By LAURI NEFF
NEW YORK (AP) – Kevin Kline likes roles that teach him something.
The Oscar winner says he brushed up on his French to play a French-speaking American in “Queen to Play,” an offbeat drama set for U.S. release Friday. Kline also improved his chess game for the film, in which his character strikes up an unlikely friendship with his housekeeper on the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea.
Kline learned to play the piano for his role in the 2004 film “De-Lovely” and continues to play as a hobby.
The actor has another film, “The Conspirator,” due out April 15, in which he plays Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. He says the post-Civil War drama was educating, too: He learned a chapter of American history he didn’t know and discovered what it’s like to work with director Robert Redford.
AP: How would you describe “Queen to Play”?
Kline: It’s a unique love story that unfolds across a chess set between an employer and an employee, a married woman and widower, between an American and a French woman. We have everything not going for us, (laughs), to form a relationship.”
AP: Did you speak any French?
Kline: I studied French all through high school and junior high school and a year of college but couldn’t speak it because you don’t – unless you learn to speak it. I learned to read it and learned the grammar, which was a great kind of foundation. But for (the 1995 film) “French Kiss,” I had to take lessons with a professor, and we only spoke French, and that’s where I really began to learn to speak French with some fluency … I speak very little French in the movie (“French Kiss”), but it kind of jump-started my learning to speak it, and then this was another occasion to – not perfect – but to go up a notch.
AP: Were you a chess player?
Kline: I played a certain level of chess, but I upped my game considerably for the film. It was a great. I love learning new skills. If there’s a movie – oh, well you have to ride a horse standing up or you have to ride a horse while you’re firing a rifle or you learn how to drive a car fast or speak French or play chess. So I learned. I really brought my French speaking up several notches and learned a lot about chess.
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