Food presents unique challenges for crew

Food plays a major role in some films. It looks appetizing in pics like “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Chocolat.” In others, like “Fast Food Nation” and “Supersize Me,” it is cast as a villain.

But in “Julie & Julia,” food is a more complicated character. From the early scene of sole sizzling in butter that greets Julia Child in mid-20th century Paris to the dishes at the candle-lit dinner on Julie Powell’s Queens rooftop near the film’s end, food pleases palates, launches careers and strengthens the bonds of marriage.

For the craftspeople working on the film, shot mostly at Silvercup Studios in Queens, food’s sheer importance presented unique challenges.

“The food had its own presence,” says production designer Mark Ricker. “I had to provide a foundation for it. I designed the kitchens to be as usable as possible in order to support the food itself.”

In researching the portions of “Julie & Julia” set in Paris, Ricker found detailed photos of the kitchens where Child, played by Meryl Streep, practiced her cooking. To re-create the Queens home of Powell, played by Amy Adams, Ricker visited Powell’s old apartment.

Once he finished the sets for the aspiring chefs to work their magic, Ricker says he “stayed out of the way” and let other members of the crew do their thing.

Prop master Diana Burton, who was in charge of everything from Le Creuset pots to silverware, “was the glue that held it all together,” says Ricker. “She made sure everything was right for the proper presentation of the food.”

Other collaborators included consulting food stylist Susan Spungen, formerly food editor at Martha Stewart Living, and Colin Flynn, who has the unique film credit of executive chef.

Spungen helped the filmmakers achieve verisimilitude. “If it didn’t look right when they sharpened a knife, I would say, ‘hold it like this.'”

And the food itself had to meet standards of believability. “My job is not making food look good but making it look delicious,” says Spungen. Julie was allowed to make mistakes. “She’s a home cook, still learning. We didn’t want things to look too good, and we did a lot of messing up in the kitchen to make it look real.”

Signings & Bookings

Production designer Kalina Ivanov (Emmy-nommed for “Grey Gardens”) is booked to work on Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator,” which he’ll start helming in Savannah, Ga., in October. Buzz pegs pic’s budget at $20 million. Ivanov is repped by Marsh, Best… Dattner Dispoto has signed production designers Jeff Mann (“Tropic Thunder,” “Transformers”) and Brian Branstetter, as well as dp Jon Joffin (“The Andromeda Strain”).

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DI colorist Maxine Gervais, formerly of now-defunct Pacific Title, has landed at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging, the studio’s digital post and restoration unit. She’s currently doing the DI on Warner Bros.’ and Alcon Entertainment’s “Book of Eli.” Earlier credits include “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

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Signings at Paradigm: director/editor Mark Helfrich (“Rush Hour” 1 through 3, “X-Men: The Last Stand”); dp’s Sergey Trofimov (“Mongol”) and Mark Irwin (“Dumb and Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary”); production designer Franco Carbone (“Rocky Balboa,” “The Expendables”); and editor Julian Clarke (“District 9″).

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Colorist Milan Boncich has joined Gotham post house Offhollywood, which is set up for Red camera-based workflow. He previously worked at Tape House and Post Logic.

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