John Leguizamo says food is ‘bait and bait’ in horror comedy ‘The Menu’

Food can be both irresistible and satisfying. The new horror-comedy “The Menu” uses that charm to ensnare privileged diners at an upscale banquet, actor John Leguizamo said in an interview with NBC News.

“I loved the clever writing, the beautiful poetry about food, and then of course the beautiful execution of the food,” she said. “But it’s just bait and lure to get the audience. And then it becomes this terrifying horror-thriller about who’s going to die and who’s not going to die.”

Leguizamo plays an actor who has fallen out of the spotlight. And along with 10 other guests, he will place his palate, and ultimately his life, in the hands of world-renowned chef Julian Slowik, played by Ralph Fiennes.

These guests are invited to an exclusive destination restaurant on a remote island. But their gastronomic experience will come at a deadly price. And as the film ups the ante for these fine diners, viewers may be prompted to ask: How much are you willing to pay for a good meal?

While “The Menu” emphasizes how food can connect and disconnect people, Leguizamo says it also pokes fun at class tensions between the rich (the guests) and the poor (the restaurant staff), pitting them against each other. other in a dining room.

“The film is a satire on what is happening in the world and in America right now,” Leguizamo said, “where the rich, the billionaires, the corporations are ruling and taking over our politics, our social media, controlling everything, and we have to fight against it. We have to come out as truth to power.”

In the film, the guests have been selected by Slowik and are parodies of a ruling class: three technological brothers, an out-of-this-world wealthy couple, an elitist food critic and his editor, a self-absorbed food enthusiast and his last-minute date, and a fade-in actor (Leguizamo) with his assistant.

Regardless of these ruling class stereotypes, however, Leguizamo was proud that “The Menu” shines a spotlight on Latino actors in a different way.

“What I liked about the film is that the Latinos weren’t in the kitchen as usual. They were serving us,” she said.

“The Menu” features four actors with ties to Hispanic culture and heritage in starring roles that are outside of the kitchen.

Leguizamo was born in Colombia and raised in Jackson Heights, New York. Aimee Carrero, born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Miami, plays his assistant. Arturo Castro, born in Guatemala and then moved to New York, plays one of the technological brothers. And Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the last-minute date for the foodie (played by Nicholas Hoult), is the daughter of an Argentinian of English and Scottish ancestry, and her maternal grandmother is from Barcelona.

When asked about horror films, Leguizamo said the genre can open doors for telling powerful stories about Latino identity. He pointed out that one of the genre’s master filmmakers was Cuban: George Romero made the 1968 black-and-white zombie classic, “Night of the Living Dead.”

Leguizamo also compared “The Menu” to “The Exterminating Angel,” a 1962 Mexican surrealist film directed by award-winning Spanish director Luis Buñuel, in which a group of wealthy guests cannot leave an extravagant dinner party.

Outside of film, food nourishes and strengthens, Leguizamo said.

“Food is everything in a Latino family. And the more people there are, the better the food tastes,” she said. “My mom always serves too much and then she has homemade Latin Tupperware, which is just whatever plastic container your food came in. She always sends people with bags full of extra food.”

For the past four decades, Leguizamo recalls family Christmas menus packed with Latin flavor: arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon beans); pernil (slow-cooked roast pork); pollo al horno (baked chicken); plátanos maduros (ripe plantains); ensalada de aguacate (avocado salad); habichuelas (beans); and tostones (green plantains).

Leguizamo has been busy lately traveling across the country and taking a deep dive into the culture — including iconic foods and restaurants — of different cities across the United States as part of his upcoming documentary series, ‘Leguizamo Does America.’ The series takes viewers on a tour of the places and people that make several American cities – such as Miami, Chicago and LA – distinctly Latino.

The six-part series, produced by the NBC News studios, is scheduled for April 2023 on MSNBC. (NBC News Studios and MSNBC along with NBCNews.com are part of Comcast’s NBCUniversal.)

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