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Interview with the cast on the making of ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’

We attended the interview as a guest of Disney

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Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

If you consider yourself a “foodie” who is prone to fantasizing about living in a quaint French village, do yourself a favor and mark this date on your calendar… Friday, August 8th. This is the day that The Hundred-Foot Journey will open in theaters and it will take you on a stunning journey feeding your heart, mind, eyes, and soul. The movie Produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Juliet Blake and Directed by Lasse Hallström tells the story of an Indian family who following a tragic event flee their home in Mumbai and after wondering for some time begin to set down roots in a town in the South of France where they land by happenstance and open a restaurant. Their Indian restaurant, Maison Mumbai is directly across from a Michelin starred French restaurant, Le Saule Pleureur owned by the icy Madame Mallory, played by Dame Helen Mirren.

Recently, we were able to sit with three of the movie’s cast members including Mirren, Manish Dayal, and Charlotte Le Bon to discuss what it was like working on the film and how they prepared for their roles.

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Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

 In the movie, both Le Bon and Dayal, play young chefs… Marguerite, a classically trained, French sous chef who is working for Madame Mallory, and Hassan, a naturally gifted prodigy who is encouraged at a young age by his mother in their restaurant in Mumbai and whose own star begins to rise as he merges the food of his homeland with the cuisine of his new found home in France.

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Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

To prepare for their roles, both Le Bon and Dayal went through a great deal of training in the kitchen and worked with French cooking consultants. And what did they learn? For Le Bon, being a great chef is all about tapping into your inner leader and being someone who fosters teamwork. She adds, “Cooking is really about gestures and body language. And it helps to have an attitude.”

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Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

Dayal contrasted how working in an Indian kitchen is entirely different than working in a French kitchen. “In an Indian kitchen, you’re just trying to get the job done. You move wherever you need to get the dish cooked the best possible way.” He continued that in a French kitchen, “There is a place to stand, a specific way to stand to be out of the next person’s way so that everything can kind of function like a puzzle… In a French kitchen, you are more still and there are several tight movements.”

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Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

This difference, highlights one of the central themes of the movie which is the divide of two cultures… two restaurants with opposing approaches to food, and two owners, who are feuding but who share much more in common than they thought.

For Mirren, who shared her love for the French and their culture and confesses to having tried to become a French actress in her late 20’s at one point even moving to Paris for a year, playing the role of Madame Mallory was something she “particularly wanted to do because of the French quotient.”

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Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

In the movie, Madame Mallory is this very proper, chic French woman confronted with what she initially sees as an offensive brash, foreigner, Papa played by Om Puri, whose restaurant is jarring to her own sensibilities. Yet you see a genuine chemistry between the two actors in the film and when asked about how she went about establishing that with Om, Helen shared that it was easy saying, “He’s a lovely guy. He loves to make feasts and he’s a big family man and he just makes everyone around him into his family. He has that quality that he has on screen in real life of just being this guy that loves life, loves food, loves women, loves family… you know that kind of a guy. So he’s just a complete delight to be around.”

Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

This genuine affection for working with Om was echoed by Le Bon, who talked about the traditional Indian dinners Om invited his film family to at his home each Sunday during filming and also by Dayal, who says that working with Om “was probably the most fun I had. We just played pranks… he just makes me feel like a kid.” You get the sense from talking with the cast that Om’s larger than life persona on screen is very much who he is in real life.

Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

Likewise, Dayal and Le Bon shared equally warm sentiments about working with Dame Helen Mirren. Let’s face it acting with a legend could be pretty intimidating, but Le Bon and Dayal shared how giving, warm and witty she is. Dayal saying “She cracks a lot of jokes and she’s really funny and she’s down to earth. And I think she just sort of really elevated my game when we were working together.” With Le Bon adding, “She’s very generous too. She’s really, really generous. And she’s you know, asking yourself (sic) questions about like, ‘…do you agree with what I’m proposing?…’ You know, and there’s a real like teamwork with her. I want to be like that when I grow up.”

Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

In listening to each of the cast share stories, it’s clear just how much they genuinely enjoyed working with one another and with Director Lasse Hallström. And just as the international cast of Mirren who is English, Le Bon who is French Canadian, Manish who is American, and Om who is from India as Mirren put it, became “one big family” in large part due to Om and his “wonderful personality”, so too do their characters become a “family”; and watching their journey is soul satisfying, often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking and always mouthwatering.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is Rated PG and will open August 8 in a theater near you.

Dana Wilde grew up playing “sous chef” for her father as he churned out one amazing meal after the next for family and friends. She inherited her father’s life long passion for cooking and has spent the past two decades studying, reading, practicing, experimenting, and creating in the kitchen. Together, she and her sister, Shan are Simply Wilde, a small boutique catering business focusing on in-home entertaining.

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