EAT, PRAY, LOVE ADAPTED FROM ELIZABETH GILBERT MEMOIR
Jennifer Salt is the co-screenwriter on the film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, which opens in theaters today. Salt wrote the screenplay with the film's director, Ryan Murphy, the creator of the TV series Nip/Tuck and Glee. Salt was a regular writer and co-producer for Nip/Tuck.
Salt, of course, is a staple of the early films of Brian De Palma, having appeared in his first feature length project, The Wedding Party, in 1963 (released in 1969), which was made while both attended Sarah Lawrence College (according to Brooks Barnes at the New York Times, De Palma and Salt briefly dated during this time). In 1964, De Palma made a short film about her called Jennifer, and Salt subsequently appeared in De Palma's Murder a la Mod, Hi, Mom!, and Sisters, the latter having been imagined by De Palma specifically with her and Margot Kidder in mind to play the leads. She also appeared in a film written by her late father, Waldo Salt, 1969's Midnight Cowboy, which costarred her then-boyfriend Jon Voight (Salt would appear in one more film with Voight, Paul Williams' The Revolutionary, released the same year as the similarly-themed Hi, Mom!). Salt told Backstage's Jenelle Riley that her father had originally thought of a small role for her in Midnight Cowboy, but that role became bigger when she met with director John Schlesinger. Barnes' New York Times article, which features quotes from De Palma, briefly discusses this early part of Salt's career:
The early 1970s found [Salt] living (and partying) in Malibu, Calif., with Margot Kidder, who would go on to play Lois Lane in three “Superman” films. Drawn by Ms. Salt’s cooking and both women’s tendency to sunbathe topless were some dudes: Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg. (“To see those pale city boys running around on the beach with no clothes on was so charming,” Ms. Salt recalled. Said Mr. De Palma, “She cooked so well she could get us to do almost anything.”)
Salt went into television, acting for a long time on the TV series Soap before becoming disillusioned with it all, and eventually realizing that she never really wanted to be an actress after all. Here is how she told it to Riley at Backstage:
"I was doing nice guest shots on TV, but it just wasn't happening in a creative and fulfilling way," she says. "The roles I was up for—mostly mom roles—were dreary. And my enthusiasm for working on them and for auditions was very low." She had an epiphany. "Over the course of your life, you realize more and more who you are and how you want to spend your time," she reflects. "And it became clearer and clearer that I was very unhappy as an actress and didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. When I was younger I thought it was because I wasn't successful enough. But as I got older I realized it had more to do with the fact that I just didn't love it."
The two interview articles linked to above are great, and for another really great interview in which Salt discusses working with De Palma in depth, check out Cult Film Freak. The undated interview appears to be from around the late 2000's (maybe even 2009). When asked which of the directors she worked with provided the most freedom for an actor, Salt replies:
Without a doubt, Brian De Palma. Back in the late 60's and early 70's there was much more freedom in filmmaking. Brian was always experimenting with new ideas and wanted equal input from everyone. He was willing to hear and try nearly anything you could think of that might help. But I also worked on more than one film with him, so we trusted each other very much and over time we created a formula that worked between us. There was chemistry there by the time production began on Sisters. John [Schlesinger] was also equally open to ideas and he was focused on getting naturalness out of the performances of his actors. But during the duration of the shooting of Midnight Cowboy John was also battling some personal issues that often hampered the flow of the film's progress. Some of the best directors I have ever had the chance to work with were those in television. Many of them are now making theatrical films. There was at least back then much more room for improvisation in television than there is now.
When asked which of her roles she likes best, Salt replied:
I loved playing “Judy Bishop” [in Brian De Palma’s Hi Mom!]. Of course who wouldn't want to work with Bobby De Niro? Naturally back then he was pretty much an unknown, but I still can't believe I shared the screen at one time with him. Of course I still say “Grace Collier” [Sisters] is up there at the top of my short list as well.