Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
July 27, 2007.
By cooking up some
serious chemistry between Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago) and Aaron
Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking), veteran Australian director Scott
Hicks (Shine) stirred up a satisfying romantic comedy with No
Reservations. But he didn't just follow the genre's staid conventions –
the film also throws in tragedy and some serious drama into the mix.
When workaholic chef
Kate (Zeta-Jones) is suddenly forced to become a parent-surrogate for her
niece (played by Oscar-nominee Abigail Breslin), her constant commitment to
a perfect kitchen and cuisine is thrown awry. Her emotional turmoil causes
tensions to boil over with her restaurant's owner Paula (played by Patricia
Clarkson). Then, to complicate matters even further, a new sous chef, Nick (Eckhart),
enters the scene to threaten Kate's career and her precariously balanced
life – with the possibilities of seizing both her job and her heart.
For both Zeta-Jones
and Eckhart the film offers a chance to play against type; she is hardly the
glamour girl this time around, and he, for once, is the guileless charmer –
not a manipulative male monster.
You did a lot of
research for these roles; Catherine, you worked at a restaurant and you both
worked with chefs. Can you elaborate on those experiences?
Well, the second time we met, we were in the kitchen together. It is
intimidating, because we started off initially with just us and Michael the
chef, and gradually he would take us through the kitchen. In a way, it’s
organized chaos. You think that everyone would be slamming into each other,
burning each other, yelling get out of my way, but it actually moves really
gracefully. It's like a ballet.
Aaron and I wanted to
learn to fit into that environment so that we could look like this was our
job, that it was for real. What was terrifying for me was when all of the
other chefs would come in and you were trying to get out of their way.
You're there to learn and so you want to be helpful and not do anything
Then I went out onto
the floor, which was really pretty terrifying, because I've never been a
waitress before. I know that other actresses have, but I'd never been out
there before, and I started screwing up my lines and forgetting what sauce
it was. There was one dessert that was this big concoction, a ball of
chocolate, and I would say, “Just have it. It's delicious. Just have it,
Had either of you ever
wanted to play chefs?
I've never had a fantasy about being a chef, nor will I.
The idea of being a chef, for me, was pretty terrifying, to be quite honest
with you. I'm serious. If I could pull this one off, let me tell you... But
we had this intense training together, which was a laugh. I arrived in this
kitchen with my little apron on, looking ever so professional, and looking
at Aaron going, 'Oh, God, my finger is coming off before you know it.' We
had a few weeks of that and we were off and running. Then I felt very
comfortable in the kitchen – and I still do, actually.
So do you cook at home
Oh, all the time [laughs]. No. [But] I have a new appreciation for
being in the kitchen. I have a new appreciation for when the catered food
gets put on my table. How much goes into it, as opposed to going, 'Is this
Catherine, is there a
food out there that you can't resist?
This might sound so ridiculous and so crazy, but smoked salmon sandwiches on
brown bread with potato chips in the middle crushed down. A little bit of
lemon, a little bit of salt and pepper. I had them during each of my
pregnancies, and I actually had it two nights ago for dinner as well. It's
one of those comfort foods.
Did you create this
Yes, I did.
And does Michael
[Douglas, her husband and noted actor] eat that sandwich of yours?
No. He thinks it's gross. When I bring out the Marmite [a weird English
sandwich spread made of yeast extract – ed.], then he really wants to
So what would you two
make for each other as a result of what you've learned?
I think that I would make Aaron Welsh lamb, and some good roasted potatoes.
Good, solid, stock food that I was brought up on.
Well, I'm really just a surfer. I like fish tacos and things like that.
What about fish
fingers, like the ones Catherine made for Abigail Breslin in the film?
Well, I wouldn't go that far. Fish fingers are so '80s, man. But if she
cooked me Welsh lamb and roasted potatoes, it'd be great. I like shepherd's
pie and stuff like that.
Until he tells me he's a vegetarian, and I would get really annoyed.
Are you a vegetarian?
No, I'm not. I love meat.
You both must have
favorite restaurants and favorite dishes.
I can't remember the name, but maybe you can find out. There's this
restaurant that's outside of Barcelona, which is like going inside of a
chemistry lab [dear readers – send us your suggestions for the restaurant
she is referring to but can't name – ed]. I went there and it was
completely jam-packed and you had to book like two years in advance and so I
got to eat at a table in the kitchen.
I could see all these
cooks who looked like scientists, literally, concocting these amazing dishes
with textures that you've never even seen or felt. You put your spoon in
something and it would all dissolve. It was genius. So, I think for me, that
experience, going there, was one of the best I've ever had.
Well, I don't want to sound ignorant. Chef Josiah [Citrin's award-winning]
Melisse Restaurant, in Santa Monica, is great. They have truffle eggs and
all that sort of stuff.
When you first read
the script, what struck you about it right off the bat?
What struck me first, like Scott [Hicks, the director] talked about to me –
there are so many things about this movie, so many different layers between
the food and the love and loss, the healing, and how all of it is all
intertwined. Food can help you heal. Music can, too.
philosophy of life is so breezy and fluid and has, I think, a more relaxed
way of life as opposed to Catherine's character. Then, with Scott directing
it, he was a perfect fit, and Catherine, too, of course, it's the whole
package. I really was very happy to be in this film for all of those
I think that what the film also says quite clearly is that it’s not just
bereavement, but it's that you have to heal. It's the way that you conduct
your life, the way that you look at the world outside, how blinkered and how
self-centered we can be, and how through different relationships and
sometimes through grief, you're able to heal and come out on the other side
stronger and happier and with a different life than you ever imagined you
could possibly have.
there meetings between the two of you before you started shooting? And what
was the chemistry like between you two before you got to know each other?
Well, we met for lunch, actually, because I had heard through Scott [Hicks]
that Aaron was really interested in being in the movie and I thought that
would be terrific. We'd never met before. We got on really well, chitchatted
about the project, and we talked about Mr. Hicks. Then before we knew it, we
were all signed on and up here in New York, ready to go. So it was an easy
process for us to get together.
Well, we had a great time getting to know each other in the kitchen. At
first, Scott got us in with Chef Michael White at Fiama. We went into the
kitchen, and we were trying to stay out of the way and be very courteous
with each other and move around the kitchen. By the second or third day,
you're bumping into each other and you're reaching over each other and
becoming very familiar. That was a lot of fun, doing that.
He was ever so professional when I first saw him. I had to take a few gulps
because he came with all his knives, his little private knives. He was like,
"Where's the spoon, Scott?"
Catherine, in light of
all the cooking and eating, how do you stay in such great shape? Do you have
a workout regimen?
Thank you. Yes, I do. It keeps my brain sane and it gives me energy. In
fact, I've been over in Europe doing a lot of swimming which I absolutely
And is your routine
five days a week?
No. I'm not going to lie and tell you that I do. I have to drag myself down
to the gym like everyone else, but when I finish it I do enjoy it – and I
can eat more smoked salmon sandwiches with potato chips crushed in the
film also had a lot of great music, as well as the food. Aaron, did you
listen to opera to get familiar with it before singing in the film?
I did when I was making the movie. I listened to one song a lot. It doesn't
come totally natural to me. I'm not a great singer. It was interesting to do
They would play the first few bars and then turned the sound down so they
could get it. It was brilliant.
Catherine, please [laughs].
It was brilliant [laughs]. You were brilliant. You really went for it.
Scott really helped me out. I did actually like doing it, experimenting with
it. Like Scott said, there are such amazing voices, and to see the
difference [between] just a layman's voice and their voices is amazing.
Saying the words and having the poetry in the words and the meaning in the
images that go along with the music is really inspiring, and it's
archetypical with all these symbols and imagery.
That's why theater and
opera are important, because they tell tales. This is the tale of a guy who
lost his love. So it was very appropriate for the film, but to sing it, it
was a stretch. Catherine has a beautiful voice, so to sing in front of her
Did she coach you?
Not at all.
No. I stood there and I said, “Come on, Eckhart, give it your best.” He did.
He did a great job.
I actually did an
opera many, many years ago at the English National Opera, which was an
amazing experience. It was terrifying for one. They did a season of
repertory, so you didn't have a run up of doing it the whole week. It was
like you were on two days and then The Magic Flute two days, so every
night felt like a first night.
I would see these
great people with these great, talented voices chatting each other up on the
side of the stage, where they're going to go for dinner, where they're going
to go for a drink and then, "Oh, one second..."
and they would go onto the stage and just boom these songs out. I was
shaking in my shoes, going, "I'm on next." It was really interesting to do.
We toured Germany with it for a while and it was really interesting to be a
part of that opera world.
there any aspects of Kate's type-A personality that you can relate to? Can
you rip a tablecloth off like that?
Yes, I can [Laughs]. I wouldn't say that I'm a perfectionist in the
way that Kate is, because it's borderline anal retentive and I would hate to
give myself that title, but I think there is a [similar] quality there.
There is a much shyer quality to me that people don't usually see, and I
could relate to Kate, not in that stoic way, but just in being a little
reserved. I get perceived sometimes as, “Here comes the show girl.”
In fact, I have my insecurities and I'm a lot more reserved and quiet than I
let on to be. I do that for a reason sometimes, but I've found a quietness
in her that I related to.
Did you see this
role as the de-glamorization of Catherine Zeta-Jones by playing a
work-obsessed, single woman? Is this role like Catherine Zeta-Jones without
I think that's a compliment [laughs]. I'm not sure. It was definitely
one of the things that when I read the script that made me go,
"Wow, this is not a character that even a director
or producer would think was a slam dunk for me."
I think that's what
was exciting to me, to be able to play a much more vulnerable character and
of course – not to be like this is my de-glamorization – to come down a bit
from what is necessarily an image of me onscreen. I think that's why I found
this such a fascinating experience, because it was like a breath of fresh
air for me as opposed to going into work [concerned] with how the hair and
Every day I went in to
work with just my chef's outfit and that bloody green coat. I was going to
burn that green coat after this movie because every day I would go into my
trailer and be like, "There's that green coat."
I'd say, “Scott, we've
got a few other options.”
But he said, “Nope.
Kate has one coat and it's great.”
So I said, “Fine.”
Apart from that, it was a fantastic experience and I enjoy just being much
more simple and more still with my work. I had a great time doing it.
Nigella Lawson is a fan of mine, and we watched the screening of it and
Michael was laughing when he saw me with the completely natural bed-head and
reaching for the alarm clock and I said, “Do you think that Nigella Lawson
wakes up like that?” He said, “No. I don't think so, sweetie.”
you as driven and ambitious as this character is about her career? How do
you do that and have a successful relationship?
I wouldn't say that I was like Kate in the way that she was so blinkered in
her career and her work and how she goes about it. I've always said that
I’ve had “a healthy ambition,” I call it. I did want to come from Wales and
try different things. I wanted to go to London and do some theater and do
some TV. I had that inherently in me, but I wouldn't say that I was such a
control freak the way that Kate is or that there was nothing else in my
life. I had my friends and I had my other life in addition to my career.
I always hate to say
the word “balance” when it comes to my family and children, because at the
end of the day that is my life and everything else is a bonus. What's
changed for me considerably since I've had my family is that the logistics
have completely gone crazy. [When I was] offered a role in Romania for four
months, I'd say, “What time's my flight?” I'd pack my case and I'd be gone.
Now I can't do that.
I try to schedule my
work in between times where they can either come with me, or when I know
that Michael [Douglas] is definitely not working, or doing a movie here in
New York. This movie, No Reservations, was great because our home is
predominantly Bermuda, and even though we were working pretty much every
day, Scott would give us some time off. So I would go home to Bermuda for
either a day or they would come and see me.
The last movie I
completed was during summer break and so [my kids] were with me all the
time. It was Death Defying Acts. I played a psychic who guides
Houdini. Gillian Armstrong directed. It was fabulous. We had a great time.
But that's the only
thing that I think is a balance and more of a struggle than it ever was
before in my life.
Is it easier to live
There's a real sense of privacy in Bermuda, and I have to say that it's been
very great bringing up my children there. Taking them to school without any
hassle, and there've never been any photographs, or photographers hanging
around. So for me it was the ideal choice to bring up my children, with it
also being easy to go to New York. We travel and
we don't stay there the whole year around and so it's been fantastic for
Of course there are drawbacks. I mean, socially we have a lot of friends in
L.A. and a lot of friend in New York and we have a lot of friends in
Bermuda, which is a different life. I so appreciate coming back to the city
more than I ever did before because it's the complete opposite to where I
come from, and it's only an hour and forty-five
minutes on the plane. I sound like a Bermuda tour guide. “Come to Bermuda!”
Don't come to Bermuda! [laughs]. I love you, but please don't come to
Aaron, what about your
life and career?
I'm always trying to get both of them. When I have one I don't have the
other. I don't distinguish between the two. I mean, they're just both very
pleasurable. I'm single with a girlfriend and I can go to Romania if she's
Aaron, are you
recognized everywhere you go now. Is it hard to find a private lifestyle?
It's basically the same as [Abigail]. She's probably eclipsing me a little
Some actors swear off
working with animals and children. How was it working with Abigail Breslin?
Just adorable inside and out, such a talented actress and very real young
lady. She's not pretentious in any way. I've had a lucky run with working
with children – not so much with animals, though. I almost got thrown off a
horse. But with children, I've been really lucky to be working with great
talent, and children that you're going to be watching for the rest of their
careers and wishing them the best because they have the talent. So she was
an absolute dream.
Catherine, do you miss
the stage and would ever return?
In fact, there's been an influx of offers for me to come back to New York
and do some stuff. If I'm going to do it, it's predominantly musicals and
one straight play I got the other day. It's such a big investment, with the
rehearsal period and invariably they want you to be in a good portion of the
run of the show. So it would have to be something
that I'd really want to commit to. On the musical front, there's a revival
of this, a revival of that, a revival of this. I already did my revival on
film and it's there forever. If there was a fresh new musical, then
On the play front, I
would love to. I just need to find the right material and know that it's a
lot of commitment for me, which means I have to do that logistics thing,
which I'm really bad at. It's that organization of where everyone goes and
if they'd all move back. It's always in the cards and I'm happy to have
that. I'm very flattered that theater does come my way quite a bit.
Aaron, will you ever
go back to theater?
I would. If there's a strike, I'm going to do theater.
You've always seemed,
Aaron, like a person who's loved acting, but never crazy about being a movie
star. Here you are with this film, and
Thank You For Smoking
was one of the best-reviewed films of last year. So can you avoid being a
star? Can you just act and say, “I don't want to go to that next step?”
You could. I don't advise it. In this day and age it's so difficult to get a
movie made. To be in the movies that you want to make, you have to, I think,
come along with everyone else. I also feel that as you get older your tastes
I was just talking to
Gary Oldman about this. I said, “Gary, would you do Sid & Nancy again
right now?” He said, “No. I wouldn't do it because I don't want to climb
that mountain right now.”
I think there are
times in your life where you want to climb certain mountains. As I get
older, I feel like I would rather make people laugh and feel good coming out
of the theater. When people came out of Thank
You For Smoking feeling good and smiling, [it] made such an impact on
I'm so happy that this
film is a family film that deals with issues of mourning, loss, love, food,
happiness, laughter – everyone can go see the movie. I can't say enough
about that. I'm so happy to be a part of that and I hope to be a part of it
so much more. Whatever it is it doesn't matter. As long as it inspires
people and makes them laugh and makes them feel good about themselves, then
I'm in. I'm in. That's how it's changed my life.
either of you see the German film
Mostly Martha that
this film is based on, and did it affect you?
I think that on a character basis I certainly didn't go into this movie
wanting to be a caricature of that wonderful performance. You have to put
that aside and just know that that was a beautifully-created performance
culturally in that world, and a completely different situation to where I
was going to portray this character. I think the director did a fantastic
job of creating that environment in that movie, and I did see the movie
after I read the script. I loved the script so much that I said, "You know
what, I can't resist it. I have to see the movie." I bought the DVD and put
it on the kitchen table. A guy who works with [Michael], who's not a film
buff at all, [saw the DVD] and he said, “Have you seen that movie? It's
I thought how on earth
did a guy from Bermuda, half-Portuguese, see this German movie Mostly
Martha. He said, “It came to this small little film festival and we just
happened to be there – queued up and went in and saw it.” I said, “Okay,
well, if you loved it" – and he's a big old burly gardener – “as much as I
loved the script, I can't resist. I have to see it once.” I saw it once and
then I put it away and never saw it again.
My character is so different. When you're making a film you're really
focused on what you're doing that day. There were other issues to deal with
such as chopping, sautéing, opera, love. Those things consumed me now, but
it was a touchstone and we all loved the movie and referred to it. It's not
something that you have to put away and can't mention. I think that Sandra [Nettlebeck,
the director of the original] even came to the set one day.
She did, yeah.
So I think that they both stand on their own.
you feel the same way about the version of Two-Face that you're doing in the
next Batman film,
The Dark Knight
Returns, as opposed to the earlier version?
Yeah. I feel that one is completely separate from the other. I don't feel
like I have to do what Tommy Lee Jones did. I think that's not even
something that I considered. It's not something that bothers me.
What are you going to
do to as Harvey Dent in
Batman? Is he going
to start out as the nice guy he is in the comics?
There are people here who will put poison darts into me if I talk about
Harvey. It's really incredible. Yeah, that's why I loved the script and
wanted to do the movie. It's not even about how I'm perceived as an actor as
much as what I want to do. I would like to just go to work and try to make
people happy, as opposed to backstabbing someone or whatever. I found that
very refreshing, [that] I felt like going to work on this film.
A lot of times, I
don't even like working. You sometimes just go there and you do your thing
and you make some people laugh and you cook some food and it was a good
day's work. Whether or not it will help to take off the edge, I don't know,
because it seems like I can't get away from Chad [his signature nasty
character from In The Company of Men] and things like that. But I do
like playing romantic comedy roles, and have a lot of fun doing it.
And after all this,
have either of you gained a recipe for a successful relationship?
I think just to be kind to each other. I've said it before, but we meet so
many different people in life and sometimes we spend more time being nice
and friendly to complete strangers than you to the person that you love more
than anything else in the world. So just to have that in the back of your
mind is good, to be respectful, kind and nice.
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