July 29, 2009

"Movies have long relied on half-cooked turkeys colored with motor oil, fruit made of plastic, and ice cream carved from Crisco..."

The work of movie food stylists. (Did you know there's a new movie with Meryl Streep playing Julia Child? It's called "Julie & Julia" — and the "Julie" is a blogger.)
A good [movie food] stylist always has enough replacement food. That’s not so easy to plan for. Often, no one knows what part of a dish an actor will eat until the scene is shot or how many takes the director will want....

Johanna Weinstein, a food stylist based in Toronto, said, “It’s guerilla kind of stuff because you are all about making quantity so the actors have enough of the one thing they have to eat 100 times and then correcting things on the fly.”

And things change fast. For the 2000 movie “American Psycho,” Ms. Weinstein had prepared several vegetarian dishes for the actor Willem Dafoe, who, she was told, didn’t eat meat. But at the last minute, he decided his character was a carnivore. In deference to his Method acting technique, she had to send out for steaks and figure out how to cook them on the set.
What a complicated, brilliant way for a committed vegetarian to finally get some steak — and look even more committed!

A few more tidbits:
There are a thousand little ways to make it easy on the actors.. Parsley needs to be used sparingly so it doesn’t get stuck in teeth. Toast can’t be so toasty that it crunches too loudly. Low-fat options like apple slices need to be tucked on top of a high-calorie dish that an actor has to nibble on repeatedly....

Then there are live creatures on a set that must be dealt with properly. On “Titanic,” which was filmed in Mexico, the food was constantly sprayed down with pesticide to keep the flies off....

On the set of “Julie & Julia,” the lobsters posed a special challenge. Ms. Adams appears to plunge two live lobsters into a pot of steaming water. The steam is actually a cool mist, and just off camera representatives from the American Humane Association monitored the creatures’ health.

31 comments:

Roger J. said...

I do understand food photography involves a whole lot of behind the scenes preparation--but one of the greatest food scenes I ever saw was Gregory Peck in the western The Big Country, sitting down to a HUGE steak for breakfast. Please tell me that wasnt faked.

t-man said...

The last line from your excerpt reconfirms my sense that we are doomed as a society.

MadisonMan said...

Those two lobsters are now living in a retired animal actor community paid for by taxes on non-sustainable slaughterhouses.

Roger J. said...

Re keeping flies off food: I pass along this trick I learned from Bahamians--put some splashes of tabasco or pepper sauce around the edge of your plate--It does seem to work.

Scott M said...

The steam is actually a cool mist, and just off camera representatives from the American Humane Association monitored the creatures’ health.

You do realize, of course, that the Roman film industry and it's little tyrannies like the one mentioned above is why they first split then lost the whole empire.

I think you have to have a pretty big void in your life to honestly be worried about the plight of two lobsters who, I'm willing to bet, ended up boiled and eaten anyway.

Scott M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mrs whatsit said...

How come the American Humane Association didn't care about the poor innocent cows who were converted into steak in support of Method Acting?

Leather Daddy said...

Crisco will do you proud every time.

The Drill SGT said...

I can see how working for Martha Stewart would be good training for being a "food stylist"

knox said...

I can't wait for this movie to come out!!

to honestly be worried about the plight of two lobsters who, I'm willing to bet, ended up boiled and eaten anyway.

Bite your tongue!! ... or, immerse it in a cool mist.

ironrailsironweights said...

The, ahem, man-juice in pornographic movies is produced by taking the water left over from cooking pasta, and thickening it with corn starch. It is then delivered through a tube colored to match the actor's skin tone.

An easier to produce variety, used in the relatively rare instances when no oral ingestion occurs, is simply Ivory dishwashing liquid.

Peter

Leather Daddy said...

ironrailsironweights, I would like to discuss your area of expertise further.

Bissage said...

It is true that the food we see in the movies is often fake, but some tasty dishes are so extra-special that nothing will do but the real thing.

As Rachael Ray might put it . . . Yummo!

Scott M said...

@knox

Bite your tongue!! ... or, immerse it in a cool mist.

What would be hysterical would be that the two reps from the Humane Society were the ones that boiled and ate them. The fact that they were standing by on the set only proves that they were hungry and had already melted the butter.

...typing that last line apparently set off a Pavlovian response and now I'm craving lobster...

EDH said...

For some reason, I've always been curious about how actors deliver their lines while they are supposed to be eating.

Sometimes it seems that they have something in their mouths that they are actually chewing on, sometimes it looks like they are fake chewing.

Some actors seem to over act when it comes to eating scenes, especially when fake chewing.

Fake chewing usually involves a lot of tongue action and side ways lower jaw shifting. And pregnant pauses between certain chews for effect.

I become distracted when an actor "hams" it so much up during what appears to be a fake chewing scene.

Fred4Pres said...

You know those lobsters went home with one of the crew after that scene was shot...never to be heard from again.

While the humane society watching that lobsters are not boiled is rather over the top, there is a reason those folks are there. We can thank crazy Michael Cimino for having the humane society on movie sets. He litterally blew up a number of live horses on the dreg of a movie Heaven's Gate and the studios all agreed to restrictions due to the terrible publicity of that.

What ever happened to Cimino?

Freeman Hunt said...

I think it's inhumane to the humans that they couldn't cook and eat the lobsters.

jaed said...

I'm thinking it's too bad the Mexican flies weren't actors, or they too could have had Humane Society representatives watching over them. "Put down that insecticide!"

A two-class system here? Animals that are actors, who have safety representatives, and non-actor animals, who may be killed and/or eaten at will... Free the Non-Actors!

traditionalguy said...

RANT OF THE DAY: The actors now realize that they are the rival of today's politicians for airtime,fame and fortune. The facial images we are most familiar with will open are hearts and minds to any faked "reality" in the same pictures. Their so called documentaries are the worst propaganda going, and are usually funded by political groups recieving Government grants mixed with Tax Shelter Foundations' grants.

John Burgess said...

Cimino may deserve a bad rap for his movies, but he's not the cause for Humane Society reps being on-set. Films from the 30s-40s, one of the hay days of the cowboy film, routinely abused livestock in an appalling manner. By the 1950s, you had animal welfare reps on site to guard against abuse.

Here's a 1987 piece from the Toledo Blade that gives some of the history.

Now, 'animal rights' organizations have certainly gone overboard, in my view, but like labor unions, they did play a useful role at some point.

Chip Ahoy said...

I want to see that movie. Julia Child is forefront in my pantheon.

When Dan Aykroyd lampooned her on SNL I was all, "Oh no. Oh no. Oh no he di'n! That's just wrong. Wrong. Wrong!" I was so offended. Child, however, loved it. She kept a recording and showed it at parties and cracked up all over again each time. Learning this made me love her even more and forced me to forgive Aykroyd's blasphemy.

I once saw something called "Refrigerators of the Stars," or some such, involving surprise visits with the one odd request within the interview was to be shown the inside of the subject's refrigerator. Child's refrigerator was nearly empty but the door was lined with beer.

Her book with Jacques Pepin Cooking at Home is quite good. Each subject is discussed and handled by each of them separately and presented contrapuntally for ease of comparison and for interest, and it's more accessible than her original Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I like Pepin too. A lot. Whenever I see him I immediately start aping his speech, lisping, landing on vowels and stretching them unnaturally, along with other idiosyncrasies. Don't judge me! It's automatic, I can't help it. Plus, his daughter is hot.

t-man said...

Bissage -

What a grab bag of fun here at Althouse. Do you know that there are twelve references to that movie in the Althouse archives?

t-man said...

Nice save there at the end, Chip.

Beth said...

I can't wait for this movie to come out!!

Me, too!

Chip, thanks for the reminder about the SNL bit; I hadn't read about her reaction. She was classy.

There's so much to love about Julia Child. Watching her salmon fishing at her advanced age. Want to peel a tomato? Grab a blowtorch!

Cedarford said...

Burgess's article was very helpful in explaining how a good code begun in 1939: "Hey, look after animal safety! Don't gratuitously kill horses and dogs and such in spectacular stunts!" - became mandatory (1980)in the Jimmy Carter years (AHA "sanctification" of movies under MPAA Code) then taken to absurd extremes by ever-escalating demands of activists inside and outside the Industry.

Moreover, the extremist idiots are actually proud of it. They proudly disclose, lest cockroach lovers object, that the ones squashed were computer-simulated. No lobster was harmed..they were dunked into mist..No, the horses in Michael Clayton were not "traumatized" by the car explosion. THey were not even there, but were instead startled by horse trainers waving sheets...And an animal psychologist ensured the horses were OK, emotionally...

And we have "carbon neutral movies" and TV shows now that assure watchdog zealots that trees were planted to compensate for the helicopter chases.

And all the other PC.

===================

Any bets on who will replace the Israel and Jewish rabbis human organ harvesting black market trade? When THAT news inspires a half dozen movies? After all, Hollywood recently added radical Muslims to their "nearly untouchable" cannot be cast as Villains, group...They simply replaced them with Tim McVeigh-like "neo-nazi" Fundie right wing crazy sorts.

My bet is the 1st movie will be about organs cut out of happless gay and black victims lured to an evangelical megachurch. Where all the baddies wear a cross around their necks just to remind people too dumb to make the Christian=Evil connection. And it is all orchestrated by a Sarah Palin-like figure.

The second movie will be about a sinister Halliburton-like organization that has white men heading into war zones to cut organs from the bodies of noble, innocent brown Muslims. With two activist human rights lawyers, one an All-Knowing Negro male, the other a Wise Latina with a smoking hot body..eventually solving the whole case..

madawaskan said...

I loved her with Jacques Pepin, I don't know why but when they sometimes subtly went at it...

I'd be there-

Ooooh Fight!

Fight!

Pastafarian said...

Chip, I love Jacques Pepin too. He did one season with his daughter, and there was something really touching about the way the two interacted.

My favorite Pepin mannerism: When he's describing how good something will be, he'll occasionally salivate and make a little slurping sound to avoid actually drooling.

Ralph L said...

My mother said you start lobsters in cold water, so it puts them to sleep as it heats up. I assume she learned that the year we lived in Newport, RI, where many lobsters are consumed.

bagoh20 said...

"...just off camera representatives from the American Humane Association monitored the creatures’ health."

and later: "They were delicious."

CarmelaMotto said...

The way James Gandolfini "ate" as Tony Soprano was always distracting. A lot of fork stabbing/clinking and movement.

His loud breathing - deviated septum? - was distracting too.

amba said...

You and Meade will be a movie yet. A la "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail." Nora Ephron is working on it already.