The Hundred-Foot Journey has hit the big screen today and sees actress Charlotte Le Bon star in her first American movie project. The film sees her team up with director Lasse Hallström, while Helen Mirren, Om Puri and Manish Dayal are also on the cast list.
We caught up with the actress to chat about the film, why she chose not to read the book on which the film is based, and working with Hallström for the first time.
- The Hundred-Foot Journey is about to hit the big screen, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
The Hundred-Foot Journey follows an Indian family who leave India and move to London for a year, before moving to a little village in the south of France. Here they open a restaurant, which is right in front of a very well known and established French restaurant, which is owned by the fabulous and marvellous Helen Mirren.
I play a sous chef in this restaurant and I will fall in love the main character - played by Manish Dayal - and we are going to share our love and passion for food. At some point, this character is going to enter Madame Mallory’s kitchen and there is going to be some competition.
- You take on the role of Marguerite in the film, so what was it about this character and Steven Knight's script that was the initial appeal?
Actually, it was more of the names on the paper at first (laughs), if I am being honest. I think I would have been totally crazy to refuse a movie that is produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and starring Helen Mirren. This was also my first American production.
Just to play someone with so much passion is also pretty cool to do actually. It is difficult to have dreams and there are not many people who have a very special dream and a very special passion. I think that is such a luxury and I was happy to just incarnate this type of person.
- I was actually going to ask you about the fact that this is your first American project. How have you found the whole experience?
I was really really excited. I could have gone into a very dark space and been really nervous and end up doing really bad stuff as a result, but I decided to be happy and excited and motivated. I was pretty overwhelmed by everything that was happening.
You usually make jokes about the fact that Steven Spielberg has called you to tell you that you have got the part, but this was real life. So, I was pretty happy about it.
- The movie is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Richard C. Morais, how familiar were you with the novel? How much did you use the book as you were developing this character?
I didn’t know the book before I read the script. Actually, when I learned that I had got the part, I called my mother and I told her that I had got it and she said ‘is it based on a novel or something?’ When I told her, it was she like ‘ok, I am going to read the novel and I will call you back’.
Five days later she called back to say ‘I have read the book, don’t read the book’ and I was like ‘why?’ And she said ‘because your character in the novel is not as important as in the script. Your character also finishes in a very dark space so I don’t want you to read the book and be influenced by the writing of the author’. So I just listened to my mother and didn’t read the novel (laughs).
- Marguerite is a sous chef in the film, so did you do any special preparation for the role?
We had some little cooking lessons with Manish near the village where we were shooting the film. Also, I went to my friend’s French restaurant in Paris. I went there for two days and observed and took notes.
It was really more about body language; it really doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to cook a steak, you have to act as if you know how to cook a steak. It was really more about leaning how to move in the kitchen, give orders, and basically be a leader.
- Lasse Hallström is back in the director's chair for the film, how did you find working with him?
He is wonderful; he is such a wonderful wonderful man. There really are just no worlds to describe it. He is the most romantic man that I have ever met. He is so sensible, very attentive, and he is able to put you in a bubble and make you believe that you are along on this ride with him.
He really did make you feel like you were his partner in the whole process. I don’t know, he is amazing. He knows exactly what he wants and has so many ideas. He made me trust myself a lot as an actress as well, which was really precious.
I learnt a lot from him. He gave me a lot of comfort and he really made me trust my instincts a lot - that resulted in me being able to take more risks.
We would do many shots for all of the scenes and you have to change some things and look deeper inside yourself to come up with something original each time. I believe that because of him I really was able to do that.
- I was wondering how collaborative a process it was between yourself and the director? Was he open to you bringing ideas to the character and to scenes?
Yes, he was really really open. We actually had dinner before we started shooting and he said that he found the character in the script was pretty boring.
He said ‘that is the reason that I choose you because I think that the personality that you have in real live will allow you to bring something else to her.’ I thought that was really flattering, at first, and then it took a lot of pressure off my shoulders because I could just be myself.
- The Hundred-Foot Journey also sees Helen Mirren lead a great cast list, so did you find the opportunity to work with her?
It was amazing and she was part of the reason why I accepted the movie. Sadly, I only had four scenes with her. We were just talking about confidence, and she is just the definition of confidence and is just so beautiful. She is the type of woman who owns the place all of the time and you don’t want to mess with her.
Also, she is incredibly generous and she would talk with us about the scenes before we shot them, and she would ask us what we were thinking about it. There was a real exchange between her and us, and that really did make us feel great.
- As I said, the movie is released today, so how are you finding the early response to the film?
I have been in Africa for a month so I have no idea how it is going. I really don’t like to look at numbers - I think it is pretty absurd as it is not by job; I am not a producer.
I am pretty selfish when it comes to the experience, and I was very happy with the shooting, with the work that I did, working with Spielberg, working with the amazing Lasse Hallström, and becoming friends with Manish. I am just happy that all that went well.
- You have also completed work on The Walk, so can you tell me a bit about that? The film sees you work with another great director in Robert Zemeckis.
Yeah!! We finished shooting a month ago. We shot the movie in Montreal, which was nice because that is where I was born and raised: we shot there for two months. Once again, it is about working with those directors who have so much experience but they are still very humble and nice: which is not always the case when you become that kind of genius.
Robert just knows exactly what he wants because he has his storyboard in his head. It is really easy and really comforting to work with someone like that because they have so much confidence in what he is doing.
Working with the cast was great and we really did have a lot of fun. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is probably the most professional and coolest guy that I have ever met (laughs). It was great working with him. Once again, I am very selfish about this experience because it was perfect and I couldn’t have asked for more.
- Finally, what's next for you going through the rest of this year?
I have no idea, and that is very exciting. I think I am going to work on my… I am an illustrator as well and do some street art, so I think I am just going to put a lot of energy into that field for a while.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is out now.