Meryl as Julia, Nora Ephron up close

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Note from Kat: This was originally posted June 10th, 2008. I’ve reposted it in memory of late Nora Ephron.

So yesterday morning, I went down to get a baguette and I ran into Meryl Streep dressed up as Julia Child.

Oh, all right, it wasn’t that straight forward. Actually, yesterday a friend called from the Café Mouffetard where she was having a glass of wine to say that they were setting up for a movie. It turns out they were shooting Julie & Julia. In case you’re unfamiliar, it’s about Julie Powell taking on the task of cooking all of Julia Child’s recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. That’s 524 recipes in 365 days.

They transformed this small bit of Rue Mouffetard, the famed market street, into a 1950s version of itself for this shoot. We watched transfixed as they wheeled in antique handcarts, scales and even a couple of delivery trucks to set the scene. When I got up this morning, I walked down the two blocks from our apartment to the film set and lo, behold, the whole street was a weird Twilight Zone light transformation. There were extras walking around in 1950s garb, smoking and talking on their mobile phones. It was anarchimism central.

Then I walked around the camera area and bam, there was Nora Ephron. Resplendent in a cream outfit with a hat, big sunglasses and cream-ish pashmina. A small crowd had started milling but yet they were just sitting there, on the street. I was five or six feet away.

For me, the true celebrity was Nora. I mean, hello, if Nora had not been high maintenance in ordering a salad her whole life, we’d been deprived of key scenes from “When Harry Met Sally…” So I stood by and listened. A friend approached. “Oh, hey, did you change since breakfast? You look so elegant! It could be Venice.” And then, later, debating the price for carrots written on a chalk sign in the scene. “Is 25 francs too much? Hey, so this price thing is an issue. Let’s think. In 1951, there would have been how many francs to the dollar?”

Then, boom, Meryl Streep shows up made up as Julia Child. I was standing 10 feet from her and all I can say is that she has remarkable skin. She made a convincing Julia Child. Maybe it was the hair. She definitely had the early hunching posture down. But then, some weird American guy showed up on the sidelines. I can only state two things definitely: 1) He was a gay out-of-work actor and 2) if I were Meryl Streep, I’d be afraid of him.

“I LOVE YOU MERYL!!!” he started screaming at the top of his lungs. The crowd was mostly French. This screaming was very un-French behavior. “Oh my god, it’s her!” He was panting. “I LOVE YOU MERYL!!!” The security guards started standing closer together, in front of the guy, between him and Meryl.
As the other token American in the crowd, I felt the need to talk to him. “Um, that’s probably going to freak everybody on the set out,” I told him. “You might want to stop yelling.”

He seemed pained. “But I love her.” He looked around. We had a pretty good spot right behind the camera. “Do you think they’d make me move? Oh shit, I’m out of film. Damn. Shit. Damn.”

The Meryl Lover stopped yelling long enough for them to rehearse a scene of her walking down the street a couple times. Eventually, she returned to enclosure where Nora was screening the scenes. “I LOVE YOU MERYL!!!” he started yelling. People physically moved away. He turned to me. “Will you yell with me?” He looked at me through thick glasses. I shook my head. A French woman next to me commented that, for my sake, I should move away. Eventually, he moved on.

We took some photos and waited through a few takes, but there was not much to see around all the cameras. They put up big dark curtains around Nora. We ran errands, went to see a friend and came back as they were starting to break down the set. We watched fake pig heads going by on trolleys, extras stopping into bars for a drink and a slew of people swarm past us. By 7:30 p.m., it was all back to 2008.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry,” “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” and “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good.” All are published by Viking/Penguin.


  1. jamielifesafeast says:

    Wow what fun! And how exciting! If I’d been in Paris I would have run over to gawk as well. Although I most definitely would not have screamed either.

  2. In your second book you gave simple instructions for making rice without a rice cooker that involved pouring off the water and letting it sit. (I’m sure it’s your book. Mostly.) Unfortunately I can’t find where it is in the book, and while I have a rice cooker my niece doesn’t and would love if I could find those instructions again. (Great book, by the way.) Can you help?

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