In his Toronto International Film Festival premiere “The Menu,” Ralph Fiennes plays Slowik, a celebrity chef who runs an exclusive restaurant that caters to the ultra-rich. And while the darkly comic horror film eventually reveals some macabre twists regarding what’s on Slowik’s menu, Fiennes says he got into the character via more mundane inspirations.
“One of the great pleasures was watching ‘Chef’s Table’ on Netflix” Fiennes said at the Variety Studio presented by King’s Hawaiian at TIFF, referring to the documentary series about international chefs. “I love that series, every single character, every single chef is so brilliantly portrayed. They’re all so different. So that was very rewarding.”
Fiennes was joined at the Variety Studio by director Mark Mylod to discuss the horror comedy. The two revealed that during production, Mylod brought on Dominique Crenn, a three star Michelin chef, for Fiennes to observe on set and inform his portrayal of Slowik.
“Not so much cooking, because I’m the master chef, I don’t actually cook until one moment towards the end,” Fiennes said. “It’s more the behavior in the kitchen. She gave me a lot of tips on how you behave, how you move, how you talk to people. The shorthand of communication in that level of kitchen. So that was great, and also an excuse to try cooking at home, but don’t ask me to chop an onion.”
Mylod, who makes his feature directorial debut with “The Menu,” is a veteran TV director of shows such as “Succession” and “Game of Thrones.” He said that although the film is set in a world of luxury, there’s a constant sense of anxiety, both among the restaurant staff and the customers. Mylod said that in making the movie, he researched many Michelin star chefs, and came away with both respect and fear for the pressures the industry has on the people in it.
“These demands to always be one step more exclusive, one step more refined, puts an untenable pressure on humans. In researching this project, I wasn’t much of a foodie, but I found this incredible respect for the people working in the industry,” Mylod said. “Their dedication above anything, above family, above life, to providing a level of extraordinary artistic excellence night after night is incredible. And just a terrible, terrible pressure.”
“The Menu” premiered at TIFF on Sept. 10. Searchlight Pictures will release the film in theaters on Nov. 18.
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