20th Century Fox Ivy Snitzer and Jack Black in 2001
Ivy Snitzer is speaking out about the mental and physical toll her role in the hit 2001 comedy Shallow Hal had on her in the wake of the film's success.
The then-aspiring actress was just 20 when she was cast as Gwyneth Paltrow's body double in the Farelly Brothers' rom-com. While Paltrow wore a body suit and prosthetics to portray Rosemary, a plus-size woman who catches the eye of a man hypnotized to see only inner beauty, Snitzer was used for body shots and close-ups of her arms, torso, and thighs.
In a new interview with The Guardian, Snitzer revealed that although she was made to feel "really comfortable" on set, she went on to develop eating disorders following the film's release. Two years after it hit theaters, Snitzer said, she was "technically starving to death."
"It didn't occur to me that the film would be seen by millions of people," she told the outlet. "It was like the worst parts about being fat were magnified."
20th Century Fox 'Shallow Hal'
The comedy — which plays Rosemary's weight for laughs as Jack Black's titular Hal falls in love while failing to perceive her size — influenced a change in Snitzer's diet. "I hated my body the way I was supposed to," she recalled. "I ate a lot of salads. I had eating disorders that I was very proud of."
In 2003, Snitzer had gastric band surgery, which reduced the size of her stomach and restricted what she could eat. As a result, she endured serious complications including a torsion, or twisted stomach, making it difficult for her to keep food down.
"I was so thin you could see my teeth through my face and my skin was all grey," she explained.
Snitzer was a Los Angeles-based acting student when she landed the role, and had hopes of pursuing comedy. The experience of filming itself was largely positive: she credited the cast and crew for their kindness, saying they "treated me like I really mattered, like they couldn't make the movie without me." She called Black "a delightful person." Paltrow was "really nice" and regularly complimented her acting.
That said, she also recalled an instance in which a senior production member hugged her, noticed she was losing weight, and unhappily remarked, "This entire movie is based on you not losing weight!"
Vince Bucci/Getty Images Actress Ivy Snitzer attends the premiere of 'Shallow Hal'
Following Shallow Hal's release, Snitzer was targeted by those who accused her of promoting obesity. She was mailed, amongst other things, diet pills.
"I got really scared," she said. "I was like: maybe I'm done with the concept of fame, maybe I don't want to be an actor. Maybe I'll do something else."
The desire to further her Hollywood ambitions was also squashed by the offers she received, which had no connection to her comedic aspirations.
"I didn't want to play a woman who was so ugly and lonely that she molested young boys because that was the only way she could get affection," Snitzer said of the "mean" offers that casting directors sent her.
The film's depiction of a plus-size woman was heavily criticized at the time of its release, with some labeling it fat-phobic. Sally E. Smith, editor of the now defunct BBW Magazine spoke to EW about the film in 2001, saying, "The moral of the story is lovely, but that's not good enough."
She continued, "Every stereotype about fat people is reinforced. Plus-size women don't break chairs all the time, and we aren't compulsively eating. There are many reasons why people are larger than average, and food consumption isn't a major reason."
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