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Husband and wife, director and producer, Scott Hicks and Kerry Heysen eat, drink and play the business of filmmaking – which is not always smooth sailing, as they admit to Andrew L. Urban on the eve of release of their latest film, No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta Jones and Aaron Eckhart.

After 35 years together and their entire film career spent inside each other’s pockets, so to speak, it’s still not always smooth sailing for director Scott Hicks and his wife/producer producer Kerry Heysen. “I still can’t get her to turn off, we live with it 24 hours a day!” says Scott, to which Kerry immediately chips in, “I know, I know... it’s me... we/re in the middle of talking about something domestic and I’ll say ‘oh, I just got the exit figures’ and Scott’ll say something like ‘I don’t want to talk about it now,’ ... and I can’t stand that he doesn’t care about it right there and then!”

Sitting next to each other on the other side of the coffee table in a room with a view to the Sydney Opera House at the swank Park Hyatt, Scott and Kerry share these confidences with the ease of long term partners – both in life and in business. “Kerry was involved with my work from the very first film I ever made,” says Scott.

"Casting is so crucial"

And while there may be some turbulence from time to time, as Kerry says, those moments are always resolved without lasting damage. “For me this relationship really comes into its own when casting, for example,” says Scott. “Casting is so crucial and it’s very important for me to have someone to turn to who has no agenda beyond my creative needs. She doesn’t think first about the poster or the deal … and that’s most helpful when helping me to make decisions.”

In the case of No Reservations, Scott was lucky to have had an enthusiastic Catherine Zeta Jones to accept the part of Kate. “It’s Catherine as the star of the film who drives the film’s broader appeal,” says Scott. The original film (written and directed by Sandra Nettelbeck) from which this is adapted, Mostly Martha, was made in German and Italian, accommodating its two stars, Martina Gedeck and Sergio Castellito.

Warner Brothers approached Scott and Kerry to make the film, and Zeta Jones not only wanted to play the role of Kate, she was also keen on Scott directing. (His work on Shine in 1996 has continued to stand him in good stead.) But Warners wanted to shoot in Toronto, which went against Scott’s vision. “If we have relocated the film to New York, then we’d have to shoot it there ... it’s such a food city.” This is where Kerry came in; “I had to make the numbers work … and I showed that with some clever planning, we could do it for the budget. We also were among the first to use newly introduced incentives for filmmakers in New York city, which meant some good tax rebates, but also help from the police and with roads.”

But there were plenty more challenges ahead. “In the original film, the kitchen was run in almost clinical fashion, but I saw that in New York restaurants there is a kind of balletic chaos, and while it was a challenge, I wanted to capture that.”

"two fully functioning kitchen operating simultaneously"

To do that, and to make sure the food not only tasted great but looked right (and fresh) required having two fully functioning kitchen operating simultaneously. The working kitchen would produce the required dishes, which would never be exposed to more than three takes for the sake of freshness. These would be delivered to the camera unit kitchen for the action. And each morning, Scott would ‘audition’ the food at a leading chef’s establishment, as Kerry puts it. “It was a challenge for the art department to recreate those dishes in the working kitchen and then deliver it to the set.”

The reason Scott wanted to stay in Manhattan was simple; “I felt it was essential to have an authentic background for the audience to absorb. And both Catherine and Aaron had to acquire a facility in the kitchen so they didn’t have to think about that aspect of their work, and could concentrate on the action. For Catherine there was the added layer of complexity of superimposing an American accent on her natural Welsh accent – and she had to work on every syllable.”

Published August 23, 2007


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Scott Hicks

Directed by Scott Hicks
Australian release August 23, 2007
Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is the popular and successful chef at Paula’s (Patricia Clarkson) small but busy New York restaurant, entirely dedicated to her job, with no time or headspace (or heartspace) for anyone else. Her single mum sister Leah (Jenny Wade) is about to drive to New York to visit Kate with Leah’s 8-year old niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin); but when a tragic accident leaves Zoe without a mother, Kate honours her promise to take care of Zoe. And just as Zoe comes into her life, so does Nick (Aaron Eckhart), a flamboyant sous-chef hired by Paula, by whom she feels threatened. She doesn’t cope well with either intrusion.

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