Julia Roberts didn’t quite get it when she found out Javier Bardem would be playing her love interest in the big-screen adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s soul searcher Eat Pray Love. “I couldn’t get the image of him in No Country for Old Men out of my mind,” she says of Bardem’s Academy Award-winning portrayal of a flat-eyed killer with a blunt pageboy. “And that’s not really what you want to be thinking about going into some situation where you want to create a chemistry.”
The story follows our heroine as she first chows her way through Rome — “I gained 7 lbs. in Italy,” Roberts moans — before finding some inner calm at an India ashram, and eventually on to Bali where she meets an older gentleman who reintroduces her to the possibility of love. There, Roberts says she was instantly charmed by the Spanish actor. “Everyone knows he can do all the really intense stuff,” she says. “But he brings a lightness and compassion and kindness to this part.” Director Ryan Murphy (Glee) agrees. “He’s so sweet and loves a good joke,” says Murphy. “We did one scene where he wanted to play the whole scene as an ape.”
Gilbert has yet to sell the movie rights to her recent book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, which describes how her Balinese love affair stunned her by evolving into marriage, but already there is talk of a possible movie sequel that would reteam Roberts and Bardem. “Javier kept saying ‘What’s going on with the sequel? What’s going on with the sequel?'” says Murphy. “We’ve only really discussed it because Julia and Javier just got along like a house on fire.”
For more of our Summer Movie Preview and behind-the-scenes scoop on 96 upcoming films, including installments of Iron Man, Shrek and Toy Story, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now.