Disclaimer: I screened this movie during an expense paid trip to LA for the screening, interviews, and more.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey,” Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) is a culinary ingénue with the gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch. Displaced from their native India, the Kadam family, led by Papa (Om Puri), settles in the quaint village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in the south of France. Filled with charm, it is both picturesque and elegant – the ideal place to settle down and open an Indian restaurant, Maison Mumbai. That is, until the chilly chef proprietress of Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin-starred, classical French restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Academy Award®-winner Helen Mirren) gets wind of it. Her icy protests against the new Indian restaurant a hundred feet from her own escalate into a heated battle between the two establishments until Hassan’s passion for French haute cuisine — and for Madame Mallory’s enchanting sous chef, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) — combine with his mysteriously-delicious talent to weave magic between their two cultures and imbue Saint-Antonin with the flavors of life that even Madame Mallory cannot ignore. At first Madame Mallory’s culinary rival, she eventually recognizes Hassan’s gift as a chef and takes him under her wing.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” abounds with flavors that burst across the tongue. A stimulating triumph over exile, blossoming with passion and heart, it is a portrayal of two worlds colliding and one young man’s drive to find the comfort of home, in every pot, wherever he may be.
Directed by Academy Award-nominee Lasse Hallström and starring Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is produced by Academy Award-winner Steven Spielberg, Academy Award-nominee Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake. The executive producers are Caroline Hewitt, Carla Gardini, Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King. The screenplay is written by Academy Award-nominee Steven Knight, based on the novel “The Hundred-Foot Journey” by Richard C. Morais.
In the Kadam family, Hassan is the humble and sensitive one who has a calling in life to cook that he inherited from his mom. As you watch The Hundred Foot Journey, you are able to follow Hassan’s talented, calm, and steady presence through life as he follows his true life’s gift. He not only plays the part perfectly, but he even gets cuter throughout the movie. Go and watch it and you will know what I mean!
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” will be in theaters TODAY! Check out my interview with Manish!
Question: Do you cook in real life?
Manish : So I’ve been getting that question a lot lately. And this is what I would say is no. [LAUGHTER] But, I’ve definitely learned a lot about cooking. And, it wasn’t so much about learning how to cook but more just how to like understand kitchen culture. Because we had to understand how to chop and where to stand and how to move and how to make sure that all of the dishes sort of, were effectively made. And I think like that was sort of the challenge, in terms of learning kitchen etiquette and stuff like that for the film.
Question: How did you get attached to the project?
Manish : It was a really, really funny story actually. I mean I don’t know how much time we have to tell you the whole story. So I went in for a voiceover audition for an animated feature that DreamWorks is doing. And then that day I went in and I ended up, uh, one of the, uh, people that sort of first sort of spotted me was Leslie Feldman. And she’s the, uh, casting executive over at DreamWorks. And we ended up having this great conversation the whole time we were, in this audition, not auditioning just talking.
And then that night I get a phone call sort of asking if I’d come back in and read for a different project. They wouldn’t tell me the name or anything about it. And then I did of course. I found Steven Spielberg was involved. And so I was like holy shit. [LAUGHTER] He’s like a childhood hero of mine, which I’ll talk to you about later. But, anyway, so I go into this room. And I ended up reading– reading a scene I think 38 times I must’ve read it trying it every different way you can imagine.
And then that– then those tapes went to Steven and Oprah. And apparently I found out that they were very excited. And then I went in for more meetings and sort of an interview and then more meetings and more meetings and over the course of four and a half months. I met Lasse Hallström in New York who ultimately I think signed off. And then I got a phone call the next day saying that Steven wants to hire you. And that’s how it happened. It was a long, long crazy amazing entertaining experience.
Question: Did your weight fluctuate at all?
Manish : It did, yes. I lost a bit of weight for the India portion.
Question: What’s it like working with Helen Mirren?
Manish : She is– well, first I should tell you that she’s hilarious, and she has a very, very, crass sense of humor. And I think that’s something we had a lot in common. So we ended up just laughing all the time. And she was telling me stories about, you know, her– her life and– and how she got started in this business.
So it was an amazing experience. And she also told me something that I won’t forget, which was when you pick movies to do you should just pick them based on how much fun you’re gonna have. So I thought that was really good advice. So, yeah.
Question: Did you meet Oprah? And where are you from and how did you start acting?
Manish : Ok, wow, these are great questions. [LAUGHTER] Dang! South Carolina is right! That’s where I’m from. Are you– are you from South Carolina? Oh, ok. Oh, you guys– you guys did research? Oh, ok. All right. You’re far smarter than me. I did meet Oprah. And, yes, she’s really amazing. She’s– all the things that you know about her she’s that much more incredible. She’s, as you know very giving and– and generous.
Question: Where are you from?
Manish : I’m from South Carolina. And then how did I start acting? Well– well, I didn’t go to drama school or anything like that. Like Helen didn’t also– Helen didn’t go to drama school either. So that’s something we sort of connected on…I knew I wanted to be in the business when I saw Jurassic Park, and that was it. And– and the minute I saw that movie a light switch went on for me in my head. And my life has never been the same since.
But I took a film class, and I was just jazzed. And I just was in love with it. And there’s nothing else I wanted to do until someone asked me to be in front of the camera really quickly for a project,—a favor for a friend. And I did that. And it was a really surreal experience.
Question: What was most surprising about food culture? What do you hope audiences will take from this?
Manish : Ok, that’s a good question. I think that the most interesting thing– ok, I went into it thinking that the French culture and the Indian culture are completely different. There’s nothing about these two cultures that are similar, until I started working on the movie and really sort of, you know, living with these people who were making the movie. And I realized they’re actually distinctly similar unlike any other culture in the world because of their appreciation for food. They both have this sort of like razor sharp appreciation for it that I don’t think any other culture has…
Question: How was the chemistry between you and Marguerite?
Manish : Well, you tell me. [LAUGHTER]
Question: It was hot and spicy.
Manish : There we go. I think it was hot and spicy off too…Like we just became friends fast because of her sort of sense of humor, which she– she’ll make any joke and she will say any damn thing you can imagine. And I love that about her.
Question: Did you read the book?
Manish : I read it before. I read it twice before — and I always had it under my arm when I was shooting because there were certain times when Lasse’s directing style is the best because it’s– his vision’s always moving, organic. It’s evolving. Things change. Lines get added. Lines get cut. It’s just like this thing that moves all the time. And I wanted to have the book because sometimes if I was unsure about something that I was doing in the movie I would refer to the book.
Question : How long was filming?
Manish : From beginning to end, my first– got the part on June 11th, 2013. And I finished shooting on November 29th, 2013.
Question: Has your mom seen it?
Manish : Has my mom seen it? No. And I can’t wait for her to see it. She’s gonna see it at the premiere. Yeah, she’s itching to see it. Yeah.
Question: What foods evoked memories of home?
Manish : Well, two things, of my mom, grilled cheese sandwiches. Nobody can make a grilled cheese sandwich like my mother. It’s this one thing. She didn’t do it often growing up. But I remember when she did it it was always late at night for me and my– my siblings. If we were hungry she would make grilled cheese sandwiches. And she makes them perfectly. And it is something that she does that I really sort of love. And then also, Indian-wise, she makes rice and daal, which is a very simple thing.
But everybody makes it differently. That thing about daal is that it is, depending on where you’re from in India where your family originates, daal is– is one– a uniform dish. But everybody cooks it differently.
But that’s something that my mom makes. I’m actually going home tonight. I haven’t been home in a while. So hopefully she’ll have it when I’m–
Question : What was your favorite dish on set?
Manish : The beef bourguignon. That was good. I killed it. [LAUGHTER] I ate so much of it that day. And I remember it was a scene that I was shooting before lunch broke. Afterwards, I was– I couldn’t even eat lunch I ate so much of it. It was really good.
Question: What’s the message you want everyone to walk away with?
Manish : I would say that this movie, the message that I want– I hope people feel or walk away with is that in order to achieve something great you have to go after life’s uncertainty. And I think that– and I think that that is what I believe this movie is about. It’s about going into the unknown and not knowing what the f*** gonna happen because like then that– that’s what’s so– oh, sorry, can I not say that? [LAUGHTER]
My publicist, she’s walking out of the room now. [LAUGHTER] Don’t say f***. sorry, Disney, Disney, Disney. Uh, going after life’s uncertainty and committing yourself to a higher purpose. That’s what I think this movie’s about. For everyone in the movie, not just my character, it’s– it’s that way for Om Puri who when he arrives in France, you know, this guy with four kids to feed. Like wow!