Food talk with Helen Mirren | Inquirer Entertainment
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Food talk with Helen Mirren

By: - Columnist
/ 12:06 AM July 26, 2014

MIRREN. “I’ve always had a secret desire to be a French actress.” RUBEN V. NEPALES

LOS ANGELES—In Helen Mirren’s new film, “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” she plays the chef proprietress of a restaurant in the south of France, so our chat veered toward food. While in the Lasse Hallstrom-directed production, Helen’s Madame Mallory protests against the new Indian restaurant a hundred feet from her Michelin-starred French establishment, the actress loves Indian food in real life.

“The first restaurant that my husband (director Taylor Hackford) and I go to when we go back to England is an Indian restaurant,” enthused the Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actress in a recent LA interview. She was beautiful, as usual, in a white Dolce & Gabbana lace dress and sandals.


“The only food I miss when I’m away from England is Indian food,” said the Dame. “To me, Indian food has become British food. It’s synonymous with my country. That’s what I desire.”


In the film adaptation of Richard C. Morais’ novel of the same title, Helen plays a famous chef but she said that, at home, she is “not a great cook at all. Soup is about my level of cooking. I’m half-Russian, so there’s some Eastern European thing in me. I do love Eastern European food. It’s not the height of cuisine, far from it, really—Polish, Ukrainian, Russian and German food, to a certain extent.”

But, Helen proudly claimed that she does not hire caterers when she hosts dinners at home. “I had a few sit-down dinners. I’ve always done it myself.” Keeping a straight face, Dame Helen said, “It has to be really good fried chicken. Nothing beats that. If it’s really good, there’s nothing quite like that.”

The actress noted for playing British royals relished being French in the film (produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake) that also stars Manish Dayal, a young Indian chef, Charlotte Le Bon, Om Puri and Rohan Chand. “It was incredibly welcome because I am a huge Francophile,” Helen said of the role.

Laughing, Helen said, “I rather agree with the French about how superior they are. I’ve always had a secret desire to be a French actress. I love French movies—I find them subtle and interesting.”

American market

She added, “I actually wanted to do most of my role in French. I worked on my French while I was in France to get it better and more French-sounding. But, as you know, they don’t like subtitles in American films for the American market.”


So, she worked a compromise with Lasse. “I shot a lot of the scenes in French, then in English. I said (to Lasse), ‘Let me just do it once in French, then we’ll do it in English. Then, you choose if you want to use the French, or English version.’”

Complimented for always looking very well put-together, Helen reacted with, “Gosh, I don’t know. I have self-doubt like everybody. I have moments when I just feel hopeless, useless, stupid and a failure—but, it doesn’t matter that you feel those things.” With a chuckle, she quipped, “What matters is carrying on, really.”

We asked Helen if she is in touch with the Filipina girlfriend of her brother who loved the Philippines so much that he lived in the country. “When my brother very sadly died in the Philippines, we lost touch,” she said. (The brother had skin cancer.) “I was in touch for a while with the girl who looked after him, but apart from that, not really.”

Asked about the increasing presence of female leads in cop drama series unlike in the days when she starred in “Prime Suspect,” Helen answered, “So many of them now. Amazing! There are almost more female-led series on television than male-led series.

“The world outside changed,” she explained. “There are so many women police chiefs, in the police service, women Home Secretaries, Foreign Secretaries, Secretaries of State.”

As to what we can look forward to from the actress, she was wrapping Simon Curtis’ “Woman in Gold” at the time of our interview. In the film based on a true story, Helen essays Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee and a World War II survivor who battled the Austrian government to get back her family’s stolen art.

Helen is bringing Queen Elizabeth II to Broadway in spring next year when she reprises her role in “The Audience.”

In the meantime, she gets “a couple of weeks off” after “Woman in Gold.” Then, she goes “to work in South Africa on a film about drone warfare.” That’s Gavin Hood’s “Eye in the Sky.”

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TAGS: cinema, Entertainment, Helen Mirren, Hollywood, The Hundred-Foot Journey

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