Page last updated at 07:53 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 08:53 UK

Meryl Streep says bon appetit!

By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

Meryl Streep
Streep believes Julia Child would be a big star today

A film about a frumpy TV chef may not have instant box office appeal.

But combine the story with the tale of a modern-day blogger and cast Meryl Streep in the lead role, and the result is a feel-good flick that is already attracting Oscar buzz.

Julie and Julia is the story of Julia Child, a pioneering TV chef who introduced Americans to French cuisine.

The film, written and produced by Nora Ephron, combines Child's story with the experiences of Julie Powell, a young woman who is searching for a purpose in life through her writing.

Albeit from different ages, the parallel stories highlight the drive and irascibility of two women who are determined to make their mark in life.

Child was a US TV icon - a larger-than-life character who came to television late in life and became a household favourite.

Instant hit

"For one, she was doing something that nobody had done before," says Streep.

"She was cooking on television. It seems hard to believe that was something new."

Child, who trained as a chef in Paris, launched her TV show, The French Chef, in 1963. It became an instant hit.

She had a generous spirit and she shared it with the camera
Meryl Streep on Julia Child

The programme ran for 10 years and won numerous awards.

"It had something to do with her own individual personality which was outsized and generous," says Streep.

"She had a generous spirit and she shared it with the camera.

"It was the days before people knew how to manufacture their image for the screen.

She just appeared. She was already 50 and she was who she was, no apologies."

"She was so inept on television that it became hilarious to watch," adds Ephron.

"You had no idea whether she was going to get through the show."

Child was the US equivalent of Britain's Fanny Cradock, another food enthusiast who became an unlikely TV star.

Eccentric chef

Back in the 1960s, television was a far cry from the reality-obsessed medium of today.

"I think we're so used to, inured to and bored with the packaged. glamorised, generic person that the executive suits think would make a go on television news or information," says Streep.

Nevertheless, the Oscar-winning actress believes Child would still be a success if she was to appear on TV today.

"I think absolutely she would, because we like people who are unapologetically themselves."

Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia
There is already an Oscar buzz surrounding this movie

In sharp contrast to Child's wholesome personality, the intertwining story features a woman who is plagued by the pressures and insecurities of 21st-Century living.

Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, was a disillusioned office worker when she decided to blog about the year she spent cooking all 524 recipes from Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

"This is a common plight of all human beings, but women particularly - to find your purpose and find a reason," says Adams.

"What am I good at? What do it want to do? Who am I?"

Child, who died in 2004 aged 92, never became a global star.

So while her story is well known to Americans, many moviegoers around the world will be introduced to the eccentric chef for the first time.

'Physical imitation'

Streep says she expects audiences to empathise with the two characters, whether they have heard of them or not.

"They were searching for a place to put all of their energy, their imagination, their love and their passion," says the actress.

"They find it, and they find it in front of you. You don't have to know these people to be pulled towards that search."

Julia Child
Julia Child died in 2004 at the age of 92

With Streep in the leading role, it is not surprising the film has attracted early Oscar buzz.

"By now this actress has exhausted every superlative that exists," wrote A O Scott in the New York Times

"Her performance goes beyond physical imitation, though she has the rounded shoulders and the fluting voice down perfectly."

The veteran actress, who has received a record 15 Academy Award nominations, acknowledges that positive reviews will be good for box office business.

"I just want people to see it. There are so many competing voices now for your attention and so many reasons not to go to the movie theatre.

"But I hope all that [buzz] adds to the allure of this quirky film."

Julie and Julia is out in the UK on 11 September.

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