Warning: This article includes mentions of eating disorders and depression
Ivy Snitzer, who acted as Gwyneth Paltrow’s body double in the 2001 Jack Black film Shallow Hal has revealed that she developed an eating disorder after the movie’s release.
Speaking to The Guardian in a new interview, Snitzer – who was 20 at the time of the film’s release – spoke of the film’s impact on her health. While Paltrow wore a body suit modelled after Snitzer for most of the film, Snitzer appeared in the film during close-up shows that focused on specific body parts of Paltrow’s character Rosemary.
In the film, Jack Black’s character is portrayed to be a misogynistic, materialistic man who only values women for their physical beauty. After being put in a trance, he falls for Rosemary (Paltrow), who is portrayed to be an obese woman to the world while only Black sees her as a slender woman.
Reflecting on the film’s premise, Snitzer said “at that point, if you saw someone obese in a movie, they were a villain,” but she felt good about the role at the time as Rosemary “was cool, she was popular, she had friends”.
Snitzer clarified that she was treated well on the set, and that the film’s cast and crew “treated me like I really mattered, like they couldn’t make the movie without me”. According to Snitzer, Jack Black was “a delightful person” and Paltrow was “really nice”.
However, her feelings on being involved with the film quickly turned sour after its release: “It didn’t occur to me that the film would be seen by millions of people. It was like the worst parts about being fat were magnified.”
Following Shallow Hal‘s release, Snitzer was offered roles for other films but said the casting directors were “mean … 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. I just want to make people laugh; I don’t want to make people sad.”
Things took an even more drastic turn when she developed an eating disorder in 2003, saying she was “technically starving to death”. That year, she underwent a gastric band surgery to reduce the size of her stomach but “got a torsion – like dogs get and then die” after the band slipped post-surgery.
Following stints in the hospital for malnutrition, depression, isolation and a second surgery, Snitzer began to put on weight to get back to a health and soon turned her life around, meeting her husband of 13 years just months after she began socialising with friends again.
Looking back on the entire order of filming the movie, developing her eating disorder and then working to recover from it, Snitzer told The Guardian: “I love that it’s a cool thing I did one time. 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.”
In March 2020, Gwyneth Paltrow said the film was a particular low point in her career, describing it as a “disaster.” Paltrow explained how she was treated differently while wearing her character’s fat suit, and in turn making her feel humiliated.
“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.
For help and advice on mental health:
- CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably
- Help Musicians UK – Around the clock mental health support and advice for musicians (CALL MUSIC MINDS MATTER ON: 0808 802 8008)
- Music Support Org – Help and support for musicians struggling with alcoholism, addiction, or mental health issues (CALL: 0800 030 6789)
- YOUNG MINDS – The voice for young people’s health and wellbeing
- Time To Change – Let’s end mental health discrimination
- The Samaritans – Confidential support 24 hours a day