Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller reunite on screen in “Burnt,” as hot-blooded, obsessive chefs who fall for each other. At the movie’s glitzy premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the actors shined on the red carpet, displaying their easy chemistry both on and off screen. (They last appeared together in “American Sniper.”) Miller literally shined in a swingy mini embossed with glittery sequins that plunged to her waist. She looked terrific!
Earlier in the day, they participated in a press conference with co-stars Daniel Bruhl, Uma Thurman and Sam Keeley that was moderated by Mario Batali in his signature and often hysterically funny style. (Look for my colleague Melanie Votow’s report on the press conference tomorrow.)
In “Burnt,” Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones, a brilliant but impossible chef who once ruled over the kitchen of a top Paris restaurant only to flame out on booze and drugs. He resurfaces in a ritzy English restaurant run by Tony (Daniel Bruhl) and attempts redemption in an obsessive quest for a three-star Michelin rating. In the process, he throws plates against the wall and indulgences in temper tantrums aimed often at his tortured staff, including a single mother sous chef played by Sienna Miller, who also becomes a love interest.
Director John Wells and Matthew Rhys, who plays a snooty London chef, didn’t participate in the press conference, but I caught up with both of them on the red carpet. First up was the director, who praised Sienna Miller, who did her impressive cooking herself and became something of an expert at preparing and filleting turbo.
“She’s terrific,” said Wells. “She’s very focused and very intelligent, which helps. She was on that kitchen station and she was very dedicated to it and was there day after day for ten, twelve hours a day. She’s someone who very diligent about her work, and that always impresses me when an actor wants to be that prepared.”
Asked about how he immersed himself in the world of the gourmet culinary scene, the director told me, “This world was new to me. One of the great things about this job is you get to immerse yourself in other worlds, so when we were doing ‘E.R’ I spent years in emergency rooms with doctors. When I was doing ‘The West Wing,’ we spent years in Washington with Congressional staffs and White House staffs. And for this, I spent about six months, which was a great luxury, in kitchens, all over the country, all over the United States and all over London, so 17, 20 hours a day for six months in various kitchens. Mario (Batali) let me in his kitchens here, the Patina Group out in Los Angeles, and then restaurants all over London.”
As for the actors’ skills cutting and dicing, the director told me the cutting wasn’t as difficult as some of the stove work. “People tend to overemphasize the knife work, but actually being at that fish station, Sienna (Miller) was properly cooking four or five pieces of fish at the same time with butter and beef. She got cut and burned a lot, a lot.”
The actors, who prepared all their own food and had no doubles, also ate what they cooked, the director told me. This made me wonder whether he was concerned his stars would get fat and literally blimp out on screen during the shoot. “It was 115 to 120 degrees in the kitchen. And they were on their feet for 12, 14 hours a day,” Wells told me. “Nobody was getting fat in that environment.”
During the press conference, Cooper told journalists the most challenging scene for him was opposite Matthew Rhys, who plays a frenemy chef who has already achieved the rating that Cooper’s character, Adam Jones, craves. During the scene, Cooper mentioned, his character gets very drunk and confronts Rhys’ character, Reece (pronounced just like the Welsh actor’s last name) in his kitchen and has a melt down.
On the red carpet, I caught up with Rhys – whose eyes are as blue as Cooper’s – and asked the Welsh actor, who gets to use his real accent in the film, about the scene with Cooper. “It was a great scene, because he just goes for it and he’s not in any way scared, and that was a real revelation for me. He’ll absolutely be vulnerable at any given moment and really rip his soul out and throw it in front of a camera. It’s admirable.”
Rhys, best known for playing the gay brother in “Brothers & Sisters” and who currently stars in the hit television show “The Americans” as a 1980’s Russian spy, told me he is about to appear as one of only few live humans in the movie, “Jungle Book: Origins,” co-starring Benedict Cumberbatch and directed by Andy Serkis. In the Warner Bros. film – it is not Disney, he pointed out – his character is based on Rudyard Kipling’s father, who’s hunting Shere Khan, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. “So I hunted Benedict Cumberbatch in the jungles of South Africa. I had a wonderful time!”
The after party for “Burnt” took place at Mario Batali’s restaurant “Otto” on the Lower East Side, and the food was sensational as you’d expect, with dozens of different kinds of gourmet pizza, a variety of exotic cheeses and unusual desserts like Guinness ice cream.
Stars Miller and Cooper partied with celebrity guests, who included Christopher Lloyd – in town for the anniversary celebration of “Back to the Future” – celebrity chef Bobby Flay, model Helena Christensen, Harvey Weinstein, Alan Cumming, Emily Mortimer and husband Alessandro Nivola, Cooper’s co-star in “Elephant Man.”
Cooper exited the party early, but Sienna partied until well after midnight, and the good-natured actress laughed and posed for endless photographs.
A Weinstein Company film, “Burnt” opens in theaters October 30, 2015.