Sienna Miller can fillet a turbot like a pro journalists learned at a press conference the other day for “Burnt,” a darkly interesting character study that shows off some great acting by Miller, Bradley Cooper, Matthew Rhys and Daniel Bruhl.
“I now have a solid and well rehearsed technique as to how to cook fish pretty well and it’s pretty impressive at a dinner party,” she told us.
But if there was a “Top Chef” cook-off between her and her co-star Bradley Cooper, I’d put my money on the “Silver Linings Playbook” star. In the opening scene of the film alone he shucks – for real – about a thousand oysters. “Only 10 of them were loosened” by the professional chefs on set, said Cooper. “We got through them in like half a take. That was the first day of shooting. If you’re ever going to slice your hand it’s shucking an oyster.” (Turns out as a teenager Cooper worked as a prep chef in New Jersey.)
The “Burnt” press conference in midtown Manhattan was moderated by Mario Batali, who was a consultant on the film tasked with making sure “the food seem legitimate and relatively current.” Batali then introduced Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and fellow cast members, Uma Thurman – who plays a food critic and has two small but notable scenes in the film – Daniel Bruhl and Sam Keeley. (Director John Wells and Matthew Rhys, who plays a snooty chef, didn’t participate, although we caught up with them on the red carpet in the evening at the premiere at the Museum of Modern Art.)
In “Burnt,” Cooper plays Adam Jones, a brilliant but impossible chef, who once ruled over the kitchen of a top Paris restaurant only to flame out on booze and drugs. After shucking a million oysters – he kept count – in a New Orleans sea food joint, he resurfaces in London and in a bid for redemption obsessively pursues a third Michelin star at a ritzy restaurant run by Tony (Daniel Bruhl), who is in love with the bad boy chef. The scenes of Bradley’s character throwing plates against the wall and abusing the kitchen staff were “actually pretty tame” compared to the real thing said the actor, who researched the backstage rarified culinary scene he said.
The actors told us they are “really into food and like to eat.” Cooper related to his characters “obsession to do the best you can.” Miller drank the beef sauce, which is basically butter, but didn’t gain weight because “you’re working so intensely and it’s physically exhausting” and “boiling hot, so the kind of anxiety and adrenaline and focus that takes is probably burning off the beef sauce”…blah, blah.
Spoiler alert: one pivotal scene in “Burnt” will be controversial. If you don’t want to know more, stop here.
Asked about the most challenging scene to shoot, things got more interesting; Cooper said it was a scene with Welsh actor Matthew Rhys, who plays Reece, a frenemy chef with the three-star Michelin rating Jones craves. In the scene, which is near the end of the film, Bradley’s character shows up at his rival’s restaurant drunk and pulls a plastic bag – believe it or not some sort of cooking aide – over his head in what looks like a suicide attempt.
Cooper said of the scene, “It was late at night and we didn’t have much time and the bag thing just sort of happened in one of the takes. It just feels vulnerable doing something like that in front of 12 people you don’t know at all, but ultimately it was beautiful,” he said, “because Matthew Rhys who plays Reece was just incredible. We didn’t really know each other at all and next thing you know, he’s caressing me and calmed me down. We’re bonded forever. Matter of fact I haven’t really seen him since and I look forward to seeing him tonight because we looked at each other after and we, why we both love doing what we do is to be able to really put yourself in imaginary circumstances and hope that accidents like putting an bag on your head and realizing you can kill yourself happen.”
photo c2015 Showbiz411 by Paula Schwartz