Mirren reveals why US rejected her French role

Hollywood actress Dame Helen Mirren has revealed she was stopped from playing her latest role in French because American audiences do not like subtitles.

In comedy-drama The Hundred-Foot Journey she plays Madame Mallory, the proprietor of a Michelin-starred restaurant in a small French town who clashes with a displaced Indian family when they open a curry house nearby.

“I was hoping I was going to be able to do my part in French. I’ve always had a secret desire to be a French actress,” the Oscar-winner told the Telegraph Magazine.

“I did try to, for a short period in the late 1970s. I’d spent a year working with (theatre director) Peter Brook in Paris, so my French was pretty good. I rented a little garret in the city, got myself a French agent and thought ’I’m going to do the full...”’

When asked if she was thinking of Kristin Scott Thomas, the 54-year-old English actress, who has lived in France since she was 19, she replied: “Yes, but I didn’t have the advantage of marrying a Frenchman. I should have done that. That would have kept me there. Anyway, I thought I’d like to play Mme Mallory in French.”

But she was not allowed to go ahead with the idea because of the anticipated reaction in the US.

She revealed: “When it came to it, they said ’Oh no, that won’t do. You can’t play it in French. The Americans won’t understand it and they don’t like subtitles.’ Which was sad for me.”

Dame Helen said she enjoyed making the film because of the plot and location.

“I like food movies in general, and I love Indian food and French food. I loved where it was going to be shot – north of Toulouse, in the Tarn-et-Garonne area.

“I’d never visited that part before and it’s unbelievably beautiful,” she said.

Dame Helen has played a variety of characters during her long career, ranging from queens and classical stage roles to a former black-ops sniper in the two RED films.

She said she is prepared to consider any role that looks fun, a challenge or something she has never done.

“That’s how it has always been in my career,” she said. “Nothing’s changed much, really. The reasons you do things in my profession are usually confused and not very clear.”

Most Read in Showbiz