Delicious 'Journey' Bridges Prejudices that Divide11 Dec, 2014 By: Stephanie Prange
In the extra content on the disc of DreamWorks’ The Hundred-Foot Journey, viewers will learn that the restaurants depicted across the street from each other in the film are actually much farther apart.
“They were not a hundred feet apart, but actually an hour away from each other,” noted producer Juliet Blake.
Still, they are brought together by the magic of filmmaking. The film, now available on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and Digital HD, distributed by Disney, not only bridges the distance between the two sets with special effects, but it also bridges race and culture. It makes the point that, despite our differences, we are closely related in our experience as human beings — and in how much we can gain in learning from each other.
“I really felt that, although it’s a story of an Indian family who are victims of racism … I felt that the story could appeal to any nationality and any race,” Blake said.
It was a long journey to get the movie produced. It took about five years — and the participation of heavyweights Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg in their first collaboration since The Color Purple — to get the story to the big screen after Blake read the galley of the book and fell in love with it.
“It’s about food being used to bridge the cultural divide,” she said.
The universal love of eating is the glue that binds humans together in both the book and the film.
“A lot of people like to eat,” Blake said, noting food is used in celebration by all cultures. “It’s a joyful thing.”
In fact, director Lasse Hallstrom also helmed the acclaimed, food-infused Chocolat. The production employed chefs to create the gorgeous and delicious dishes in the movie. They hired Indian chefs, French chefs and molecular cuisine chefs.
“Everybody ate far too well on the movie,” Blake said. “I think we all put on quite a bit of weight.”
Still, in addition to the food, human characters and relationships took center stage.
“We wanted to make sure that we were creating something not just about the food, but about how people are brought together,” Blake said.
Thus, they cast the formidable Helen Mirren as the owner of the French restaurant and well-known and accomplished Indian star Om Puri as the proprietor of the Indian establishment across the street.
“We had to have somebody who really could match her,” Blake said.
For the lead, the chef that bridges cuisines, “I wanted someone completely new,” she said.
Spielberg suggested Manish Dayal, who had read for an animated film and impressed him.
“It was his first big role in feature films,” Blake said, adding that Dayal assiduously marked up his script as he was “almost in very shot in the movie.”
For love interest Marguerite, they cast French Canadian Charlotte Le Bon, who in addition to being beautiful had a certain spark.
“She brought this kind of cheekiness to the role,” Blake said.
While filmmaking tricks brought some of the fictional story to life, there is one place in the south of France that viewers can still visit to get a taste of the Hundred-Foot atmosphere — the market in the small town in which they filmed.
“That market really exists,” Blake said.