The film marked not only Bardem’s first time to work with Roberts, but apparently it was the first time these two A-list actors crossed paths. “I didn’t have the chance to meet her until I landed in Bali. I have to say I was very nervous to have the chance to work with somebody I respect that much. She really made it very easy,” Bardem says. His admiration of Roberts as an actress is apparent. “Julia is very generous and very brave, meaning she goes very far with her own skills. She goes far with her imagination. She takes a journey with a scene and she’s not sure where she’s going to land, which is beautiful and very powerful of an actress of that level. And even though there were dramatic moments in the story, we still had fun, exploring different options of the same scene,” Bardem notes.

When not working on a film, precious downtime usually finds him with family and friends. “A good vacation for me is not about the place, it’s about being surrounded by the people whom you love and who love you,” he explains. “Sitting down around a bottle of good red wine — Spanish, of course, nothing against the rest of the world, but if I have to choose — sitting down listening to laughter and jokes. I vacation by doing the most important thing of it all — making fun of yourself. I heard Einstein once said that the most intelligent people make fun of themselves. Now, I am not in that league, but I am certainly busy trying.”

While his on-screen roles are certainly daring, there is one thing you won’t find the actor doing off-screen — driving a car. “In Spain, I usually walk or take a taxi,” he explains. “The biggest witnesses of my non-driving experience were the Coen brothers. When we were doing No Country for Old Men, I had a scene where I had to drive a car. I told them, ‘I can’t drive’ … and they didn’t believe me, and I did the scene and hit the accelerator. Vroom, vroom, I raced passed the camera and couldn’t stop!”

With some 25-plus films on his résumé, Bardem hopes someday to work with actor Al Pacino. “It would be a dream one day to work with someone whom I consider to be a master. He taught me a lot without even realizing it. I am hoping some producer is flying American Airlines right now and can figure out a way to get us to work together!” he jokes.

Here’s hoping some filmmaker out there is reading … and listening.



Eat/Pray/Love = Italy/India/Indonesia

The runaway best-seller-turned-film Eat Pray Love weaves a tale and travelogue of author Elizabeth Gilbert’s soul-searching and self-discovery through three countries — Italy, India, and Indonesia — each representing a segment of her psyche: culinary, spiritual, and emotional. Gilbert experiences gastronomic delights in Italy, finds her spiritual center in India, and receives the best gift of all in Bali: the man of her dreams.

Italy

In Italy, food stylist and cookbook author Susan Spungen was responsible for the film’s many restaurant scenes that played such a predominant role. Shot on location in the trattorias and pizzerias of Rome and Naples, the food scenes allowed Spungen to craft plates of pappardelle with rabbit; prosciutto and melon; spaghetti with clam sauce; and, of course, pizza for the film’s numerous restaurant scenes that depicted virtual buffet feasts.

Working on foreign soil proved a challenge for the veteran food stylist (whose credits include Julie & Julia and It’s Complicated), as many items were out of season during the shoot — with the exception of pasta, pizza, and gelato. “One of the most challenging and harrowing days involved frying individual zucchini blossoms for a key scene with Gilbert [played by Julia Roberts] and one of her Italian friends.” Artichokes were also out of season and had to be located in France, and Spungen’s makeshift kitchen was often the film studio’s parking lot. “Eat Pray Love was challenging. Having a home base with a kitchen and stock is a real plus, and a lot of the arrangement needed to be done ahead of time. We basically jumped into any kitchen that we could find,” explains Spungen.

Readers of the book along with fans of Italy will recognize the Santa Lucia restaurant on Largo Febo in Rome’s Piazza Navona and the world-famous pizza found at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples.


India


While Italy represented all things “La Dolce Vita,” India proved to be more of a contemplative and restorative place as Gilbert spent most of her time in an ashram practicing yoga and meditation. Although she has not been back to India since her book was published, the enlightened Connecticut native and her husband plan a return visit. “I would love to do six months or more, as that is how much time you would need to see everything,” Gilbert explains. “India is like Australia, the United States, or Brazil; you can’t do it justice in just one week. A train trip there is like a great road trip across America!”

Much of her time was spent in an ashram outside of Mumbai, but Gilbert did spend a week in Chennai on the southeast coast of India along with stints in the cities of Mumbai and Calcutta. Her journeys rewarded her with a newfound appreciation for Indian cooking. “The ashram had the best food I have ever had in my lifetime,” she exclaims. “I am a vegetarian, and we had seven to eight choices of amazing food every day. It was the healthiest I have ever been and, culinarily, the happiest!”

Indonesia

For actor Javier Bardem, the experience marked his first visit to Bali. “It was my first time in Bali but hopefully not the last. I was very moved by how the people there interact with nature. They really give nature its own space. And they pray for nature to take its own place — its rightful place. This allows the visitor to put himself in a different perspective,” he details.

The Indonesian island is known for its diverse and sophisticated beauty, culture, art, and nature. Bardem found this to be true and explains the island’s healing powers like this: “In Bali, you really feel conscious that you belong to earth more than any other place I have been before. Once you are there and conscious of that, it is a very healing place. It heals you in a very deep way, based on the lack of gravity you feel of your physical, intellectual, and emotional weight. This is more about relax and release. The landscape is there to remind you of your place, rather than us trying to remind nature we are stronger than it, which is not true.”