The kitchen has chemistry in the excellent remake of Mostly Martha
No Reservations is a small film that will take you completely by surprise. I was shocked by how much I liked this film. The trailers, all the advertising in fact, make the film look like the standard crap date movie. Nothing could be further than the truth. No Reservations is beautifully acted. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart sell themselves as chefs falling in love and coping with grief. I had no idea that No Reservations was a remake of the fantastic German film, Mostly Martha. Hollywood doesn't have a good track record with remakes, but this is a rare exception. Here are some highlights from the stars press conference in New York a while back. Aaron Eckhart got a few "Two Face" questions thrown his way. He plays Harvey Dent/Two Face in next summer's The Dark Knight.
Had you two known each other before? What was it like training as a chef?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: We'd never met before, so we met for lunch. We got on really well. We talked about Mr. Hicks [Scott Hicks, the director] and then before we knew it, we were all here in New York ready to go. So it was an easy process for us to get together. Then the idea of being a chef, for me, was pretty terrifying. If I could pull this one off! We had this intense training together, which was a laugh because we arrived in this kitchen with my little apron on looking ever so professional. We had a few weeks of that and we were off and running. I felt very comfortable in the kitchen and I still do actually.
Aaron Eckhart: We had a great time getting to know each other in the kitchen. Scott got us in there at FIANA with Chef Michael White. We went in there, in 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 third or second 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.
Catherine Zeta-Jones: Michael, the chef, gradually would take us through the kitchen. 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 really ridiculous. 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. I started screwing up my lines and forgetting what sauce it was. So I would say, "Just have it. It's delicious. It's great."
Do you now cook at home?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: Oh, all the time. No, 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 cooked right?"
What are your favorite restaurants? And what would you make for each other?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: I can't remember the name, but there's this restaurant that's outside of Barcelona which is like going inside of a chemistry lab. I went there and it was completely jam packed. You had to book like two years in advance, so I got to eat at a table in the kitchen. All the cooks 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. I think that I would make Aaron some Welsh lamb, some good roasted potatoes, good solid stock food that I was brought up on.
Aaron Eckhart: Well, I'm just really a surfer. I like fish tacos and things like that. But if she cooked me Welsh lamb and roasted potatoes, that would be great.
Catherine Zeta-Jones: Until he tells me he's a vegetarian and I would get really annoyed. (laughs)
Are you a vegetarian, who likes fish tacos?
Aaron Eckhart: No, I'm not. I love meat.
Catherine, do you have a favorite food?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: This might sound so ridiculous and so crazy, but smoked salmon sandwiches on brown bread with potato chips in the middle crushed down. 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.
What was it like working with Abigail Breslin?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: Just adorable inside and out, such a talented actress and a very real young lady. She's not pretentious in any way. I've had a lucky run with working 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. She was an absolute dream.
How have you been balancing your career and family life since the birth of your children?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: I always hate to say the world 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. As opposed to me being offered a role in Romania for four months, 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. Doing a movie here in New York was great because our home is predominantly Bermuda. 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.
What's life like in Bermuda?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: There's a real sense of privacy in Bermuda. 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 don't stay there the whole year around and so it's been fantastic for me.
Are there any drawbacks?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: Of course there are drawbacks. Socially we have a lot of friends in L.A. and a lot of friends in New York. I so appreciate coming back to the city more than I ever did before and it's only an hour and forty five minutes on the plane. I sound like a Bermuda tour guide. "Come to Bermuda!"
Aaron, what about your life and career?
Aaron Eckhart: 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 not available.
Your character has a great love for opera? Are you a fan as well?
Aaron Eckhart: 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 those days.
Catherine Zeta-Jones: They would play the first few bars and then turned the sound down. It was brilliant. You were brilliant. You really went for it.
Will those scenes be on the DVD?
Aaron Eckhart: Yeah, it's all on the DVD. I did actually like doing it, experimenting with it. There are such amazing voices. I think that's why theater and opera is 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 and so to sing in front of her was tough.
Did she try to coach you?
Aaron Eckhart: Not at all.
Catherine Zeta-Jones: No, I stood there and I said, "Come on, Eckhart, give it your best." 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. 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 they would go onto the stage and just boom these songs out.
Are you as driven and ambitious about your career as Kate is with hers?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: I wouldn't say that I was like Kate in the way that she was so blinkered in her career and her work, but I've always said that I've had a healthy ambition. 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.
What struck you both about the script when you first read it?
Aaron Eckhart: There are so many things about this movie, so many different layers between the food and the love and loss, the healing. How food can help you heal. How music can too. My character's philosophy of life is so breezy and fluid. He has a really more relaxed way of life as opposed to Catherine's character, Kate, and how we can help each other and how all of it is all intertwined. Then, Scott directing it, he was just a perfect fit and then Catherine too of course. It was like the whole package. I really was very happy to be in this film for all of those reasons.
Catherine Zeta-Jones: 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 in a way that we can be and how through different relationships you're able to heal and come out on the other side stronger and happier than you ever imagined you could possibly have.
Had you seen the original German film, Mostly Martha?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: 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 just put that aside and just know that that was a beautifully created performance culturally in that world and as a completely different situation to where I was going to portray this character. I think that 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 saw it once and then I put it away. I never saw it again.
Aaron Eckhart: It's the same for me. 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, sauteeing, opera, love. Those things consumed my 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 she [Sandra Nettlebeck, director of Mostly Martha] even came to the set one day.
Do feel the same playing Two Face in next year's The Dark Knight?
Aaron Eckhart: 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 consider. It's not something that even bothers me.
How will you play that character differently?
Aaron Eckhart: We're not here to talk about Batman. There's a whole year to do that. It's really incredible. I loved the script and wanted to do the movie. There are people here who will put poison darts into me if I talk about Harvey.
No Reservations is currently in theaters nationwide from Warner Bros. Pictures.