THE HOLLYWOOD STAR SAVOURS HER LATEST ROLE AS THE OWNER OF A FANCY FRENCH RESTAURANT
Dame Helen Mirren begins with a food metaphor when talking about her latest film, The Hundred-Foot Journey.
“A film is like a souffle,” Mirren says. “Obviously, it mustn’t collapse. But, it also has to have some substance to it. I think that this film does have quite serious themes running through. One of those themes is ‘love thy neighbour’ and I think that is one of the hardest things to do.
“It sounds easy but when your neighbour plays loud music and cooks with curry and you don’t like the smell of it, then it becomes hard to love thy neighbour.”
In Hundred-Foot Journey, Mirren plays Madame Mallory, the owner of a much-touted restaurant in a small town in the south of France that faces competition from an Indian restaurant that opens across the road.
Director Lasse Hallstrom, through food, looks at love, life, family, racism and even a little politics. Comparing cooking and acting makes sense to Mirren because both start with basic ingredients that must be blended together properly.
A chef and actor add their own spice and in the end offer up a presentation they hope will be loved.
“I came to realise while making this film that a chef, like a great writer or a great painter or a great musician, is a great artist. They also share the same kind of obsessions, the same kind of singlemindedness about what they are doing,” Mirren says.
“I would say if there is a difference, a chef is more obsessed.” She pauses, smiles and then adds, “And they both live and die by the critics and word of mouth.”
Mirren’s faced years of reviews since beginning her acting career with the Royal
I CAME TO REALISE THAT A CHEF, LIKE A GREAT WRITER OR A GREAT PAINTER OR A GREAT MUSICIAN, IS A GREAT ARTIST
Shakespeare Company in the late ’60s. She’s considered to be one of the best actresses working, but when she receives a negative review it’s like a “dagger to the heart”.
Mirren is not a great cook herself, but she does love reading cookbooks and watching cooking TV shows.
She loves the idea of cooking, but she says it seems so time consuming - planning, shopping, unloading the shopping, preparing the meal and cleaning up.
“It’s really lovely when someone else does the cooking,” she says.
Landing the role of the French restaurant owner brought Mirren a little closer to a lifelong dream of being a French actress.
The Hundred-Foot Journey opens today.
Helen Mirren stars as chef and restaurant owner Madame Mallory.