Mark Mylod has a unique gift: telling stories that show empathy for the ultra-wealthy as they treat the world as their playground.
“We, of course, realize that we ourselves are flawed and we can’t help but see, if not the same bank balance, some level of ourselves in those characters in our own follies,” says the Emmy-winning executive producer of “Succession” and director of “The Menu,” a Nov. 18 Searchlight release.
In the pitch-black comedy, Anya Taylor-Joy plays a woman joining her boyfriend (Nicholas Hoult) on an exclusive foodie trip to a remote island, where an obsessive chef (Ralph Fiennes) is cooking a meal that the visitors won’t forget. While there are jabs at the film’s more clueless characters, Mylod says it was critical to understand the diners, played by a sharp group of character actors including Judith Light, John Leguizamo and Rob Yang.
“It was important to me that we have fun and poke at these characters and their excesses and their consumerism,” he says. “But also, we’re going to spend a very intense couple of hours with these characters. I wanted the audience to do as I did in reading the script: initially judge them, but then somewhat question that.”
He worked hard to develop the right mix of comedy and thriller, mixing satire with an anthropological sense of the characters. Also central: making the restaurant’s cuisine as specific to the food world as possible. An early script read from Dominique Crenn, the French chef whose restaurant Atelier Crenn has three Michelin stars, led to her becoming a collaborative partner on the film. She helped to design the menu, train the film’s kitchen staff and educate Fiennes about the mindset of a dynamic chef.
“Key to the film was the craft element of how to authentically reflect a world where people are bona fide foodies,” Mylod says. “I wanted to honor them and have it feel authentic. My worst, top-five bad scenario would be if people say, ‘Well, that would never happen. Why are they doing that then?’ So there was a level of obsession about that.”
As for the upcoming season of “Succession,” Mylod can’t spoil anything, but he’s optimistic that fans will be captivated by another round of Roy family intrigue.
“We’re going to make it a musical in Season 4, hopefully,” he quipped, laughing. “I’ll tell you about my experience with Season 4 so far. We’re a good chunk into shooting it, and I had the same experience after Season 2, as well as with Season 3, where it was really well received. So [creator] Jesse [Armstrong] and I and the whole team go into the next season just so paranoid, trepidatious about not wanting the bar to lower. I feel really good about what we’re shooting. That anxiety is gone from my shoulders, because I’m looking at the early cuts as we’re working through in post-production and I think we up the bar. I feel really good that it’s good ‘Succession.'”
Another HBO juggernaut that Mylod directed several episodes of, “Game of Thrones,” has returned via the prequel series “House of the Dragon.” Mylod told Variety at the New York City red carpet premiere of “The Menu” that he’d be game to return to George R. R. Martin’s world.
“I would love to,” he said. “I’ve been way too busy with ‘Succession’ and ‘The Menu,’ but maybe down the line I’d love to rejoin that gang.”
Additional reporting by Ethan Shanfeld.