In 2011, Ralph Fiennes directed and starred in an adaptation of Coriolanus , perhaps William Shakespeare’s most political work, which has since deserved a place of honor in the little heart of every fan of the bard with some self-respect. One of its few problems was, in fact, that it left you wanting more, but it is likely that The Menu will come to us this weekend to plug that hole: Julian Slowik, a character that Fiennes adopts in a less than spectacular way. , has something of Tito Andronico or even Prospero, although the main reference of Mark Mylod, executive producer of the Succession series, has been the world of haute cuisine. But let’s let the actor himself tell us the keys to a black comedy that has already seduced the American public and critics.

We could start by talking about what your reaction was when you read the script, because it’s pretty outlandish.

RALPH FIENNES: I liked that extravagance! I thought that was a pretty daring proposition. First of all, I liked this chef who has lost the soul of him and who has moved away from what motivated him to become a cook. I liked the staging, all that clientele. And I sympathized with the chef, even though I know he does terrible things. I liked myself, so to speak.

I was drawn to the role because of the dramatic arc it goes through: from being a narcissistic, controlling chef to someone who suddenly gets in touch with the real culinary creativity of his younger self, when he ultimately cooks a cheeseburger. I liked that whole character journey.

Why did you like him?

RF: What I liked was the journey that this man, so detached, so strange, makes. When you’re offered a part, you don’t have to like what’s on the table. It doesn’t mean you like that guy like he’s your brother. It’s the human arc, the dramatic progression of moods when he meets this girl who challenges him. I thought it was a clever script, a smart script. I liked the power play. Also, I felt that he was a stickler. A purist who has lost his soul, and that appealed to me.

You know, I’m attracted to things by a hunch, by instinct. I don’t analyze things; I am only guided by a feeling . In this case there was a clever script. He was witty; it was fun; it went to surprising places and had the potential to be a fine choral piece.

What do you think the film has to tell us about those people he despises, about entitlement and consumerism?

RF:I think it’s making fun of people who are obsessed with paying exorbitant prices for food and getting lost in the weird over-elaboration of food and over-obsession with presentation of the dishes. People who are willing to pay obscene amounts of money for it. It also satirizes the type of chef who offers that type of food. So it’s a strike and I take down that elitist restoration guy. But the types of characters portrayed are also funny. It’s a clever script and director Mark Mylod has gotten great performances from everyone, so I think they’re very well designed characters. I don’t think he’s saying anything we don’t already know. It’s just entertainment. But we don’t know where it’s going, so it works as a kind of thriller or quasi-horror. What will happen to them next?

It is also a classic locked room drama. How did the fact that everyone was on stage affect what we see now on the screen?

RF: Well, we were all together as a group, as you can see in the film, I would say for 85% of the film and we shot it chronologically for almost the entirety of it. It looked a lot like a theater company. They were all there when the others performed. So even though we were playing the claustrophobia of a closed room, as a team of actors we loved being in the same room, acting for each other. And Mark Mylod created a great spirit of collaboration.

Mark was also a genius at depicting the pressure cooker of emotions that affected the entire clientele. The rising panic, the feeling of being trapped, the slow buildup of restlessness and fear. Much of that atmosphere came from the director closely following the characters throughout the entire process. They arrive trusting a lot in themselves and proclaiming themselves entitled to everything. “Here I am, in an elegant, super-luxury restaurant!” There is complacency. But then they start to feel restless. A lot of that unease comes less from us feeling trapped in that space, since we were on a film set, and more from the way Mark wanted to portray a growing panic.

 How did you and Mark Mylod work on your character, Chef Slowik?

RF: We met, we talked. I was very interested in making sure, as much as we could, that the public didn’t know what was going to happen. That’s why there’s that opening monologue, saying things like :”Everything is beautiful, from the sea to the air; everything you eat is natural; we are nothing and nature is everything”. That’s kind of a holistic approach to the way we see food and a way to appreciate what food is. You might be thinking, “Wow, what this guy is saying makes a lot of sense!” So after that, the revelation that he is a psychopath had to be handled very carefully. I was worried that he didn’t seem like it from the start.

Did you talk a lot about his past? We know at some point that he started in the restaurant business much lower down the hierarchy and that he was a pretty happy man. He is now bitter and disappointed, despite having achieved everything he had wanted. How do you think he got to that point?

RF: One useful reference was the autobiography of a restaurateur, a chef named Grant Achatz, who runs a restaurant in Chicago called Alinea. He appears in one of the Chef’s Table episodes ,on Netflix. And Grant Achatz’s journey from growing up in a restaurant or helping out at his parents’ restaurant in the American Midwest, to slowly becoming obsessed with food and training at fine California restaurants like The French Laundry in Napa Valley, I think was a key experience. As a young man he enters the business in a rather humble position in food preparation but then he becomes obsessed with what you can do with food: that is very clear. This is how he manages to be so successful. They recognize his food as something particularly different, so people approach him about investing in a restaurant.

I don’t think Grant Achatz is disappointed, but I could understand. The truth is that if you stay in touch with those pure impulses that you had when you started, you can maintain idealism.

As an actor, I think I started with an idealism about theater and acting and I try to hold on to it, but sometimes you can become cynical when you see the way the world wants a product, a product that has to sell; people want to earn money; and you get stuck on opening weekends and box office… That’s how things work.

But maybe, as a restaurateur, even though you now have good reviews and people come to your restaurant, you feel like you’ve lost something. You have lost touch with something pure and simple like cooking for people to enjoy food, you have lost the pure human connection to it all. It has become a kind of shell for something else.

You mentioned being idealistic as an actor. When I was watching the movie, I realized that there is a parallel to other arts in that Chef Slowik strives for superhuman excellence. And striving for excellence is something all artists do, isn’t it? There is a tension between the desire to stand out and the desire to do something that you enjoy doing and that other people enjoy watching.

RF: Well, I think that the pursuit of excellence can mean a kind of detachment, if you can achieve what is called “perfection”. I do not think it could be. Of course, that’s what Slowik is saying. “We strive for perfection, but there is no such thing.” That was a phrase that really caught my attention because of course we are human beings, we are disorganized and we make mistakes. There is no “perfect” interpretation or “perfect” dish. Everything is what it is at that moment! And I think that’s what has happened to the chef. His idealism has soured.

Everyone says that it’s much more fun to play the bad guy than the good guy. But is it also harder to find the man on the inside? With a character like Voldemort , I guess you don’t need to find his heart, but with Chef Slowik you do. It is very difficult?

RF: It doesn’t help me to think of someone as the “bad guy”. If I sit and watch the movie, I realize who the bad guy is. But you can’t play that.

When everyone wants to know who’s the bad guy, I get frustrated because I think everyone has good and bad things. And I believe that people can turn to the “dark” side or to the “evil” side, but they can still carry within them the germ of something beautiful and vice versa.

And in his day, there was a young chef named Chef Slowik who loved to cook hamburgers. He could cook other things too, he did it better and better and he became obsessed with the beauty of food and what it could become. Then he lost sight of that and it all revolved around the product and the success and having the best reviews and the best restaurants: “This movie star came tonight, and this movie critic of this, and I won this Michelin star.” And that’s how he gets away from the real me of him.

We all know how nice it is when someone invites you over to their house and cooks for you, because they want to cook for you at their house. That is the instinctive, the natural, the spontaneous. If we are seeing the parallelism with the world of acting, it would be equivalent to when someone gets up and sings for you or someone quotes a Shakespearean speech, spontaneously, not because they have to prove something. Peter Brook, the theater director who has just passed away, wrote the best book on theater. [ The Empty Space , 1968] That book is a bible to me on how we should keep in touch with our innocence.

I wanted to end by asking you what you think about the cult of the staff for their chef. Living on an island, sleeping in those beds from Three Bears in a Row in a bedroom, following the chef’s antics… It’s like Lord of the Flies , right?

RF: Yes. You could argue that maybe the script for the movie could have explored a little more the relationship he has with the team and what their lives are like. But yes, there is a cult towards the chef. That’s why he has so much power. He is a very powerful people controller. And I think there are chefs who create that kind of intimidation. Although there are others who realize that they can be much more inclusive. It is not necessary to have that kind of messianic control that Slowik exerts.

Previous articleThe 25 Best Action Movies On Netflix, According To Critics
Next articleSeries and Movies Similar to Netflix’s Latest Sci-Fi Phenomenon: 1899