The film centers around a “shallow” guy named Hal (Jack Black) who gets hypnotized into only being able to see women’s inner beauty so that he no longer fixates on their physiques. He eventually falls in love with Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is overweight — which, of course, he can't see.
Gwyneth wore a fat suit and prosthetics in order to portray Rosemary in the film, and she’s long been open about feeling uncomfortable with the role.
Shortly after the film was released, Gwyneth told W Magazine: “The first day I tried [the fat suit] on, I was in the Tribeca Grand and I walked through the lobby. It was so sad; it was so disturbing. No one would make eye contact with me because I was obese.”
“I felt humiliated because people were really dismissive,” she added, before going on to call the entire film “a disaster” decades later.
But while Gwyneth donned a bodysuit and prosthetics for the role, a then-20-year-old aspiring actor named Ivy Snitzer was the one used to provide footage of close-up shots of Rosemary’s arms, torso, and thighs.
This week, Ivy sat down with the Guardian for an in-depth interview about her experience being Gwyneth’s body double for the film — and she got brutally honest about the horrific effects that the role had on her.
Ivy began by stressing that she felt “really comfortable” while actually shooting the film, and had nice experiences with leading actors Gwyneth and Jack. She did, however, note that a senior member of the production team once took issue with the fact that she was “losing weight” during filming, telling her, “This entire movie is based on you not losing weight!”
But in spite of her (mostly) pleasant interactions on set, things took an awful turn for Ivy once Shallow Hal was actually released.
“It didn’t occur to me that the film would be seen by millions of people,” she said. “It was like the worst parts about being fat were magnified.”
Ivy revealed she was accused of promoting obesity after noting during an interview that “it’s not the worst thing in the world to be fat.” She was later sent “diet pills” by a viewer who’d somehow found her home address, while others mailed her love letters.
“I got really scared,” she recalled. “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.’”
Ivy went on to reveal that two years after Shallow Hal was released, in 2003, she had a gastric band surgery, which tightly restricted the amounts she could eat. “I’m sure I wanted to be small and not seen. I’m sure that’s there, but I don’t ever remember consciously thinking about it,” she said of her decision to get the surgery.
Noting that she ended up “technically starving to death,” Ivy opened up in detail about dealing with multiple eating disorders. “I was so thin you could see my teeth through my face and my skin was all gray,” she said, before later adding, “I kind of alienated a lot of my friends. My mother was also dying; it was bleak. Humans shouldn’t have to experience how very bleak that particular time in my life was.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ivy noted that she hasn’t seen Shallow Hal since it premiered, and that her 13-year-old daughter is “not going” to watch it either.
In fact, Ivy admitted that she feels “scared and sad” that young viewers who watched Shallow Hal may have been left with lasting insecurities as a result of the film’s narrative, which has been described as “offensive” and “anti-fat” over the years.