| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Aug 6 Helen Mirren, the
Oscar-winning British actress who has played queens, aristocrats
and a middle-aged calendar girl, finally got to portray what her
heart long desired: a Frenchwoman.
In Walt Disney Co's food romance "The Hundred-Foot
Journey," which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, Mirren dons
the steely countenance of Madame Mallory, a proprietor of a
Michelin-starred restaurant in Southern France who feuds with
the Indian family that takes over the defunct restaurant across
The feel-good tale of cultural and culinary fusion also
stars actors Om Puri and Indian-American Manish Dayal, and was
made with the backing of Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey as
The 69-year-old Mirren spoke to Reuters about playing a
Frenchwoman, how she chooses her roles and why a poorly reviewed
film is easier to endure for an actor than a panned play.
Q: What drew you to the film?
A: There were a lot of attractions. The first phone call
that came was from Steven Spielberg. It's like that classic
moment, (whispers) "Steven Spielberg! Oh, yes!"
And then very rapidly after that came all kinds of goodies:
It was being shot in France; I got to play a Frenchwoman - I've
always wanted to play a Frenchwoman. It was a wonderful, light,
comedic but serious story.
Q: What's so intriguing about playing a Frenchwoman?
A: I speak French very well. I love France. I'm a
Francophile. I have worked in France in the theater, and I've
always wanted to be a French actress. Not a British or an
American actress, I wanted to be French or an Italian actress. I
couldn't, so this is the closest I could get.
I like the way the French think of women, and I like the way
women are approached in French movies. There seems to be a
sophistication, an elegance and a reality and a complexity about
female characters in French movies that you don't often find in
Q: What complexity did you find in your character?
A: Just the fact that she runs a restaurant, she's a woman
of substance, she's a very opinionated woman, but she's
fundamentally decent but with her very French idea of the
correct way to do things. The French can be very strict about
what it means to be French. But when in the film that is
translated into nationalism or racism, she understands the fault
Q: How do you go about choosing your roles?
A: It depends what I had just done, and usually what I
choose to do next is a reaction against what I had just done to
try and find something a bit different. Where it is and how good
a role it is and who it's with.
Q: Do you have a preference for stage or film work?
A: I prefer film nowadays, just because theater is so bloody
exhausting and all-consuming and you can't go anywhere or do
anything and it seems endless ... Every two or three years I've
made sure I do theater again because it's too scary if you leave
it for too long, you just lose your nerve.
Q: Why is theater so unnerving?
A: The good thing is that if a film gets terrible reviews,
you say, 'Well, it's not my fault.' In theater, you have to step
up and go out there and do it, good reviews or bad reviews.
That's psychologically tough. I love film. I love the fact that
you really have no idea whether it's working or not.
Q: Are there differences working on U.S. and British films?
A: Not really. The costume person is the same in France,
Italy, Germany, Australia. The grip is the same guy. The
cinematographer always wears a leather jacket, male or female,
always. They're the same characters. It's funny. And the
journalists always look like you.
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Ken Wills)