Nicholas Hoult has had to do many different kinds of preparations over the years for roles he’s had.
But the one thing he never did before was “action” on people like Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men: First Class or The favoriteis just eating and watching TV.
Holt’s in The menu, a wonderfully psychotic and sharply satirical thriller comedy set in the world of extremely delicious food. Hoult’s character, Tyler, is an obsessive foodie fanboy who can whip up gastronomic techniques with as much smug ease as a toddler getting his hands on a bottle of glue.
So his prep work went something like this: activate the taste buds between gurgling episodes of Chef’s Table on Netflix. Work hard if you can get it.
“We went to The Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant in Oxford, which was a great experience,” he told news.com.au. “The food was incredible, but it was also quite a production where there is nitrogen on the table and they make those puff pastry things that disappear in your mouth.
“And then there’s another dish they serve you, where they bring out a shell with an iPod hidden inside with headphones and you listen to the sea while you eat food from the seas. It evokes memories of childhood.
“There was also something weird – it was incredible – but they had a font expert write these words on the menu and you took bites of it, depending on the different font you were reading, the food tasted different.
“I know it sounds crazy, but I guarantee it works. It was, in many ways, the most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced.”
Hoult’s journey into that world for the sake of a role doesn’t quite reflect the experiences of the onscreen characters, whose high-end party in The menu‘s fictional Hawthorne is not as ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ as that of the actor in The Fat Duck.
Starring alongside a killer row cast including Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Judith Light, Hong Chau, John Leguizamo, and Janet McTeer, Hoult basically spent a month as Taylor-Joy’s dinner companion.
His character Tyler and her character Margot have a date at Hawthorne, a fancy diner on a private island run by disciplinarian chef Julian (Fiennes). Tyler is beside himself with hero worship, the kind of idolization that leads Hoult to conclude that his character is someone who could easily have been seduced by a cult.
Maybe he can put things into perspective a bit. He admitted that he was impressed when the production’s food consultant, Dominique Crenn of The French Laundry, was on set, especially after watching her episode on Chef’s Table.
“She’s a complete rock star,” he gushed.
“In this film, we show the very heightened, extreme version of that world. But I think it’s very inspiring to watch those chefs, their incredible creativity, and how focused and dedicated they are.
“It’s definitely given me a new appreciation for what they do.”
Maybe that’s not the intended takeaway The menu, a film that pierces the privilege and indulgence of that world. The film is directed by Mark Mylod, who is best known for his work on the gut-wrenching dramedy Successionanother project that tears extreme wealth to pieces.
But for an actor who spent months in a Namibian desert (for Fury gone), Hoult won’t complain about playing with a theater company-esque ensemble in a room and preparing by getting delectable snacks.
And then there’s the fun of his character being “obviously insane for many reasons.” Hoult said he’s been around people similar to Tyler, but he didn’t specifically draw on any of them — or if he did, then he won’t admit it.
Hoult has a knack for choosing intense roles where the characters border on caricatures, yet manage to feel unsettlingly real.
It included the increasingly absurd politician Robert Harley The favoritespoiled Emperor Peter III The big (for which he was nominated for an Emmy), into the violently chaotic Constable Fitzpatrick True History of the Kelly Gang and into the unhinged Nux Fury gone.
“I find them interesting because of their extreme nature and sometimes their improbability. There’s just things about them on the page that are really nice.
“The older I get, the more I enjoy playing that. It’s kind of like, “How far can I push things and get away with it” in a character. In the worlds [of these characters]you can push them to the limit and they will still fit.
“I get the chance to experience and live many different lives and realities in my own which is so much fun.”
The menu is now running in cinemas