Aimee Carrero, Mark St. Cyr and Arturo Castro Talk 'The Menu' Blu-ray
Moviefone speaks with Aimee Carrero, Mark St. Cyr and Arturo Castro about 'The Menu.' "It's always a surprise when anything you do, people like," said Carrero.
Searchlight Pictures held an event in Hollywood on January 17th to celebrate the Blu-ray and DVD release of ‘The Menu,’ which features an all-star cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Judith Light, Janet McTeer, and John Leguizamo.
The acclaimed movie, which was directed by Mark Mylod, centers around a young couple (Taylor-Joy and Hoult) who travel to a coastal island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the famed Chef Slowik (Fiennes) has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.
The event was held at a Blockbuster Video Pop Up on Melrose Avenue, and served cocktails inspired by the characters in the film, as well as Chef Slowik’s “To Die For” burger and fries, which were featured prominently at the end of the movie.
In attendance were actors Arturo Castro and Mark St. Cyr, who along with Rob Yang as Bryce, play Soren and Dave, respectively, who are Slowik’s greedy business partners. Also appearing at the event was actress Aimee Carrero, who portrayed Felicity, the assistant to John Leguizamo’s movie star character.
Moviefone had the pleasure of sitting down with Aimee Carrero, Mark St. Cyr and Arturo Castro at the event to talk about their work on ‘The Menu,’ their characters, the ensemble cast, director Mark Mylod, and if they are surprised by the success of the movie.
Moviefone: To begin with, what was it like for you as actors to be a part of this incredible ensemble cast?
Aimee Carrero: Well, it was like a play and we shot it in sequence, which is such a gift and so rare. What's cool about the cast that Mark Mylod put together is all of us come from theater for the most part. So, we're all used to being together, doing the same thing many times over, and just the stamina that it requires to do the same thing over and over again, not knowing where the camera is and still keeping the energy up, and still keeping it really fresh. So, I was really lucky to have a partner like John Leguizamo and have Judith Light, I mean a theater legend, Ralph Fiennes, another theater legend, and Janet McTeer. I mean, I could go on and on.
So, it was amazing. The first day I was really intimidated, but then I remember being in my trailer and thinking, okay, the only way you can mess up this job is by feeling intimidated. You got to go in and know you belong here. You can have something to offer the story. So, I gave myself a little pep talk, but nobody made me feel that way. I mean, everybody was just wonderful and so nice. It honestly felt like doing summer stock theater camp or something. It was just so much fun.
Arturo Castro: Even the days that you didn't have lines, you had to be there. There was one scene where it's John Leguizamo and Ralph Fiennes and they're going at each other, and then the lines end and they start improving with each other. I remember being there. I'm like, I wouldn't have believed you had you told me that one day I would have front row seats to watch these masters go at it. The movie had a few moments of such gratitude that I felt my chest was going to burst. So yes, it was like theater in that sense, but also just for an audience of twelve, it was wonderful.
MF: Was Ralph Fiennes intimidating to work with?
Mark St. Cyr: He takes his craft very seriously. So, when he's there to work, he is there to work. In a way you end up being very grateful for it because he sets the tone for the whole set. Everybody's like, “Hey, let's treat this as a sacred opportunity while we're here.” Then Ralph is great when he is not on set. He's very relaxed, very generous and has a lot of fun. But when you're there, man, he's locked in.
Arturo Castro: He’s intimidating in the sense that the man didn't mess up a line once, not once! One time he went, “I'm going to take that back.” He hadn't even messed it up. He just took it back one time. I'm like, you can't set the bar that high Dude. You got pages and pages of dialogue, and we're fumbling like three lines a piece every five minutes. That was the intimidating part. He just said the bar too high.
Aimee Carrero: Ralph is an OBE, Order of the British Empire. He's a theater actor. So, I was expecting someone very formal, and he's not at all formal, which is really nice because we were all a little buttoned up when he walked in. I mean, we'd met him at a rehearsal and a lunch and stuff, but everybody's like, there's Ralph Fiennes.
But he was so approachable. He was so funny. He just is a curious person and wants to know about your life. So, he'll be like, "So tell me about your husband. How did you meet your husband?" I'm like, "Really? You want to know this? You're Ralph Fiennes, don't you have other things to talk about?" But I think that's what makes him a great actor, he's really interested in people and asks people things. So, he was just a joy.
MF: Arturo and Mark, once you were cast, how quickly did you guys get to meet Rob Yang and figure out the dynamics of your three characters?
Arturo Castro: I didn't meet these guys till I went down to Savannah. But the first day we met, we sat around discussing the script and me, Mark and Rob went out to drink. That was the dynamic, and then we started kicking it from there. We just rode the wave.
Mark St. Cyr: I met Arturo, but I didn't know who the third Tech bro was at that time. Rob wasn't there, so we weren't complete until we did the table read.
MF: Can you talk about the challenge of humanizing these otherwise despicable characters?
Arturo Castro: We all know people like this, and I think there's more than the two-dimensional factor of it. I think for me it was about people that have made something of themselves, but they come at it from a resentment point of view. Like, “Now I'm on top, so I get to be the guy and you get to feel bad because I'm on top.” These are people that have felt belittled for one reason or another, or that they had imposter syndrome and they are overcompensating on the other end. That’s how I humanize them.
Mark St. Cyr: I think that’s interesting, what you just said about how they feel like they're on top now. Maybe they were on the bottom before because that table is all minorities, which I thought was interesting as they very easily could have cast all the tech bros as white. So in a way, you kind of get to watch the entitlement attitude that comes with having a ridiculous amount of money at your disposal. I think there are a lot of men that just prioritize money above all else. Money is important, but above all else can do some weird things to you.
MF: Aimee, John Leguizamo has publicly said that he based his “movie star” character on Steven Seagal, who he had an unpleasant experience working with on 1996’s ‘Executive Decision.’ Did you know that was where he was pulling his inspiration for the character from when you were filming?
Aimee Carrero: No. In fact, I thought he was going for a Johnny Depp thing because of the scarf, because he had that little scarf on. But he actually said that during our press junket in November when the movie was going to come out. I remember him being coy about not saying who it was, and finally half way through the junket, he was like, "Honestly, it was based on Steven Seagal." He just said it. I was like, oh my God.
But no, in fact, I thought he played the movie star with a lot of heart. I actually felt bad for him at times. So, maybe that was his detached, delusions of grandeur kind of thing definitely coming through. But yeah, it's funny because whenever actors are portrayed in film, it's always so over the top and kooky. But he chose the route of, this could be an actor or it could just be a guy who's really full of himself and no one's ever said no to him.
MF: Aimee, without giving anything away, I felt that both Felicity and Anne, played by Judith Light, did not deserve the outcomes they received. Do you agree with that, or do you think they got what they deserved?
Aimee Carrero: Well, it's funny because Judith and I talked about that. We talked about the idea of if you're not making the problem better, then you're making it worse. I think maybe out of all the people in the restaurant, they deserve to die the least. I don't think that they were as bad as the other ones. But I think in Felicity's case, because her mother ran a big studio, she got a job there, she was stealing money, she had no student loans.
I think part of it too, from the writer's perspective, there has to be a catharsis that the audience feels when they're having to pay their student loan every month, to watch someone who didn't have to suffer that meet their end, in a funny way, it has to be cathartic. But I don't think she was as bad as the other ones. But it does spark a question in my mind, is it okay to just not be that bad or do we have to be good?
MF: Finally, what was your experience like working with director Mark Mylod on this project, and were you surprised by the success of the film?
Arturo Castro: We were just talking about it and we feel like it comes in waves. When it came out in theaters, then it came out on HBO Max, and now that it's on Blu-ray and DVD, so we're just incredibly grateful. If I may say about Mark Mylod, every morning he would get to set, he would have a team meeting and he would have such humor and grace to what we were going to do for the day. He just set the tone really early in the morning for what the day was going to be. It helped tremendously for morale. So, now that people actually like it, it's just incredible.
Mark St. Cyr: I would say about Mark, to me, he’s the most incredible director I've worked with, and I don't say that to flatter him. But one of the things that really stood out for me was that he learned the name of every background artist we had and he called them by name. There were takes where they had an important storytelling moment, whether it was crossing or they had to do something. He would check in with them by name and be like, was that good for you as well?
I've never seen that on any set that I've ever been on. He really invited creative collaboration and there were times when the background artist would let him know, “Hey, there was this thing that didn't go according to the plan, just want you to be aware of it.” It made the project better because everybody felt like they had a sense of contribution and ownership.
Aimee Carrero: He's a dream come true. So, I knew his work. I'd never met him, but I watched all of ‘Succession,’ even before I knew I was auditioning for this. So, I'd seen that and lot of the ‘Game of Thrones’ he directed. What I didn't know about Mark was that he started in comedy, so he did a lot of comedy before he moved into that prestige TV. That was really cool because I knew from jump that it was important to him to bring out the levity in the movie, which is a dark, black comedy. But he was amazing because I think he also was really honest. Being a TV director helps you just be like, “I’m not going to beat around the bush, this is what I need,” which is so helpful.
But also aside from that, he's a deeply talented person, and he kept the set super light and just really supportive. So we'd get the takes as written, and then he'd always give us a freebie take. So we'd improvise, and a lot of the improv made it in. That whole bit with John and I, when he was like, "I gave you a bad recommendation to Sony." And I said, "I know, you CC'd me on it." That was improv. So, they kept a lot of that, which is so cool. Sometimes you don't have the space to do that, especially if you're on a tight budget. This was not a huge movie as far as budget goes, so time is money and he would always take the time to make sure that everybody got to do what they felt good about.
What I'm surprised by is how many people were interested in seeing it. We obviously knew we were in a dark comedy, but you've got to play it for real. For some reason I thought we were making this art house thing. But people were so excited to see this movie. What surprised me more than the theatrical release was when it hit the streamers. There were all these people that maybe didn't feel comfortable going to the movie yet because of COVID, or maybe have young children. So, many people saw it on streaming, and I've seen more of that now than when it was in the theater. So, that was really cool.
Listen, it's always a surprise when anything you do, people like. I've done a lot of clunkers, so it's amazing anytime you get it in a movie and then you like the movie, and then people like the movie and you have a good time, that's lightning in a bottle.