Entertainment & Arts

Ryan Murphy's law: 'The food is the star'

Image caption Ryan Murphy directs Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, love

Writer and director Ryan Murphy has had a busy year.

His smash-hit US musical comedy Glee has garnered more than 40 award nominations, making him a regular on the red carpet.

As well as winning a Golden Globe for best television series, the show also earned a record 20 Emmy nominations and saw Murphy take home an outstanding directing prize.

He began his career as a journalist, writing for publications including the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly before turning his hand to screenwriting.

Murphy's first TV effort was 1999 teen comedy series Popular. He went on to create Golden Globe-winning drama Nip/Tuck about the world of cosmetic surgery - which ended this year after running for 100 episodes.

He's now taken on Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love about the author's year-long quest around the world to rediscover herself after a painful divorce.

As well as writing the script, he also directed the film, starring Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins and James Franco.

He spoke to the BBC shortly before the film's London premiere on Wednesday.

I have never been so hungry watching a film before - were the 'Eat' scenes fun to film?

Image caption Julia Robert's character travels to Rome to experience the food in Italy

I take that as a compliment, thank you! They were fun to film but they were very difficult because when we shot in Rome it was over 100 degrees every day and everything melted within seconds. I had a whole gelato sequence planned and we could not keep the gelato from melting!

We had a great food stylist. She's there burning things and using glues - if you ate it you would die from the toxic substances she glazed things over with to make it look so yummy, but it was very important to me to get right.

We had a whole second unit devoted to the close ups of the food. We treated the food like we treated Julia Roberts - the food was the star.

What was it about the book that you identified with?

I just loved the idea of what the book said to me: "Get out of your way and shut up... and if you're unhappy, do something about it. It's never too late to try to be happy."

You filmed the movie in chronological order - why was that?

I did that for Julia because I thought it would be easier for her to go through the different segments of the movie and experience her character in the story as it was unfolding.

We know you best for your TV shows. How different is it writing for film?

It's just longer - it seems like it takes forever. Movies are so much more intensive that way. Television is more fun for me, to be honest, because I can write something today, shoot it tomorrow and I'll see it the next day. It's much more immediate.

Image caption The movie was filmed at the same locations Elizabeth Gilbert visited while in Bali

You worked quite closely with author Elizabeth Gilbert didn't you?

I spent a lot of time talking with Liz and she read every draft of the script and would put in notes. That was important for me, because I wanted to get it right.

Sometimes authors are like, "no, I'm not getting involved", but she's so passionate about her fans and she knows that that book has changed the lives of so many people that she said we had to get it right for them.

I got a lot of extra bits of information and with her permission I put them in the script. Like all the stuff in Bali with Javier Bardem and his teenage son - she told me that, it wasn't in the book.

There's been a bit of criticism from reviewers in Italy who said the Rome part of the film was too cliched. What's your response to that?

I understand it, but I'm not doing my story - I'm doing a Liz Gilbert story and the scenes in the movie are scenes from the book. There's always the famous images of the men being sexist and brooding, and we tried to show men in the movie that were very compassionate and were great fathers and friends.

I'm certainly compassionate to what they think, because I deeply admire the people, but it wasn't my story and I did the best I could.

Brad Pitt was an executive producer on this film - how much involvement did he have?

I've done three things with Brad now and he gives notes on the script and watches the end product.

I hear you convinced Javier Bardem to appear in an episode of Glee...

Image caption Javier Bardem is lined up to star in Ryan Murphy's hit show Glee

Let me set the record straight - I didn't have to convince him, he begged me! He loves the show and wants to come on and play a crazy Spanish rock and roll singer, so I'm going to do that.

And you've written a part into this series especially for Gwyneth Paltrow too?

I have, for my darling Gwyneth. Gwyneth is a great singer - she's done it a little bit but I really want to show it off and show people how great she is.

How much pressure do you feel to come up with another hit season? Do you think the show could run for longer if the seasons were shorter?

I've done 13 episode runs - Nip/Tuck was and that ran for eight seasons. I won't stay with Glee forever, but I will say we're almost halfway done with shooting the second season and I think it's better than the first.

I think the musical choices are better, they're more about the characters, and the episodes don't seem to be as bombastic as the first season.

You started your career in journalism before you went into screenwriting - has your relationship with or view of journalists changed at all since?

I see so many of the same faces that I used to go to press events with and now they're interviewing me, so that's a little weird. I admire them only because I feel I'm very similar.

I wish sometimes I got asked more shocking questions because I remember when I was a journalist that was my thing - I used to be able to ask one or two really good zingers.

But now when you ask them you get thrown out…

Well I know, so I hear. Back then they would never do that, but they do now right? I don't think that's fair.

If it's about the work, I think that's totally cool but if it's about personal life, no - I never did that.

What three words would you use to describe the past year for you?

Exhaustion, caffeinated and exhilaration.

Eat, Pray Love is released in cinemas on 24 September.

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