Glee is all Ryan Murphy must be feeling these days. Already on fire from his gay-worshipped TV megahit, the 44-year-old director’s second feature, “Eat Pray Love,” adapted from the wildly popular memoir and out Aug. 13, is soul-searching summer movie bait relishing in delicious dishes (not just James Franco), picturesque landscapes and Julia Roberts. The actress plays the book’s author, Elizabeth Gilbert, as she leaves her frazzled life behind for a globetrotting jaunt, some solitude and a good plate of pasta.
Go figure, then, that Murphy – who made his film debut in 2006 with “Running with Scissors” while cutting through TV, before he created “Glee,” with “Nip/Tuck” – is nibbling on some strawberries from somewhere just as exotic: the Bardessono hotel tucked away in the quaint Napa Valley, Calif. There, during our one-on-one chat, he dishes on his connection to “Eat Pray Love,” how other queer people might relate to the movie and his plans for gaying up Season 2 of “Glee,” regardless of what the world thinks.
There’s a running theme of self-discovery in all your projects, from “Running with Scissors” to “Glee” and now with “Eat Pray Love.” Why do you gravitate toward that subject?
I always figure that out when I’m coming out with something. I don’t know why. I think honestly because I’m from Indiana and I grew up with big dreams, and in my work I do reinvent myself all the time and I try to figure out my life with my work.
With “Eat Pray Love,” the book covers a lot more history, spirituality and characters than the film. What did you feel was most important to take from the book and adapt for the movie?
We did focus groups with women who loved the book – many, many women. In a book that’s become a classic and a bible to so many women, you have an obligation to them, so I had a list of like 10 parts of the book that had to go in. And then Liz Gilbert (thought) the scene where Julia cries on the bathroom floor was the most important scene for her in the movie, because she felt that in her travels that’s the scene that women came up to her the most to discuss.
You’ve left your gay mark on this movie, too, by including references to Cher and Liza and a nice, gratuitous visual: a man’s hot ass.
Look, I love a good Liza joke. The Cher thing is in the book. The ass shot: What can I say?
How do you think gay people can relate to Elizabeth’s self-searching journey?
Gay men typically (go on) a lot of searches – coming out of the closet and then getting a partner. I never really had those issues for myself because I always just was what I was and dealt with it when I was 15. I do think gay men by and large are probably more tuned into their emotional feelings, and the book really moved me because I went through a horrible, horrible breakup. The worst one I’ve ever had.
That idea for gay men of finding balance is very, very important – and hard, because there’s no template for it. None of us have any role models, really. When you’re a heterosexual, you have your parents, you have society. When you’re gay, you don’t. And so you have to figure it out as you go along. That’s what the book is about: Who do I want to become? And that’s what she learns. I really related to that.
Do you always have a personal connection to your projects?
I have to or I can’t do them. I really had a personal connection with “Running with Scissors” that I later found out was my mother – the wrong reason to do a movie, by the way. I had a really deep connection with “Nip/Tuck”; I just loved the themes of it – the themes of self-loathing and physicality. And I really have a deep connection to “Glee.” I’ve sung my whole life, I acted, all that. That’s the optimistic side of my personality. The best part of me is that show. And I really had a connection to this book. I loved it before I even got the job offer.
Have you been offered the film adaptation of “Wicked,” as it’s been said?
No, no, no. They’re in no rush to make that movie.
You’re in the prospective directors pool, though, right?
So I’m told. I find it very flattering. I just read that, but I haven’t been contacted yet. I love “Wicked” and I’ve done songs from the show on “Glee.” I love what it’s about. It’s about female empowerment, and my work is about empowerment. I’d be thrilled if I was offered it. I would not expect it.
Speaking of “Glee,” it’s been said that Kurt’s boyfriend has been pushed back. Is he still getting one in Season 2?
He is – probably toward the end. I can only speak from experience, but he’s in that mode of wanting a boyfriend and when people do that, it never happens. Only when you let go does it come. He’s so desperate for it that the more he pushes for it the more the universe will deprive him of that – and that’s what happens when you’re 16 years old. I want him to struggle with it and finally give up. When he gives up is when it’s going to happen. That’s always been the way it is for me.
And the Brittany/Santana kiss that’s been all the talk – will it involve tongue?
Oh yeah. Listen, I know on a show like “Modern Family” that seems to be a big debate, which I think is ridiculous. I don’t even understand why that’s even, in this day and age, a discussion. I remember we were writing about that 15 years ago when “Roseanne” was on the air. Have we not progressed? It’s not a big deal anymore! Why do you need a Facebook campaign about two men kissing? That’s hideous. I might just have them kiss in every episode just to show people that the earth didn’t stop moving. Maybe because I’m gay it’s my job to be the person who does that.