The Movie Shallow Hal
Shallow Hal, starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow in her obese costume, was released in 2001. It is a film that today (hopefully) could not be made. Black plays a character who is hypnotized to not see Rosemary (Paltrow) as an overweight person and falls in love with her: the entire premise turns the film into a long joke about fat people.
Ivy Snitzer’s Experience on Set
Today, Ivy Snitzer, the woman who played Paltrow’s body double in the film 20 years ago when she was studying acting, has revealed to The Guardian that she suffered from an eating disorder and underwent a weight loss surgery so badly botched that she almost died. Although Snitzer had the surgery after Shallow Hal was released, she still speaks fondly of her experience on set, where she felt “really important, as if they couldn’t do the movie without me.” Black was “lovely,” Paltrow was “very kind,” and according to The Guardian, the actress even complimented Snitzer on her acting. At the time, she had no qualms about the premise of the film, in fact she was excited to see an overweight person portrayed in Rosemary, Paltrow’s character. “She was cool, she was popular, she had friends,” Snitzer said, whereas almost all fat people she saw represented on screen back then were “bad guys.”
The Aftermath of Shallow Hal’s Release
Before Shallow Hal’s release, Snitzer helped promote the film and declared in some interviews that “being fat isn’t the worst thing in the world,” which infuriated some people. In response, as The Guardian reports, she was told she was “promoting obesity.” Someone sent her diet pills to her home address, others sent love letters: two things that “scared” her equally. Shortly after the filming ended, Snitzer says she went overboard with purging and exercise. Then, in 2003, she got a gastric bypass surgery, though she told The Guardian that the surgery was not a direct consequence of being in the movie. The reason she got it, she said, was that she was trying to be a “good fat person”: “I had to do it! If you’re fat, you have to try not to be fat.” Snitzer says that eventually the bypass came out of place and twisted, but she, after moving to Los Angeles with her co-screenwriter, was without health insurance. She had to wait three months after getting an office job before she could get insurance that would allow her to have the surgery that would save her life. During that time, she says, she couldn’t eat much. “I was so skinny that you could see my teeth through my face and I had all gray skin,” she told The Guardian. “And I was always really mean. I pushed away a lot of friends.”