Skip to main content
Australia Edition
Friday, 24 September 2021

Food Stylist Breaks Down Food Scenes from Movies

Credit: Vanity Fair
Duration: 15:46s 0 shares 2 views

Food Stylist Breaks Down Food Scenes from Movies
Food Stylist Breaks Down Food Scenes from Movies

Food stylist Susan Spungen reviews iconic food scenes from films like 'Matilda,' 'The Princess Diaries,' 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'Julie & Julia,' and more.

Susan explains all the things we never think about when watching food scenes in movies, like how the food stays fresh between takes and how often the actors have to actually eat the food.

- I was the food styliston "Julie & Julia".I was the hand double forMeryl Streep in this film.So, in the black and white segments,those are actually my hands.I had on Meryl Streep'swatch and her shirt.And that's me sewing up the duck.Hey Vanity Fair, I'm Susan Spungen.Today, I'll be reviewingfood styling in TV and film.[enchanting music]This next clip is from"The Princess Diaries".- What a wild bunch.- Very exciting.- Thank you.- [Susan] In any situation,ice cream is definitelythe hardest thing to shoot,whether or not this isreal ice cream or sorbet isan open question.Because they're eating, youwould have to make somethingthat looks like sorbet but doesn't melt.You also could just keepresetting the scene,but it would be ideal to havesomething that doesn't melt.Because by the time you started shooting,it could be melting.[Mia mumbling]- She didn't realize it was frozen.- If it was me, I woulddo everything in my powerto create something thatlooked like what they wanted itto look like, but also couldbe edible for the actors.And you know, it can't be like Crisco,which is a common wayto make fake ice cream,'cause they're eating it.It's very possible it's actual sorbet.'Cause I did see a littlebit of melt around the edgein the bowl.[people struggling]- They're acting like monkeys.- [Susan] This scene is from "Matilda".[students gasping]This cake really had to havea lot of screen presence.- Smells chocolatey, aye?- [Susan] And one way thatthey did that was justby making it huge.It's a really, really big cake.- I don't want any, thank you.- It looks to me like it was just madein giant wedding cake pans.And also, they're using camera anglesto make it look evenbigger and scary, actually.- Eat it!- It's hard to makesomething like chocolatelook unappealing or unappetizing.Part of what's helping thatis that you can see thatthe actor doesn't want to eat it.But, they've also triedto make the cake just lookkind of just really messy and sloppy.And then, the cook is wiping her nose.So, it just seems kind of disgusting,and very like kind of sloppily made.When you see an actor onscreen eating or seemingto eat a lot, you'll knowthat they cut away a lot.And there are plenty ofopportunities for the actorto spit out the food, whichis often what they have to do.- I can't look.- Usually, you want the actorsto eat as little as possible,unless they want to eat it.[boy burping][students laughing]- [Susan] This next filmis "Eat, Pray, Love".[opera music]Working on "Eat, Pray, Love"was definitely an adventure.We did not have a set kitchen,and we were really shootingon location in Rome.And if you've ever been to Rome,you know the streets are small.And only a couple of trucks were allowedto get near the set, and afood truck was not one of them.In this case, the pastawould have been pretty warmbecause the doors that you see behind her,that's where the kitchenwas, and I was right inside.And so, I would have tried to plate thisas freshly as possible.For this scene, I don'tbelieve that they specifiedthe kind of pasta.And I just wantedsomething simple and iconicbecause this scene wasall about her decidingto give into her impulsesand just live life.But, I didn't reallyunderstand how importantthe scene was going to beuntil I saw the final edit.And I think we did itwith one plate of pasta.And then they said, "Okay,we're done.

We're wrapped.We're moving onto the next location,"company move, they say.So you clean up and youthrow everything away.And they were like, "Waita minute, wait a minute.We need to shoot an insert."It just was the Parmesancheese falling on the pasta.As much as I hated takingit out of the trash,I took it out of thetrash, I re-plated it,and we did the Parmesancheese falling on the pasta.But don't worry,I didn't feed JuliaRoberts pasta that had beenin the trash.This is "Sex and the City".The truth is, you wouldn'tprep any differentlyfor this scene as you wouldfor sushi that was sittingon a table.It looks like it's realsushi on a real body.She probably also hadcertain modesty garments onunderneath the sushi.More likely than not, theprop team ordered sushifrom a restaurant.And they probably wouldn't havebrought a sushi chef on setbecause it's a prettyeasy thing to source.They probably had trays andtrays of it in a refrigerator,because it might've taken multiple takesto get the shots that they needed.- [Samantha] 40 Minuteslater, sushi, Samantha,still no Smith.- If they have to eat,what do they want to eat?That becomes almostthe most important partof a scene like this.- I got wasabi in places whereone should never get wasabi.- [Susan] This next sceneis from "Julie & Julia".- You may think that boninga duck is an impossible feat.- [Susan] I was the foodstylist on "Julia & Julia".- Don't be afraid.- No fear, Julia.- We had a sort of makeshiftkitchen right on the stage.It was actually a little bit difficultbecause we couldn't make any noisewhile the cameras were rolling.- Down the back of the bird,all the way from the neckto expose the back bone.- Is it hard to bone a duck?Well, it isn't the easiestthing in the world.- Ew, disgusting.- Oh, maybe the eggs aren't fresh.Julia says the eggs have to be fresh.- They are fresh.- If you watch the film closely,you'll realize that AmyAdams is actually doingmost of the cooking.'Cause I would teach hersome basic knife skills,chopping and peelingonions, and cracking eggs,just to kind of get her morecomfortable in the kitchen.We had live lobstersbecause there was a scenewhere she had to actually pickup live lobsters, and yes,they were real live lobsters.- Look at that Julia, itlooks just like yours.- I was the hand double forMeryl Streep in this film.So in the black and white segments,In the wide shots, Merylis doing a few things.But, you don't see themore intricate parts.- [Julie] And then, I was trussingthe Poulet Roti a la Normandeand it fell on the floor.Damn it!- You always have to have alot of backups for resetting.I think we had eight ofthose actual finished ducksfor the dinner party.I mean, it's not likea super expensive item.Believe it or not, that wouldaffect how many you get.If it's something that's kind of cheap,you might just get 10 just to have them.But if it becomes expensive, I mean,you do always have a budgetthat you're working with.So, you don't want to be wasting money.- I have to bone a whole duck.- When?- At some point.- [Susan] This next sceneis from "Emily in Paris".- Ah, this steak isn't cooked at all.Excuse me?

Pardon, Monsieur?- [Susan] In this scene,we are to believe thatEmily has received a steakthat is very rare, butyou never see the steak.You barely see the food.So, it's totally the actors' reactionsand the dialogue that isgiving context to the food.And we're just kind of buying it.- Is there a problem?- No, no.- I love it.

Everything is perfect.- You haven't touched it.- The fact that there's noreal closeup of the foodin the scene tells youthat they're not reallyso concerned about the food.- You know, I'd be happyto burn it for you,but promise me you'll try it first.- Yeah, try his meat, Emily.- It's much more about thedialogue, and the characters,and even the humor of the scene.Nothing is real.I mean, the way that this chef comes outof a small little bistrokitchen perfectly clean,and his sleeves arerolled up on his biceps.I mean, it's definitely not real.It's all there to serve the storyand it's not about the food.- See?

I knew you'd likeit if you give it a chance.- [Susan] Next up, "Eat Drink Man Woman".This is probably one of thebest cooking scenes ever shot.You see so much real, real food here.This is an expert chef.It's the very beginning of the film,so it's the introduction tothe character and the story.And this is how it all starts.And you are immediately just drawn into the rhythmic cooking that's going on.There are so many differentactions in the scene.And any action is more difficult to shootbecause you only get one chance.And then if you didn't get it,you have to just reset and do it again.[food sizzling]A scene like this would havetaken a long time to shoot.It would all be chartedout on a shooting scheduleso the person doing the food would knowwhat to have prepared and when.All of those kinds ofthings would kind of dictatehow you would source your ingredientsand how to basically prep.Your job as the foodstylist is to be ready,never want to keep this very hugeand expensive crew waiting.This next scene is from"Inglorious Basterds".[speaking foreign language]This scene is very interesting.It's part of this long,uncomfortable conversationbetween these two characters.And they go to the trouble of showing youhow beautiful and deliciousthis apple strudel is.The whole point of kind ofbuilding the strudel up wasto show how menacing a character he is,because in the end, he thinks nothingof putting out hiscigarette on the strudel.This is a really good exampleof food sort of playinga character in a scene, because, you know,it was there to really tell you something.It was no accident that yousaw these loving closeupsof the strudel and the cream,just so they could show youa closeup of the cigaretteat the end.This next scene is from"Marie Antoinette".The asparagus tower is verycentral, visually, in the scene.And in the 18th century,food was both a decorationand something to eat.It just sort of reallyhelps set the scene.And it sort of adds tolike the absurdity ofwhat we think of as Marie Antoinette.- Let them eat cake.- The idea is to sortof find the sweet spotbetween historicalcorrectness and theatricalityto help tell the storyand paint a picture.Everything is just kindof pretty, and flouncy,and ruffly, and so are the clothes.So, it's all of a piece.This next scene is from"The Grand Budapest Hotel".- [Narrator] This wasalso when I met Agatha.- From what I understand aboutthe way Wes Anderson works,there are sort of elements of realityand fantasy kind of interwoven together.And I think these pastriesare kind of a perfect exampleof that.When trying to figureout what exactly a pastrylike this might look like in the film,most likely you might start with sketches.They would have auditioneddifferent versions of the pastry,since it's so important.It's really like almost likea character in these scenes.- [Narrator] Not only wasAgatha immensely skilledwith a pallet knife anda buttercream flourish,she was also very brave.- In a case like thiswhere the pastries are just set dressing,I would do whatever I had todo to make these indestructibleand last as long as possible.- [Man 1] Out of this world.- [Man 2] Mendl's is the best.- [Susan] This next sceneis from "Crazy Rich Asians".- Forget about those girls.Camp out here and order room service.[woman screaming]- It's highly likely thatthese two shots were shotat different times.If there's no reason tohave the actors in the roomwith this probably smellyfish, why would you?I would think even for the film crew,they would have tried tokeep the smells to a minimum.You wouldn't really wantlike smelly rotten fishin the room with the crew.This definitely looks likea real fish in this scene,to me.The guts and blood are probably fake,but you never know.It could be anything.It could be paper towelssoaked in fake blood.This is sometimes where thespecial effects departmentwould actually get involved.Usually they can create likefake gross stuff that isn'tas gross as it looks.Next up is "Willy Wonka& the Chocolate Factory".- Hurry up, Violet!- This way, Grandpa.- Each of those props that you see,all of the supposed candy in the garden,and they're all going crazy over it.If you look at it, it justlooks like plastic and vinyl.And it more creates this fantasy world.And if you look closelyat what they're doing,they've just opened up oneof these plastic mushroomsand put something inside.And even the chocolatewaterfall doesn't really looklike chocolate.It just looks like brown water.- You've ruined your watershed,Wonka.

It's polluted.- It's chocolate.- None of it really looks likefood or really like anything,but you kind of buy it.And again, the actors' reactionsare having a big effecton how you interpret the scene.Next up is "The Founder".- Speed, that's the name of the game.The first stop for everyMcDonald's hamburger isthe grill.- I feel like thisscene is very successfulbecause I really did feellike I was in that kitchenback in the first McDonald's,because it really showedyou a lot of detailbehind the scenes.- Burger crossing.- You see hamburgers thatwere clearly made by hand.That is probably how theywere made in the beginningbefore they became a huge conglomerate.That lends a real airof reality to the scene.Because if they showedburgers the way they look nowat McDonald's, thesesort of perfect circles,I would have a harder timebelieving that it was real.Like to me, just the shapeof the burgers really isthe one thing here thattells me that, oh, wow,this is like the first McDonald's.Next time you see aplate of food in a movie,think about all that went into it.And remember that nothing is accidentalwhen you see it on the screen.Thanks so much for watching.And thanks for having me, Vanity Fair.