Above: On the French set of The Hundred-Foot Journey.

OPRAH: I loved the book The Hundred-Foot Journey and was so excited to be involved in making the film. It was Steven—whom I hadn't worked with since The Color Purple—who said, "I think we should ask Helen." I said, "The Helen?" And then we all held our breath to see if you'd say yes. When you did, we sighed and said, "Now we have a movie!"

HELEN MIRREN: That's fantastic. I never get to hear that part of things.

OPRAH: I'm sure that's how everyone reacts, waiting for you to say yes.

HELEN: Oh, I can't see that side, Oprah. I don't know if you're still that girl you were, but...

OPRAH:Yeah, I am.

HELEN: Well, me, too.

OPRAH: But I haven't been knighted!

HELEN: I still can't get my head around that one, either. Like, oh, my God, I'm a dame!

OPRAH: You're a dame!

HELEN: It's just slightly inappropriate, as far as I'm concerned.

OPRAH: What would your parents say?

HELEN: They were actually quite anti-monarchist. But at the same time, they would have been inordinately proud. I'm sure they would have come to the palace for the ceremony, because it's a recognition by our country.

OPRAH: Your father, who emigrated from Russia as a young boy—to imagine that his daughter would be a dame! But getting back to the film for a moment: When you choose a role, what makes you say yes?

HELEN: Lots of different things. The director, the producers—my sense of what sort of people are involved.

OPRAH: Did anything about Madame Mallory speak to you?

HELEN: The French thing. I've always been a Francophile. I find the French funny and extraordinary. I'm very jealous of them, in my English sort of way. When I was 14, I wanted to be French more than anything. I got myself a French boyfriend. I even tried to become a French actress at one point.

OPRAH: How were you going to do that?

HELEN: I rented a tiny room in Paris and decided, "I'm going to live here until my French is pretty good." I did a film that was shot in France and got a French agent. I thought I belonged there. Then, of course, life says, "No, you're going to be over here. This is the path." And that's what ended up happening. I was offered work I wanted to do in England and wasn't offered any more in France, so I had to give up.

OPRAH: So Madame Mallory was the French thing. And you just saw the film.

HELEN: I did. It's very charming. It's quite moving.

OPRAH: I cried three times.

HELEN: I cried, too! And then thought, "Oh, don't be ridiculous." Stop it. I thought Manish [Dayal, who plays the chef at the Indian restaurant] was wonderful.

OPRAH: Are you a foodie?


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