Gwyneth Paltrow's stunt double in the 2001 romantic comedy film Shallow Hal has opened up about experiencing eating disorders and her mental health deteriorating after the film achieved success in its release.
In case you're unfamiliar with the film, Shallow Hal follows a man, played by Jack Black, who falls in love with a 300-pound woman named Rosemary, portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow, after being hypnotized into only seeing a person's inner beauty.
Paltrow wore a body suit for scenes in the film featuring her face, but for close-ups of Rosemary’s arms, torso and thighs, then-aspiring actress Ivy Snitzer was used.
The now 42-year-old insurance agency owner in Philadelphia was just 20 years old when Shallow Hal was being produced, having auditioned for the film in hopes of pursuing comedy.
In an interview with The Guardian, Snitzer said she was not fazed by the premise of the movie and said that it felt progressive at the time.
"At that point, if you saw someone obese in a movie, they were a villain," she said, whereas Rosemary "was cool, she was popular, she had friends."
While she had zero negative memories of shooting the film as the crew made her "feel really comfortable," everything changed when Shallow Hal hit theaters after wrapping up production.
"It didn’t occur to me that the film would be seen by millions of people," Snitzer said. "It was like the worst parts about being fat were magnified."
To promote the film, Snitzer had been invited to give TV and magazine interviews, but this also led her to be approached and harassed by strangers on the street, who criticized her for encouraging obesity and sent diet pills to her address.
Two years later, in 2003, Snitzer had gastric band surgery that reduced the size of her stomach and restricted what she could eat. However, things turned messy when the procedure incurred complications that led doctors to remove a part of her stomach. This forced her to eat "weird tiny portions" in addition to not being able to eat and drink at the same time.
"I was so thin you could see my teeth through my face and my skin was all grey," Snitzer said. "It was bleak. Humans shouldn’t have to experience how very bleak that particular time in my life was."
But why go through the surgery in the first place?
"Because I was supposed to! If you’re fat, you’re supposed to try to not be," Snitzer explained.
She further shared that when Shallow Hal ended, it influenced a change in her diet. "I hated my body the way I was supposed to. I ate a lot of salads. I had eating disorders that I was very proud of."
Despite this, Snitzer said that working on the film was empowering for her because of what happened off-screen, not on it.
"Out of all of the fat people in the world that they could have hired for that job, they hired me, because of my personality. Before, I had to fight really hard to be seen as a personality and not just my size," she highlighted.
"It didn’t make me feel bad about myself. Until you know, other people started telling me I probably should have felt bad about myself," she added.
Now, Snitzer stressed that she has now "found a lot of stability in between the two extremes" of her past and is delighted at the recent rise of body positivity over the years.
While it was a box-office success, Shallow Hal was heavily criticized when it premiered in theaters and was labeled as fat-phobic. Paltrow also spoke negatively about working on the film and called it a "disaster."
"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," she said.