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Q&A: Nora Ephron on cooking up 'Julie & Julia'

The veteran director discusses giving Amy Adams cooking lessons and making Meryl Streep cry

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”My main goal was to make people walk out of the movie starving to death,” says Julie & Julia writer-director Nora Ephron, who garnishes the foodie film with enough mouth-watering shots to make any viewer race home to the kitchen. Ephron, 68, chats about the movie, which marries two of her great loves: comedy and cuisine. ”I could talk about food forever,” she gushes.

EW: When you were writing this script, how much were you thinking about food?
Ephron: All I do when I write scripts is think about food: ”Have I worked long enough to justify a walk to the kitchen?”

EW: What was your goal in shooting the dishes in Julie & Julia?
Ephron: We wanted a movie that would do to people exactly what Julia did, which was to make them want to cook. I really do believe that a lot of people who see this movie are going to make boeuf bourguignon. Because the movie really should say ”Starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and boeuf bourguignon.”

EW: Did you actually use Julia’s recipes?
Ephron: Yes. It had to not only look good, but taste good, because everybody had to eat it. Those recipes don’t need styling. They are gorgeous. One of the minor tragedies of the movie is that we made this lobster thing [lobster thermidor], and everybody ate it in the scene, but it just didn’t look quite as good as it tasted. I cut the shot.

EW: So the cast was actually eating in all the meal scenes?
Ephron: I had said to all the actors when we started that they had to eat. It was really important that they do it seriously because they were playing characters who were obsessed with food, who loved food, who would do anything for a meal. There’s no tragedy in any of their lives that keeps them from eating.

EW: Is it true that you arranged cooking lessons for Amy?
Ephron: She had to look as if she knew how to chop things up. Amy is very much of her generation. She is someone who likes takeout. But now she really enjoys cooking.

EW: Did you try anything yourself?
Ephron: We all learned how to bone a duck. I was absolutely the worst person at it. I just got to a certain point where I went, ”Oh, screw it!” And sliced right through the skin.

EW: There’s a scene where Meryl is crying as she chops an enormous mound of onions. Were they real?
Ephron: Yep. It was terrible, as you can imagine.

EW: So she was crying actual tears?
Ephron: Yes. Well, I don’t know. You never know with her. But they were real onions.


By the Numbers
The real chefs working on Julie & Julia prepped extra dishes for the food scenes. Just how many batches did they whip up?

120 poached eggs
60 ducks en croute
25 lobster thermidors
15 chocolate-almond cakes
20 batches of boeuf bourguignon