THE FOOD GUIDE TO LOVE – Behind the Scenes

We caught up with directors Dominic Harari and Teresa Pelegri to find out more about their Dublin based rom-com.

THE FOOD GUIDE TO LOVE has its Irish premiere at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival earlier this year. A love story between a selfish man-child and a beautiful woman, THE FOOD GUIDE TO LOVE shows Dublin in a light rarely seen on screen; the home to a romantic comedy. caught up with the writer/directors of THE FOOD GUIDE TO LOVE, Dominic Harari and Teresa Pelegri to find out more about their Dublin love story, their inspirations and their feelings on Coddle…

Where did the story for THE FOOD GUIDE TO LOVE come from?
Teresa Pelegri: We one read a quote by George Bernard Shaw, which said the most sincere love is the love of food, and for a while we had wanted to… We live in London and it has become so food mad and the same thing has happened here, and we haven’t seen that yet in a film. Then we read the quote, and started thinking about a male character that cares more about what he eats than the woman he is seeing. He puts his stomach before anything else. We came up with a love story and the character of Bibiana came along and it started evolving.

Why did you decide to set the film in Dublin?
Dominic Harari: It was kind of fate. Teresa knew Dublin; she had done post production on a Spanish film which had shot in Ireland. We thought it was a great setting for a romantic comedy, but what really sold us was keeping with the trauma of Oliver and the childhood food he hated… And we discovered Coddle. In a way, that sealed it. We feel it was fate and it found a natural home. We think the film would have been better in Dublin anyway… Apart from the Coddle, there are a couple of chance meetings, and that’s so much more Dublin than London.
TP: The scenario is so romantic, and to do the same thing in London would have been much more complicated.
DH: I think the clash between Oliver and his father; between the food culture and what is mainly a drinking culture in that family… I think it works very well here. That relationship with the father is very Irish. I do believe in fate with film projects; I just think it found its home.

How did you go about casting the Irish actors in the film, which includes Simon Delaney, David Wilmot and Bronagh Gallagher?
DH: We knew Bronagh and David, but Lorcan [Cranitch] is a discovery for us. You’ve got great great actors here, so it really was through our Casting Director.
TP: What’s nice is that the reaction to the screenplay was always very positive, and people would come into audition who don’t have to audition because they are at a certain level.
DH: David Wilmot had just shot two roles where he needed a beard. I think he was dying to shave it off and thought ‘Oh no, another role where I have to keep it!’ [laughs] It’s real! It’s a magnificent beard!

What was it like to film in Dublin?
DH: Weather-wise, we learned that you can have four seasons in a day, so that was the challenge. You start filming a scene with a bit of rain and suddenly it’s sunny, or vice versa! [laughs] In terms of the location, it was great to find the upbeat, cheerful, beautiful side of Dublin… And the catering was great! It was inspiring! [laughs]
TP: We were looking forward to lunch time!
DH: …Which you don’t usually do on a film shoot! It was extraordinary. The head caterer was brilliant; he remembered who liked something, who was a vegetarian, who was lactose intolerant… Talk about identity through food!

Oliver is a bit of a cad, to put it nicely, was there anyone in particular that inspired you for the character?
DH: Basically, men! [laughs] Men were our inspiration! I guess it’s always interesting to have a character that can go somewhere, so if you start with a saint you go the other way, and it’s less comedic. I think comedy works very well when there is a cad who had to learn, reform and grow.
TP: You get lots of rom-coms where the male character is the one who has to learn something, and the woman is just so perfect from the beginning to the end. We wanted to have characters who, when you really think about it, is not ready for the other yet. Also, Bibiana is still looking for more, and he has so many issues to solve, and so much to learn about what it means to be with someone else.
DH: Even though Oliver is a cad, what interests us is the man-child aspect of the character. I am not speaking for myself, but I think every man finds it very difficult to make that commitment. Many men are immature and behind the loop on that one, and I think it’s very common in rom-coms that the man needs to learn to love someone more than himself so that interested us. It’s quite universal, I think.

People are generally incredibly passionate about food, or completely apathetic towards it. Was this an idea you wanted to play with?
DH: Yes, very much… And also the emotional aspect; how people can get offended; you cook for someone and they don’t like it, and people get deeply hurt. This really interested us. This isn’t an action movie, but food is the action; all the conflicts are played out through food. This link with emotion interested us a lot; one is the emotion that food provokes in us, but the other is how our emotional problems often affect our attitudes to food.

There is also nostalgia around food in the film, especially with Oliver’s feelings towards Coddle. Was this something you wanted to bring out to the fore?
DH: Yes that was. This is a film about contrast; one has a very fond food from her childhood, and the other hates his childhood food and is trying to escape it. Talking to people, we found that everyone has that; they have that childhood food that they remember and love or hate. It’s very evocative, it takes you back.

Did you try Coddle?
TP: Yes. I didn’t like it.
DH: I liked it, but Richard [Coyle] didn’t, and he had to eat a lot of it. It’s the look, isn’t it?
TP: We showed the film at the Berlin Film Festival and the moment there was a close up of Coddle, everyone in the cinema went ‘Uuuugh’ [laughs].

There are touches of classic rom-coms throughout the film; were there any in particular that inspired you?
DH: Not specifically, but we watched a lot; the Nora Ephron ones, and even the classic screwball comedies like ADAM’S RIB, where there are two characters in conflict. We were really brought up on the classic screwballs, so we like rom-coms where there is a bit of conflict between the characters… A jousting.
TP: I love the scene in ADAM’S RIB where they are in the kitchen, cooking together. They never cook because they have a maid, but on the maid’s night off they cook together in the kitchen.

The film screened at the Berlin and Dublin Film Festivals, how useful is this?
DH: I think very, because it starts getting known. There was a great response at the Berlinale. They loved it. You know, with a comedy, that’s a good thing; they are either laughing or they’re not. They were really responding to the film. It’s a very nice way to launch a film, through good festivals, rather than straight into the cinema. Then word of mouth can get going. When you shoot in a place, it kind of becomes a second home, and you really have memories… It really does feel like coming back home.
TP: With comedies, because you get that immediate response, as a director you learn so much sitting in the screenings. It’s amazing.

What’s next for you?
TP: We write for other directors, so we have just finished a rewrite of a political thriller for a British director, and it’s called The Great Eclipse.
DH: As directors, we are looking for projects…

THE FOOD GUIDE TO LOVE is released in Irish cinemas on June 13th

Words: Brogen Hayes