When you look at the careers of everyone in Hollywood, it’s very unlikely that you’ll come across one more eclectic and interesting as Lasse Hallstrom’s. For someone that directed and shot almost all of ABBA’s promotional videos, Hallstrom is now highly regarded in the industry for his movie work from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to The Cider House Rules and Chocolat.
Hallstrom is now in the envious position of being able to make movies in his native tongue as well as in Hollywood, and his latest effort The Hundred-Foot Journey, starring Helen Mirren and produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, was well received at the box office. With the movie now being available on home release, DIY caught up with the director to learn more about the process of film making and the challenges of capturing multiple cultures in a single story.
For those that haven’t seen the movie, how would you describe it?
It’s a drama comedy about culture clashes and the importance of being able to cross borders, especially when it comes to food in this situation. It’s about holding hands across the boundaries. You have a family moving from England yet originally from Mumbai and they end up in France to run a traditional Indian restaurant.
How did you first get involved in the project?
I was sent the script and I liked it a lot. Spielberg had actually considered doing it but I ended up doing it myself.
Was it interesting to work on a movie that is very multi-cultural?
Oh definitely. I think it represents the modern scene for sure. There are growing problems with immigration and people being afraid. There’s the fear of the foreign and the unfamiliar. This is something relevant worldwide. I see the film as a good reminder that we have to realize we have more in common than we think.
How close does the project come to the original source material (Richard Morais’ novel)?
It’s not too far off. It can be tricky but it’s inspired by the novel and not departing from that too much. As with any novel you get more time here and there to elaborate and the story doesn’t move on quite as quickly, but the story is there in the film.
At this stage of your career do you feel free to pick and choose which projects you take on?
It’s always a wild mix of movies and genres for me. I started off with the music pop videos and drama comedies, then moving on to something more serious with My Life As A Dog. I’ve always wanted to experiment as much as I can, and I’ve been all over the place! I’ve even done romance a few times. My comfort zone is certainly drama comedy. I like to help create performances that ring true and that show life truthfully. It’s good to blend genres so that you have something tragic but comedic also.
Having worked in the industry for so many years, how have things changed in recent times? Especially with the emergence of TV and online streaming.
Well when I came to America it was a time where TV was frowned upon. It had no quality. Now there’s a richness of choice while movie distribution is often limited to blockbusters or circus movies for kids and teens. I haven’t done much TV but I’d like to experiment.
Is there anything even now that you’ve never done that you’d like to do, or specific people you would like to work with?
I like true stories and I’m drawn to them. I have to look at an actor or the character portrait and see what I can do. I don’t like plot sacrificing character so it will always depend from one to the next for me. I’m always developing a number of projects!
What continues to motivate you after so many years?
I love creating wonderful moments. Ones that are off beat and weird but emotionally true. I like to capture them and the language of the film. It’s all about the limitless nature of how to tell a story. The visuals and the audio together. I love all of that now just like I grew up loving it. It’s still with me.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is available on Blu-ray and DVD on 9th March, courtesy of Entertainment One.