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"My husband said that this role was the biggest stretch I've ever had as an actress, because it puts me into the kitchen,” Zeta-Jones jokingly reveals, before going on to admit that, prior to her culinary training for the film, she was unsure of her ability to properly cook an egg.

In fact, says Hicks, not only did Zeta-Jones quickly learn her way around the kitchen to authenticate her performance in the weeks before "No Reservations” began shooting, but the film depended greatly upon her formidable range throughout. "The story absolutely rests on her shoulders. She's in nearly every scene and the whole thing revolves around her. She has great subtlety and amazing timing, which, when you consider her background as a dancer, isn't surprising. That timing plays so well into her sense of drama, because there are scenes of strong emotion here but also breakthrough moments of fun.”

"Kate runs a tight ship, to say the least,” says Zeta-Jones. "She knows her business and tends to get a little defensive when a customer questions the taste or presentation of any of her dishes. But when she brings that strict perfectionism into her private life it keeps her from having real relationships with people. It keeps away the insecurities and fears and the potential pain, but also the joy and the fullness of life that only exists when you can open up to people, let go a little and let things happen.”

Citing their characters' first encounter in the 22 Bleecker kitchen, Aaron Eckhart says, "Kate takes one look at this casual, easygoing new chef, playing opera and telling jokes, and she thinks he's not taking the job seriously. It would appear that way but, in truth, Nick just has his own style. Once he feels Kate's blast of hostility, he assumes the rubber band theory of ‘don't break, just bend,' and tries to be as nice and charming as possible in the hope that she will eventually let down her guard.”

Nick takes the sous-chef job as an opportunity to work with, and learn from, master chef Kate, whom he admires. "The romance is as much a surprise to him as it is to her,” Eckhart offers. "The difference is that once he recognizes it, he's ready to embrace it, but she isn't quite there yet, which means he has to be exceptionally charming and very creative. When he can't get through to her any other way, he uses the language she understands best: food.”

"This role shows a wonderfully light side of Aaron, which we don't always see. A lot of his roles have been quite intense,” observes Zeta-Jones.

"Not only is Aaron the romantic leading man here,” says Hicks, "he also has to have the ability to genuinely connect with a little girl and bring out the emotion in that as well, which sounds easier than it actually is.” "As Nick, Aaron approaches young Zoe the way you would approach a pony in a paddock,” says Heysen, drawing on her experience working with horses on the Australian property she shares with husband and 30-year filmmaking partner Scott Hicks. "If you have a shy pony that won't come to you, you cannot pursue it. You must sit and wait with gentle overtures and eventually it will come to you. It requires a great deal of sensitivity.”

Eckhart enjoyed his scenes with Abigail Breslin, who turned 10 years old during production. "It's fun to have that kind of youthful spirit around. She taught me some cheerleading cheers, and we would practice together in the kitchen between takes.”

Unlike her buoyant personality off-camera, Breslin's portrayal of Zoe—at least in the film's initial scenes—was necessarily more subdued. As the young actress describes her, "Zoe is sort of quiet in the beginning. She's not really hostile towards Kate, not mean to her or rude, but just not really friendly or open either. She doesn't know how this living arrangement is going to work. She's feeling kind of lost and on her own.”

Hicks, who proclaims Breslin "delightful,” say

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