Searchlight Pictures’ The Menu is getting served up to theaters this week. And we can’t wait for audiences to witness this delightfully devious horror comedy satire. To commemorate its release, The Nerds of Color was invited to attend the press conference for the film, alongside its stars and director. Click here to see what they had to say about the film.
I, for one, was a fan of this biting, bonkers tale of snobbery and retribution. So it was a real treat to hear director Mark Mylod and cast members Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Aimee Carrero, John Leguizamo, Judith Light, Hong Chau discuss the movie inside and out. Here’s what they had to say about the film.
Given how diverse the film is, the first question to the group was how they all managed to find the right balance that serves all the different thematic courses the film presents?
Mylod began saying, “I’m going to jump in first and play director’s privilege. For me first of all, instinctive in reading the script, I think one of the things that drew us all to the project was that lovely mashup of tones that I think as Anya said, it’s quite a small target to hit. But we were all attracted to how specific that was. And then I think for me it was the few days or the week that we spent doing our version of rehearsals, which was basically to sit together or in smaller groups in a room and just talk about issues that interested us in the script and in our story and about our characters. And in doing so, it was perhaps less about what we were actually saying and more about us all tuning in by osmosis, perhaps unconsciously to get on the same level. I think it’s a Sydney Pollack quote about everybody making the same movie, so that by the time we were on set, we all tuned in together and we continued to do so with the huge benefit of shooting the film almost entirely chronologically.”
When asked about how shooting chronologically affected the performance of the film, Taylor-Joy had this to say. “I think it helped us immensely because there’s a very specific turning point in the film where things do start to get dramatically darker. And up until that point we’d all been having quite a nice, if odd dinner party. And then the way that this scene was shot was so visceral, I think it kind of shocked all of us when it happened. That led us down the new tone of the film. Less of the laughs, more of the gasps really. So I think it really helped us carry that through.”
Veteran actress Light added, “I just wanted to add also that when you have a script that is so fragile and so skeletally created on the surface, but there’s all this other stuff that’s going on underneath and there’s all this room for creativity and expansion and that was really how we came to work on it together. To create all of those things that you were just talking about, Mark. Also a camaraderie was formed. We really were with each other all the time, every day. And there was this intimacy that was also created that allowed for all those different tones to take place.”
Taylor-Joy was also asked about working with Ralph Feinnes and her relationship with him on the set. She had this to say. “Oh, what can I say about Ralph? He’s the most phenomenal actor, but the thing that’s interesting is he’s so talented that whatever he wants to transmute on screen, that will happen. So of course, as an audience member you will feel this formidable presence and this fear, whenever he’s there. Maybe it was our characters, maybe it’s the way that we both approach acting. All of our scenes together felt so warm and intimate even when we were being quite rude to each other, when the stakes were pretty high. I always just felt really comfortable with him and I felt like I had a very generous dance partner and that we were both enjoying that bizarre intimacy. We had a great time together.”
Hoult was asked about whether he researched or prepped about the world of food blogging for the site. He stated, “I did. It was very difficult because I had to eat at nice restaurant and watch lots of food shows. It was one of those amazing things that the more of Chef’s Table I watched, the more that I was in awe and amazed by these singular-minded, dedicated chefs who committed their whole lives to their craft. And then I was starstruck because Dominique Crenn, who was the food advisor on the movie and designed the menu, she was on set one day and I’d seen her episode and I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s her.’ And I was asking her how you pronounce French words and if I got it right, I’d be like, ‘Oh, she said I said it right.’ So I just basically became an annoying little person, like my character that was just obsessed with that world. So that makes it very easy to be in those scenarios with Ralph and Chef Slowik. Because I’m like, ‘I am in awe of him and as an actor anyway, so I can just use that as the character.’ “
When asked about improvisation, Carrero, who’s no stranger to improvosation in her works, stated this, “Yeah, we had a few [lines that I improvised]. The emoji line and then John had something which you can barely hear in the final edit, but man, it gets me every time. You said something about, ‘Oh yeah, I love a frozen ice treat.’ And he’s talking about ice cream, but he calls it ‘frozen ice treat’ or something, which to me is just-I think I even heard it when we were doing ADR. I don’t even know if it’s in the final whatever, but it’s just a crazy thing you say that you hear in passing.”
Leguizamo was asked about the political undertones of the film. He stated, “Yeah, I love the political and social commentary of this film because I feel like it’s tapping into something that’s happening, especially in America, maybe across the world as well. The disappearing middle class, and these billionaires who think they can control our democracies, control our social platforms, control us, and how they separate us and keep us out and go into their little special bubbles. I think it’s a great commentary on the privilege that’s happening in America, and entitlement and people creating an ‘us vs. them’ and I love them getting their punishment in this flick.”
When asked about the rigid nature of her character, Golden Globe nominee, Chau had this to say. “To bring it back to Dominique Crenn quick, she was on set serving as our consultant and making sure that everything was accurate and that we were running the set in a way that was true to a restaurant of that caliber. I was a little bit sheepish about talking to her, but one day she sidled up next to me and she was like, ‘I love what you’re doing. I think spot on and I want you to come and work for me,'” she added. “And that was such a huge compliment and seal of approval, one that probably meant more than any compliment Mark had given. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Wow.’ I would say that there wasn’t a lot of information about Elsa on the page, and so that was something that Mark and I talked about a lot prior to filming. I was hoping to find moments where we could create some sort of intrigue and draw some curiosity and interest from the audience about who Elsa was outside of the restaurant or how she came to be a part of Chef Slowik’s crew. I was filming something in Portland, Oregon at the time and the restaurant was supposed to be said in the Pacific Northwest, so I was really inspired by a lot of the funky people that I witnessed around me. I came up with a backstory from that, and I asked Mark if we could have a really strong visual look for her. And he initially told me no, and I was really stubborn and I dug my heels in.”
Overall it was a terrific event for a terrific movie, surrounded by some of the most talented actors the industry has to offer.
The Menu hits theaters this Friday, November 18!