your idea to intertwine Julia Child’s memoir of learning to cook in post-war Paris with Julie Powell’s book of her blog?
‘No, it was [co-producer] Amy Robinson’s idea. It was hard but fun, like a puzzle. I had seen the New York Times piece on Julie and thought: This is a movie. Though I think that about almost everything.’

The film makes 1950s Paris look a lot more fun than modern New York…

‘Julie was very candid in her blog that there was just no time for her and her husband as a couple, between the job, the cooking and the blog. But I don’t think life was better back in the 1950s. The truth about Julia is that if she’d had children, I don’t think any of it would have happened, because proper Pasadena girls were supposed to get married after college – if they went to college – and that was it.’

Julia cooked for something to do, but Julie’s aims were more narcissistic.

‘You call it narcissism but it’s just ambition. It isn’t necessarily narcissistic to want to succeed. And Julia’s ambitions were so modest, particularly when you consider she became an icon, the first woman cooking on American TV, on the cover of Time.’

Did Julie have much input?
‘I met her, but I mostly worked with her blog. It had this great, breathless quality. It’s a different format – even from a diary. Socrates said that the unexamined life was not worth living, but he was wrong. The pressure to keep thinking of things and having something to say – it’s an exhausting concept! What Julie did was amazing. It’s not just a recipe a day for a year: so many of the recipes are two- and three-hour commitments – and then you have to get up at 5am and write about it.’

The film seems weighted towards Julie. Was that so modern audiences could identify?

‘Meryl [Streep] felt that she was playing a figment of Julie’s imagination – it’s one of the ways that she found to not be a caricature of Julia. I always think it’s a movie about time travel, because that’s one of the magical things about food: if I make my mother’s barbecue sauce, I’m with my mother. The whole time I was learning to cook from her book I was with Julia Child. So the movie is partly about that power books have.’

Have you seen that Julie’s written another book, about learning to be a butcher, and having more problems with her marriage?
‘Yes. It’s irritating when your characters go off and have independent lives.’

Your career has been so varied. Was that planned?
‘The only thing I planned was to be a reporter. And that it would be nice to work for Esquire. I didn’t want to be a screenwriter because my mother was one, and I was not going to be in the movie business like my parents.’

How do you manage to be a gourmet without suffering the consequences?
‘You mean I’m not fat. How do I do that? By dieting every single day. Although not yesterday. Yesterday I went to the River Café. Oh my God. One of the greatest meals of my life!’

Julie & Julia is out now.

Author: Nina Caplan



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