NEW YORK, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Celebrity chef Mario Batali is singing the praises of Burnt, the new culinary drama, which reunites American Sniper stars Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller.
"I'm extremely excited to be involved in motion pictures in any way, but this one is particularly fascinating," Batali, who was an adviser on the movie, said at a recent New York press conference featuring the film's cast.
"I was involved with director John Wells, and helping kind of make the reality of the script work and the food scenes seem legitimate and relatively current," Batali explained. "What you'll see is a pretty legitimate replication of what it's like to work in a high-end, fancy kitchen -- except it's done by movie stars that you're going to recognize. They did a fabulous job in, you know, hair and makeup and wardrobe, but, fundamentally, what you're seeing is kind of the raw nature of what real restaurant work and what creating this food is."
In the movie, Cooper plays Adam, a talented chef trying to re-build his career after his addiction to drugs led to him burning all of his bridges a few years earlier. Miller plays Helene, the single-mom chef who reluctantly helps Adam at his new restaurant, even though she initially finds him impossible.
Cooper revealed one of the main reasons why the movie's kitchen scenes appeared authentic was because many of the people in them were real chefs, not actors or extras.
"We were cooking. ... All the other cooks -- they were not actors, they were cooks, people that work in Michelin-star restaurants around London," Cooper dished. "So, we were cooking the food, so we were eating the food, too. ... We were testing constantly, but then we would actually, in between takes, eat a lot."
A drawback to having all of that rich, delicious food at his disposal was that it wasn't easy to drop weight for his role in the Broadway play The Elephant Man.
"I was in the process of losing weight to do a play and, so, I was trying to lose, like, 40 pounds for The Elephant Man, so it was kind of a nightmare to do a cooking movie in between. But if you do watch the film again, you'll see scenes where my face is like two inches wider than other times," he confided. "We shot out of sequence, but it was kind of nice. It was lumbering. I'm glad that I had that weight, actually. It worked, I thought."
Miller seemed pleased to report that she actually learned how to make fresh pasta for a scene in the movie.
"Yeah, she really did it," Cooper verified. "She really did that in the scene. Yeah, that was fantastic. It really was. You have no idea how hard that is -- to act, No. 1, but then make pasta while you're acting."
"Because, at that point, she wasn't acting. She was just making pasta," Batali observed.
Cooper said he relied on his brief, previous experience as a prep cook at a New Jersey seafood restaurant to get him through scenes where Adam shucks oysters as a type of penance for his past bad behavior.
"I had shucked oysters when I was a prep cook and, I mean, if you're ever going to slice your hands, it's [going to be while] shucking an oyster, and I really thought... I even said to John Wells, I said, 'Bro, just to let you know, if this goes south, you better find a lot of other stuff to shoot.'"
Miller said the biggest challenge she faced during the production of Burnt was a tense scene in which Adam berates and belittles Helene in front of the entire kitchen crew.
"There was just something about the atmosphere on that day and, I think having worked together so intensely on American Sniper, we'd sort of got to a level of trust with each other as actors, where we could just kind of get quite deep, quite quickly and it felt very intense, very real," she noted. "And I think it kind of, it just really affected the environment and one of those things it was kind of cathartic and very interesting and very dark, but hard to go through that with someone that, you know, with your friend and we had enough of a good relationship and of a good understanding of each other to be able to avoid each other for the rest of the day without having to apologize or explain why. But it was just a pretty real moment and then at the end of the day, you're like, 'That was a great day!' Because that's the weird thing about being an actor. The horrible stuff is what makes you feel good.
"But the best part of it, for me, was the training, and learning these skills and being around this incredible cast. We all became really close. We laughed a lot and we worked in a kitchen. We were chefs and we really did it. There were no doubles as Bradley said and to have that experience of really living another profession is one of the most exciting things of our job, I think."
Co-starring Uma Thurman, Daniel Bruhl, Emma Thompson, Matthew Rhys, Omar Sy, Sam Keeley and Alicia Vikander, Burnt is in theaters now.