As I mentioned before, I had the opportunity to screen the film THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY, which hits theaters TODAY! If you haven’t read my review, yet, I actually posted it yesterday. I hope you take a look!
For those unfamiliar with this small film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY tells the story of Hassan Kadam, who is a culinary ingénue with the gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch! When his family settles down in a small French village, they open an Indian restaurant, Maison Mumbai, much to the dismay of Madame Mallory (Academy Award®-winner Helen Mirren), who runs Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin-starred, classical French restaurant right across the street! At first the two restaurants engage in a culinary battle, until Madame Mallory recognizes Hassan’s gift as a chef and takes him under her wing.
While out in LA, not only did I have the chance to cook at the world famous Le Cordon Bleu, but I also was able to interview the star of the movie Manish Dayal, who plays Hassan!
This is the South Carolina native’s first starring role in a major motion picture! As a young child he saw the movie JURASSIC PARK and knew that he wanted to go into film. He didn’t go to drama school, but he did take a film class since his interest was in producing and director. He actually only got in front of the camera as a favor to a friend. However once he did, he described it as such a “really surreal experience“, that he knew then he wanted to act.
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. *LAUGHS* I’ve definitely learned a lot about cooking. Definitely in the movie it wasn’t so much about learning how to cook but more just how to understand kitchen culture. 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 were effectively made. I think that was sort of the challenge in terms of learning kitchen etiquette and stuff like that for the film.
MANISH: It was a really funny story actually. I went in for a voiceover audition for an animated feature that DreamWorks is doing. One of the people that sort of first sort of spotted me was Leslie Feldman. She’s the casting executive over at DreamWorks. We ended up having this great conversation the whole time we were in this audition… not auditioning just talking. Then that night I get a phone call asking if I’d come back in and read for a different project. They wouldn’t tell me the name or anything about it. Then I did, of course. I found Steven Spielberg was involved. So I was like holy ****! *LAUGHS* He’s like a childhood hero of mine. I ended up reading a scene I think 38 times. I must’ve read it trying it every different way you can imagine. Then those tapes went to Steven and Oprah. And apparently I found out that they were very excited. 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. Then I met Lasse Hallström in New York who ultimately I think signed off. Then I got a phone call the next day saying that Steven wants to hire you. That’s how it happened. It was a long, long crazy amazing entertaining experience!
Where were you when you got the call? Who was around you?
MANISH: I was in New York. I was by myself. I’m really glad I was by myself. Whew! I was speechless. I was shocked. And then the first thing I did was call my mom!
Did your weight fluctuate at all?
MANISH: It did, yes. I lost a bit of weight for the India portion. I’m not sure how! I wanted to make sure that he had sort of a youthful presence, innocence presence, one that sort of void of any sort of complications at that point in the movie.
What’s it like working with Helen Mirren?
MANISH: First I should tell you that she’s hilarious! She has a very crass sense of humor. I think that’s something we had a lot in common. So we ended up just laughing all the time. She was telling me stories about her life and how she got started in this business. So it was good to learn from her. Also when we were working I could see like how she prepares, what her process was like. It was an amazing experience. 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 going to have. So I thought that was really good advice.
MANISH: Most difficult scene to film for me was the scene when we’re cooking for Maison Mumbai… around the boning knife. I don’t know if you remember that line. But that scene had to be choreographed in a way because so much is happening in that scene. The stakes are so high. This is a family that this is their one shot.
Did you meet Oprah?
MANISH: 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 very giving and generous. The most interesting thing about her is how generous she is with her knowledge and her knowledge of the world… so I did get to spend some time with her. It’s clear to me of why she’s connected to this story. This is a story about a displaced family that has to find their way in this new place and overcome all these obstacles culturally, racially in every way.
What was most surprising about food culture? What do you hope audiences will take from this?
Original Photo: JustEnza.com & MeetKristy.com. Edits by me.
MANISH: I think that the interesting part about that is that a French kitchen is really structured. It’s very formulaic. There’s a formula for everything. There’s a way to do everything. There’s a way to stand. Everyone has a skill in the kitchen. You know your skill by not going beyond your skill. So there’s a hierarchy there that’s really respected. It’s really quite amazing to watch how everyone follows the rules.
How was the chemistry between you and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon)?
MANISH: Well, you tell me! *LAUGHS* We definitely became good friends. I think we did have very good chemistry because we are friends. We just became friends fast because of her sense of humor, she’ll make any joke and she will say any damn thing you can imagine! I love that about her. I thought she was just very like sort of off the cuff. We just laughed a lot, and we became sort of pranksters. And it was fun. So I think that that translated on screen. I think what made working with her unique was any time I had a scene with Charlotte I never prepared really. I just knew what I was going to say. I understood the tone of the scene and the objectives. But we never worked before shooting because when we were shooting anything it was just like the weirdest things could happen. We just had to roll with it!
MANISH: I read it before. I read it twice before. I always had it under my arm when I was shooting. Lasse’s directing style is the best because it’s his vision, it’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. 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.
What foods evoked memories of home?
MANISH: Well, two things. My mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches. Nobody can make a grilled cheese sandwich like my mother. 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 siblings. If we were hungry she would make grilled cheese sandwiches. She makes them perfectly. It is something that she does that I really sort of love. Then Indian-wise, she makes rice and daal, which is a very simple thing… 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!
What was your favorite dish on set?
MANISH: The beef bourguignon. That was good. I killed it. I ate so much of it that day. I remember it was a scene that I was shooting before lunch broke. Afterwards I couldn’t even eat lunch I ate so much of it. It was really good.
MANISH: The message that I hope people feel or walk away with is that in order to achieve something great you have to go after life’s uncertainty. It’s about going into the unknown and not knowing what is going to happen!
So what’s next for Manish? Well he has some projects he has his eye on, but nothing that he can talk about quite yet. I have to say though, I think those of us in the interview found him an absolute pleasure to chat with and can’t wait to see him on the big screen again!
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is rated PG and is now out in theaters EVERYWHERE!
While I attended an expense paid trip by Disney to the press events for Guardians of the Galaxy, 100 Foot Journey, and ABC Family, all opinions are 100% my own.