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Julie & Julia – Writer/director Nora Ephron

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Julie & Julia - Nora Ephron
Julie & Julia - Producer/assistant to Nora Ephron, JJ Sacha, script supervisor and co-producer, Dianne Dreyer, Meryl Streep and writer/director Nora Ephron on set ©2009 Columbia Pictures

Nora Ephron is a journalist, novelist, playwright, screenwriter, director and lover of food, so the movie Julie & Julia was a perfect fit for the writer/director whose film credits have included Heartburn, Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.

Julie & Juliais based on two best-selling memoirs, Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia and Julia Child’s My Life in France, intertwining the lives of the two women, though separated by time and space, who were bored until they discovered their love of cooking.

What was it about this project that inspired you to write and direct it?

Producer/assistant to Nora Ephron, JJ Sacha, script supervisor and co-producer, Dianne Dreyer, Meryl Streep and writer/director Nora Ephron on set © Columbia Pictures
Producer/assistant to Nora Ephron, JJ Sacha, script supervisor and co-producer, Dianne Dreyer, Meryl Streep and writer/director Nora Ephron on set © Columbia Pictures

As soon as I heard the idea, I thought, ‘Oh, I have to do that.’ In 1962 or so, when I first moved to New York, everybody was buying a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking – it was a way of saying you were intelligent and therefore you were going to cook in a way that a smart person was going to cook.

So Julia Child became an imaginary friend for me and for the millions of women who bought is cookbook, and years later, I think the same thing was true for Julie Powell.

What was it about Julie Powell’s story that attracted you?

One of the things that’s so great about the Internet and is so amazing about Julie’s story is that she started in this tiny way with her blogs, with almost nobody noticing, and changed her life.

That’s what both women did in completely different ways and completely contemporary ways for each of them in the period where they were living. It had nothing to do with my life in the exact details, but one of the things that I think is so interesting about all of writing is that the more specific you are the more general it can be.

Weirdly enough, people can see something and say, ‘This has nothing to do with the details of my life, and yet I connect to it,’ so there was some of that.

What is it about Julia Child’s cookbook that makes it so popular?

Meryl Streep and Linda Emond with Nora Ephron on set © Columbia Pictures
Meryl Streep and Linda Emond with Nora Ephron on set © Columbia Pictures

If you go and cook 10 things in Julia’s cookbook you learn so much beyond those recipes, you learn the whole idea of how sauces work, or how flavors affect things and how to fix things when they go wrong.

It makes you very relaxed as a cook. It’s a cookbook that was so assessable for people who thought all they could do was open a can of mushroom soup and put it over potatoes, it really taught you how to cook.

That’s why everyone fell in love with the book, there was no one like her in the world, before or since.

When you’re writing are you writing for a certain actor or actress?

Julie & Julia - Writer/director Nora Ephron
Julie & Julia – Writer/director Nora Ephron © Columbia Pictures

You sort of learn not to do that, because you’re just going to have your heart broken when they say no. I didn’t really write this for anyone, but you certainly had to know that Meryl was at the top of the list.

I had bumped into her before I started writing, and she did go into an immediate imitation of Julia Child while we were in Central Park, walking down the steps at Shakespeare in the Park.

So I certainly hoped that she would do it, and weirdly enough at that same time she became the hottest actor in America, which was very helpful to me. But when I was writing it I wasn’t writing it for Meryl, I was writing it about Julia Child