TORONTO - Montreal-born actress Charlotte Le Bon found working with Oscar winner Helen Mirren on "The Hundred Foot Journey" to be "intimidating."
"She's the definition of confidence this woman — it's crazy," Le Bon, 27, said in a recent inteview.
Although they only shared four scenes, Le Bon was pleasantly surprised by the generosity of Mirren, who stars as the surly and quintessentially French restaurateur Madame Mallory in the film based on the novel by Richard Morais.
Le Bon plays Marguerite, a young chef who works at Mallory's Michelin-rated, traditional French restaurant. Life is upended when a budding chef named Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) and his father (played by Bollywood great Om Puri) open an Indian restaurant across the street. After some initial annoyance, Mallory ultimately recognizes the quiet genius in Hassan's cooking, a discovery that opens new doors.
Le Bon found her character inspiring because Marguerite was armed with a "precise dream."
"It's a luxury to have a dream and Marguerite is exactly that type of person," said the actress, who also appears in the upcoming French film "Yves Saint Laurent."
Le Bon prepared for the role by spending two days in the L'Acajou kitchen, a Paris restaurant run by her friend, French celebrity chef Jean Imbert. There, she learned leadership is an essential trait if you want to survive in the industry.
“It’s not possible to be a chef and to be quiet — you have to have a very strong personality,” Le Bon said.
Le Bon admits, however, that she isn't exactly a master chef, as evidenced by a cut on her hand caused by a bread knife.
"I really love putting food in my mouth but I’m a lazy person when it comes to cooking," she said.
Her character guides Hassan in the art of French food but their relationship turns bittersweet when he starts working in Mallory's kitchen, transforming them into adversaries vying for her praise.
Le Bon said she and Dayal had chemistry both on and off screen.
"When I did my second casting with (director) Lasse Hallström, he was there and right away it was really easy to improvise," she said.
Since it was both Dayal and Le Bon's first American feature, they supported each other through the process and she says he's still a good friend.
"He is such a sweet, beautiful, very smart human being," Le Bon gushed. "He’s a good actor too and he's a good kisser."
She also had nothing but praise for her director, Lasse Hallström ("The Cider House Rules," "Chocolat").
"He's an amazing man and artist," Le Bon said, lauding the "sensual" way he shot the food in the film.
"The thing is he's a vegan, he doesn't eat meat or dairy products and my theory is that he's so frustrated about food, that's why he's able to film it that way," she said laughing.
Produced by and produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, "The Hundred Foot Journey" opens Friday.
© Coast Reporter