Interview with Author Julie Powell of Julie and Julia

Julie Powell on Meals, Maggots, and the Julia Child in Her Head

In 2002, Julie Powell was a secretary who blogged on the side. Now, she's a bestselling author whose first book, Julie and Julia — a former Buzz Book Club pick — has been adapted into a film starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. Along the way, she's stirred up some controversy (including having her dedication to cooking questioned), and so when she stopped in San Francisco earlier this week, I was curious to chat with her about the book, the movie, and what comes next. Here are highlights from our chat:

So who feeds you better: book tour or movie tour?
Movie tour! Well, yes and no. The thing with the movie tour is, it's so fast. Everywhere I go, I have someone always ask, "Where are you going to go when you're in [whatever city]?" I'm always like, "Room service." The movie tour puts you up better, but the book tour gives you more time so you can actually go to a restaurant.

We all play those games where we think about who would play us in movies of our lives. Who were those people for you? Did you ever think Amy Adams?
One of my good friends from [Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, her former employer], he — I don't know what the event was that made him do this, but he was talking about "LMDC: The Movie," and he got everybody and he would put their face beside who he decided he wanted to cast . . . and he had me as Kate Winslet. And I thought, you know, that works. She looks like she can curse like a sailor. She looks like she could eat a good meal. When they proposed Amy, it took me a moment, because she's just so tiny! She's this teeny tiny little thing! . . . But she's such a wonderful actress, and I've been a big fan since Junebug. I think she's just lovely.

How involved were you in the process of making the movie?
Not terribly. When Nora [Ephron] first came on and started working on the script, we met a couple of times. We met for lunch, and she had printed out the entire blog on pink paper — a very Nora touch — and it had the whole thing just marked all to hell, and she went through and she would ask, "This, this here? This didn't happen, did it? This is bullsh*t, right?" She's this incredibly smart, incisive, terrifying woman, totally unlike me, and she asked me all sorts of questions and she took that information, and a lot of the details that are in that movie, I'm sort of shocked that she remembered. . . . I visited the set once, when Meryl was shooting the Paris parts, and got to talk with her for two minutes, which was lovely. But . . . Chris [Messina, who plays Julie's husband] and Amy and Nora got together and said, "Let's wait to meet until we've got it in the can." . . . So they were able to develop the characters based on the script, which is fiction. And it's not me. So, you know, putting the real me in there would just be like there's some weird, faulty 3-D thing going on.

To find out how Meryl Streep's Julia Child matches the Julia in Julie's head and hear about some scenes she wishes had been included in the film, just read more.

How does the Julia that Meryl portrays in the movie compare to the Julia in your head?
Julia of course lives on in so many people's heads, and each Julia is a little bit different. And I think a lot of people's Julias are kind of like your favorite aunt, or who you'd love to have to be your mother, just endlessly warm and giving and generous. And I think she was kind of this salty broad. I think she could be a little tough, and I think she could be a bit of a b*tch. And I like that about her. I don't want her to be this saintly, warm thing! And I think that Meryl as Julia really got that across, that she was this life-loving, strong woman, but part of that strength was standing up for herself and not taking any sh*t from anybody. And I also love that this is the period that they cover, before Julia becomes Julia, and that Meryl manages to get in — even in this hugely ebullient woman — that there is some vulnerability there and there is uncertainty and doubt. She had to have that. I think there's a temptation to believe that Julia kind of burst forth fully formed from the head of Zeus, and she had to work to become who she was, and I think Meryl does a lovely job of very subtly finding those moments of vulnerability and those tiny, tiny defeats that she allows herself to feel before, "Right! On to the next thing."

Are there any scenes or meals — either good ones or disasters — from the book that you're sad weren't in the movie?
They didn't get any of the really disgusting stuff in there. I was talking to some friends last night and they were like, "I missed the maggots!" It's a Nora Ephron movie! We're not gonna get maggots.

And you have another book coming soon — about butchering?
It's called Cleaving and it's another sort of food-oriented memoir coming out in December. The armature of the book is about a six-month stint I spent in a butcher shop in upstate New York learning to butcher. I've always been fascinated by butchers, and so when I had this opportunity to learn the trade I was really excited to do it, and so many amazing characters that you meet — the people up there at Fleischer's are crazy and great. So it's about that, and, of course, like Julie and Julia, it'll address other things. Julie and Julia was about turning 30, it was about being a woman in New York, and getting lost, and this is sort of about what happens a little later — what happens to a 35-year-old woman who's at a different stage in her marriage and different stage in her life. It's sort of a sequel, but mostly it's about cutting up animals.

It's funny, because I'm sitting here looking at you and yet all I can picture is Amy Adams with a giant cleaver and a leg of lamb.
So there's the question for Amy Adams: Is she thrilled at the notion of spending the rest of her life portraying Julie Powell at various stages in her life? That would be awesome. She could be my Daniel Radcliffe!

Photos courtesy of WireImage and Sony Pictures

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