Sometimes even small movies could use the help of the biggest names in showbiz.
Nearly 30 years after Oprah Winfrey made her big screen debut in director Steven Spielberg's drama "The Color Purple," the two titans are reuniting to produce a film that's quite different from what you might expect from either of them. It's called "The Hundred-Foot Journey," based on the bestselling novel by Richard C. Morais, and it's a story of cultures clashing, forbidden love, and food. Lots and lots of food.
"From the moment I read the script, I knew that this was a piece of work that I wanted to be associated with," Winfrey told Yahoo Movies. And while the story of an immigrant family from India who moves into a small French town across from an esteemed restaurant with an iron-willed chef (played by Oscar-winner Dame Helen Mirren) may seem outside Winfrey's wheelhouse, she said it spoke to a common thread in her work. Winfrey said that she strives to tell stories "in such a way that you open the heart space and allow the viewer to see that we are all more alike than we are different."
The film centers on Hassan (Manish Dayal of TV's "90210"), whose father settles his family in a small village in the south of France with plans to open an authentic Indian restaurant. But just across the road is an elegant, Michelin-starred establishment run by Madame Mallory (Mirren), who does not take kindly to competition. Eventually, Mallory recognizes Hassan's culinary talents, and the young man has to choose between his passions and his sense of familial duty.
The book was chosen as a "favorite summer read" by Winfrey's own O Magazine in 2010. "It’s about human beings coming to understand other human beings and more importantly, after you get to experience or step into somebody else’s shoes or see them for a real human being, how you understand that you’re really more alike than you are different," she said at the time.
Of course, one thing all humans have in common is that they all have to eat, and "The Hundred-Foot Journey" is filled with exquisitely prepared and photographed meals, ranging from haute cuisine to Indian favorites. Winfrey said, "What's wonderful about food is, we all know that it blends cultures and allows us to have just a little peek into someone else’s life, someone else’s experience, someone else’s taste."
Winfrey's producing partner on the film is Steven Spielberg, who gave a largely unknown Chicago TV host her first movie acting role. Winfrey was nominated for an Oscar for her role in "The Color Purple," but the two had not worked directly with each other on a film again until now.
Spielberg brought on board director Lasse Hallström, the three-time Oscar nominee behind acclaimed films like "The Cider House Rules" and "Chocolat" (another film set in France featuring sumptuous foods). Spielberg compared Hallström's talents as a director to those of a fine chef. He told Yahoo, "Lasse's greatest strength is being able to strike the right note, to be able to use the right seasoning, to be able to not make the broth too thick … to be able to create an after taste that stays with you for weeks until you order the dish again."
"The Hundred-Foot Journey" will start making audiences very hungry when it opens nationwide on Aug. 8.