Roberts blockbuster gets
Bali's support

Sony Pictures Entertainment will later this year film the Bali scenes of the screen adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's best selling autobiography, Eat, Pray, Love (EPL).

US born actress and Oscar winner, Julia Roberts, stars as the book's narrator, with Ryan Murphy (Running with Scissors) directing, said EPL's executive producer, Stan Wlodkowski, Friday, on the sidelines of his meeting with Director of the Bali Government Cultural Office, Ida Bagus Sedhawa. Wlodkowski co-produced multi Oscar award winning American Beauty and was executive producer for the Oscar nominated In the Valley of Elah.

The book, which traces Gilbert's search for identity across four countries following her divorce, topped six million sales in the US alone.

With shooting in New York, Italy, Delhi and Bali, the film of the bestseller is expected to be a blockbuster at box offices around the globe.

The film is produced by Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner of Plan B Entertainment and is slated for release in 2010.

This is the first Hollywood feature film to be shot on Bali and should boost the local economy, and also for filmmaking on the island, and around Indonesia into the future, according to Director of the Bali Film Centre (BFC), Deborah Gabinetti.

Wlodkowski and the film's Bali line producer, Neil Ravan, met Friday morning with Ida Bagus Sedhawa in Denpasar to receive his office's endorsement to the film being shot on locations around Bali. Ravan is recently returned to Bali following his work in Brazil on The Expendables, starring Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li and Mickey Rourke.

"Governor Made Pastika has given his support for this project and hopes that Bali can become a center for filmmaking in the future," said Sedhawa of the multi-million-dollar feature-film project that is hoped to kick-start the island's reputation for international film locations and production.

Director, Ryan Murphy, is currently scouting locations in Gianyar, Karangasem and Jimbaran, with much of the filming planned around the hillside village of Ubud. It is here that many of Gilbert's Bali chapters were set. The filmmakers are expected to meet with the head of Gianyar regency, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, in the near future.

Receiving endorsement from the Government for the film was vital, said Wlodkowski, adding the Government could be viewed a collaborator of the film.

"It is important that the process *of making EPL in Bali* goes smoothly. We are deeply aware of Balinese culture, religion and landscape and sensitive to this. We are groundbreaking in a sense because no one before has ever shot a feature film in Bali. We want to see more productions of this caliber into the future, so it is important that everything runs smoothly," said Wlodkowski, who first visited Bali last year to attend the BALINALE International Film Festival. This year's filming of EPL in Bali coincides with the 2009 BALINALE International Film Festival in late October.

To ensure the filming's efficient process, the filmmakers, with the assistance of BFC, are seeking support from police, Government departments and local banjars.

Of the film's planned 63-day shooting schedule, 20 days will be shot in Bali. More than 150 of the film crew will be drawn locally and several key roles in the film will be played by Indonesians alongside Julia Roberts and possibly, Oscar- winner Javier Bardem, who is in "advanced discussions to star in the film", according to Wlodkowski.

"This is a love story set in Bali. We have attracted huge talent. It is exciting that we could attract talent of such stature to the film," Wlodkowski said.

"This will be a beautiful film that will highlight Bali's culture and beauty, a family film. The cinematographer is Robert Richardson. He has won two Academy Awards for cinematography - he must be the only person alive with that level of recognition for his work."

EPL's director Ryan Murphy, who co-authored the film script with Jennifer Salt, is passionate about authenticity, insisting the film be shot on actual locations, including an ashram outside of Delhi, India.

"Ryan Murphy is very open to unchartered locations and undiscovered talent. He feels strongly about shooting in sequence and using the authentic locations, such as Bali," said Gabinetti of EPL's director who she says is very highly regarded internationally for his films.

With EPL opening wide the doors to feature-film production in Bali and across Indonesia, Inika Indriyani, President Director of BFC says she believes the EPL feature will be the first of many major films produced in Indonesia in the future.

"This will be the first feature-film of this scale ever shot in Bali. I believe it will be of great interest to other film studios to see Bali, and all of Indonesia for that matter, as a very fine film location destination.

"The film uses local crews and local talent alongside world leaders in this field, such as Roberts and Murphy, so it can only be of great benefit to Indonesia. Many people outside of the country still don't know Indonesia. All they know is that it has a 90 percent Muslim population and that it has been subjected to terrorism.

"Through this film, we hope, people will see Indonesia is a safe and diverse nation with hundreds of ethnic groups and widely varying landscapes. We expect the film to benefit not only Bali, but all of Indonesia," Indriyani said.

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