Catherine Zeta-Jones has a massive cookbook collection. She’s good buddies with resident Food Network goddess — and big-time EW crush — Nigella Lawson. So why did her husband, Michael Douglas, laugh so hard when she took a role as a master chef in Scott Hicks’ (Shine) romantic drama? ”He said if I can pull this off, it’s going to be the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” remembers the 37-year-old.
Well, the sad truth is that the Welsh actress is far more likely to flambé herself than a plate of delicious, delicious bananas Foster. But that didn’t stop her from taking a role as a high-end chef whose life unravels when she unexpectedly becomes the guardian of her 9-year-old niece (Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin) and is forced to spar with a handsome sous-chef (Aaron Eckhart) in this remake of Mostly Martha. ”People assume that I’m this ball-breaking, tough-ass chick,” says Zeta-Jones. ”[The role] is much more vulnerable for me.”
At least her costar couldn’t make her feel inadequate in chef’s whites. Even after private lessons at NYC eatery Fiamma — where the two stars got a crash course in everything from deboning fish to making pasta from scratch — Eckhart became a kitchen casualty. ”Abigail and I were supposed to be doing a breezy scene,” he remembers. ”I was chopping an onion, and all of a sudden she looks down and the onion is red, and she just turns white. I had cut my fingernail off and was bleeding everywhere.”
Chalk the injury up to the price of ultra-realism. Hicks and his wife, producer Kerry Heysen, are big-time foodies who co-own a winery, so attention to detail was absolutely crucial. They shot the film in a vacant Manhattan restaurant and hired real line cooks as extras. ”The funny thing was, we got quite a few walk-ins!” laughs Hicks. ”People wanted to make reservations!” Given the level of culinary talent running the kitchen, it’s probably for the best that they were already booked. (July 27)