From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
1 'JUST MAGICAL'

Julia Roberts describes her decision to play author Elizabeth Gilbert, whose post-divorce travels led her to Italy, India and Bali and a bestselling memoir, as a "leap of faith because certainly it could have gone bad at any moment." But with husband Danny Moder and their three kids along for company, the family had the trip of a lifetime, whether visiting elephants in India or escaping the sweltering summer heat in a series of hotel pools. "It was just magical," says Roberts of their three months filming. Like Gilbert, Roberts worked hard in her own life to find happiness, says director Ryan Murphy. "I think she learned about balance. That's ultimately what the movie is about, and that's what drew her to it."

2 JAVIER BARDEM IS A ROMANTIC

"I was a little terrified to be around him after No Country for Old Men," says Roberts. "I thought [he'd] be so intense and broody." But the Spanish actor, who plays her beau in Bali, was "sweet and funny," personally picking the song "S' Wonderful" for a tender slow dance. Newly wed to Penélope Cruz, Bardem says he took this lesson from the movie: "The first thing you have to do is love yourself. Otherwise it's impossible to love anybody else."

3 JULIA WAS A FAN FROM THE START

Roberts bought two copies of the book so she and a pal could discuss it long distance. "[I] said, 'Let's read this in tandem, because it's going to get real good real fast.'"

4 IT WAS A FAMILY AFFAIR

Roberts' husband, Danny Moder, twins Finn and Hazel, 5, and son Henry, 3, came along. "At day's end her kids would rush into her arms," says Murphy. "Sometimes they would sing The Sound of Music songs for us."

5 SHE'S A STAR EVERYWHERE

From convincing a local official to allow filming in a Balinese temple to touring Rome's sights, Roberts' name-and face-opened doors. At one church "nobody was ever allowed in," says Murphy. "But the priest saw that it was Julia Roberts, and he was apparently a Pretty Woman fan. He was like, 'Okay, stay.'"

6 MEET THE OTHER MEN IN LIZ'S LIFE

Billy Crudup, as her ex-husband Steven, says he loved the "improvisation" as he and Roberts portrayed a marriage's demise, but he was bummed he didn't get to go to Bali: "I mean, did you see the water?" James Franco croons as her rebound boyfriend Dave. And Richard Jenkins befriended his Texan alter ego, Richard Vogt, Liz's best buddy at the Indian ashram, before Vogt passed away in March. Gilbert calls his performance "extraordinary."

7 LOVE THE MOVIE? TAKE THE TRIP

Eat Pray Love tours have sprung up along Roberts' route. For three grand you can go to Bali and meet the book's shaman (his business is booming). Too far? Resorts such as Florida's Little Palm Island offer EPL-themed getaways.

8 JULIA'S A 'GOOD EATER'

The actress gained 7 lbs. filming in Rome. "They hired a good eater!" she says. For one scene she ate six bowls of pasta, all in one day. "I don't understand this obsession with not eating," she says. "I loved every pound." (For more on the movie's food, see page 77.)

9 THIS PRETTY WOMAN IS A NATURAL

"Making Julia look good isn't hard," says costumer Michael Dennison. In the extreme heat, "I made sure the clothes were as light as possible." And how did Roberts maintain her glow? "Blot, blot, blot," says makeup artist Richard Dean. "Let the heat and the flush rise to add color."

10 WHAT DOES THE AUTHOR THINK?

"It was my book, but it's Julia's movie," says Elizabeth Gilbert, who got emotional in a screening: "The first time Richard from Texas came onscreen, I was weeping."