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Author Richard Morais and producer Juliet Blake talk 'The Hundred-Foot Journey'

Lasse Hallstrom, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Steven Spielberg, Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Juliet Blake and Oprah Winfrey attend the world premiere of Dreamworks Pictures' 'The Hundred-Foot Journey,' on August 4, 2014 at Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City.
Lasse Hallstrom, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Steven Spielberg, Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Juliet Blake and Oprah Winfrey attend the world premiere of Dreamworks Pictures' 'The Hundred-Foot Journey,' on August 4, 2014 at Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City.
Photo by Jamie McCarthy

On Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 was on the red carpet for the world premiere of DreamWorks' "The Hundred-Foot Journey," which hits theaters this Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. The film's stars Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, director Lasse Hallström, producer Steven Spielberg, producer Oprah Winfrey, producer Juliet Blake and the Chairman & CEO of DreamWorks Stacey Snider were in attendance.

We had the opportunity to speak with Richard Morais, who penned the book "The Hundred-Foot Journey," on which the film is based. Steven Knight adapted the film's screenplay. Read our exclusive interview below:

What inspired the book?

Richard Morais: I was stationed in London for 18 years. I was Forbes Magazines European Bureau Chief. And Forbes sent me over when I was in my mid twenties and my wife and I went over and I wrote a story about Merchant Ivory Productions, who made these lovely films in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s like "Howards End," "Remains of the Day," "Room with a View." And the producer of that company was Ismail Merchant, and he was from Bombay in Mumbai and he is a Muslim Indian and he was a great artist and filmmaker.

Over the years, Ismail and I became friends and Ismail was a great cook and I love to cook and so when he was in London he called me and told me to come in and he would whip up a meal. And so what happened was he had directed a film of Anita Desai’s “In Custody,” we were eating at the Bombay Brasserie afterwards and I said, “Ismail, you really need to find a literary property that marries your love of food with your love of filmmaking.” I said, “I’ll help you find something.” I never found exactly what I was looking for so I sat down and wrote the book myself.

Was the book inspired by your relationship with Ismail?

Richard Morais: It was very much ... I was trying to trick him into making a film about something I had written. That was my devious motivation .... Om Puri has a cameo in the film that Ismail directed that night, and that he showed me. And so I wrote the father figure as partly made up of my own father, partly inspired by Ismail himself -- who was always hustling everybody -- and partly for Om Puri.

Speak about watching Helen Mirren bring your book to life?

Richard Morais: Well she was my fantasy. And you can imagine ... again, Madame Mallory was created out of ... partly my grandmother, partly -- I grew up in Switzerland and we had a landlady who used to scare the hell out of me and she reminded me of her. But as an actress, Helen Mirren ... she has the incredible talent that shows the transition ... like she did in The Queen -- someone outwardly stiff but really show the heart of the person. So she was always in the back of my mind.

Speak about working with director Lasse Hallström?

Richard Morais: As the writer of the book, and you see this talent...I know enough about being an artist to know that you don’t interfere. These people are so serious or they’re just in their own right. And they can’t mimic what you’re doing, they have to make it their own and so I just sat back in amazement and watched this incredible talent, huge talent, up and down, go create this beautiful, beautiful film. And honestly, a lot of writers freak out and I did initially. I’m totally owning this film. This is my film ... tell everyone it’s my film. Because the plot is a little different but the spirit of my book and the characters ... they absolutely nailed it. It’s a fantastic film. I’m so proud of it.

We also spoke with Juliet Blake, who co-produced the film with Oprah and Steven. She originated the project and bought the rights to the book. This is her first time producing a feature film having working on many TV projects.

How did you come to produce the project?

Juliet Blake: I bought the rights to the book because I fell in love with it, I thought it would make a beautiful film. And then I set about a very long journey -- five and a half years -- to get to this point today.

When did Oprah and Steven come on board?

Juliet Blake: They came on board about two years ago. So I had a good three and a half years on my own talking to lots of different people but it was wonderful when they came on board.

Can you speak about collaborating with Lasse Hallstrom?

Juliet Blake: It was a fantastic experience for a producer like me. It was a really, really great experience. He’s a very intuitive director, he gets very naturalistic performances out of people. It’s been a gift.

What did you love about the story?

Juliet Blake: I liked the fact that it’s about food but it’s also about culture and it’s about different cultures and in many ways it’s about immigration.

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