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The Best 'Eating-Acting' In Films

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    Sometimes, when I eat an apple, I like to pretend I’m Kevin Costner. Well, not Kevin Costner as such, but his character Frank Farmer in The Bodyguard. Let me explain. There’s this one scene in which Frank is slicing a Golden Delicious and carefully places each piece into his mouth with the knife. When he chews the apple, he does it with his mouth open, likes it’s an effort. (He also then gets into a fight while enjoying his fruit but more on that later). The way he eats it has always stuck with me; it’s memorable. In short, it’s great – for want of a better phrase – ‘eating-acting’.

    'Eating-acting’ is not when the focus of the scene is that a character is eating something. It’s not Paul Newman and his 50 eggs in Cool Hand Luke, or Julia Roberts savouring a bowl of spaghetti in Eat, Prey, Love, or even Robin Williams et al eating imaginary food in Hook. It’s when a character merely happens to be eating while something else is going on; the food is never actually referenced, it’s not the focus. It’s someone telling a story while they polish off a burger, or trying to seduce someone at dinner while throwing lobster in their mouth.

    But it is deliberate, and in my opinion, a subtle art. When someone is really good at ‘eating-acting’ the way they bite and chew can suggest their character’s mood or class or personality. And their method will stick with you.

    Here are some of the best ‘eating acting’ scenes in film. If you, er, get what I mean.


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    Pulp Fiction
    There are plenty of ‘eating-acting’ scenes to pick from in Quentin Tarantino’s epic crime movie. And although John Travolta does a great job of being smacked out and charming while eating a steak with Uma Thurman at Jack Rabbit Slims, take a look at this masterclass in the art of ‘eating-acting’ as Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson debate what defines an act of God over pancakes and fries.

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    When Harry Met Sally
    In the famous diner scene Meg Ryan gets all the props for faking an orgasm and even the mother of director Rob Reiner is well-remembered for her “I’ll have what she’s having” line. But just take a look at Billy Crystal’s masterful ‘eating-acting’ as he chows down on a “number three” and explains how he gets rid of women the morning after sex.

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    Ocean's Eleven
    Nachos, lollipops, candy floss, hamburgers, ice cream, nuts, prawn cocktail. Brad Pitt must have really piled on the pounds while playing Rusty, as he eats in just about every scene he appears in. Yes, it’s a nice character quirk but let’s also appreciate Brad’s wonderful ‘eating-acting’ throughout. Without referencing it, he goes to town on a dozen different foods all while planning a heist. In fact, Brad might be the greatest eating-actor of all time (Moneyball is another exhibit of his unique talent). He is forever snacking in films.

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    Goodfellas
    A lot of ‘eating-acting’ goes down in Goodfellas but what better scene can illustrate this than when Joe Pesci visits his mother (played by Martin Scorsese’s own mum) for dinner and takes along Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta? Pesci in particular shines as he tries to convince his mother he’s a good boy while eating with his mouth open. Never mind that there’s a man locked in the boot of his car. Skip to 1.00.

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    Pretty Woman
    The messy way Julia Roberts picks apart a croissant while she quizzes Richard Gere about his business perfectly illustrates her character’s lack of sophistication. Her shocked "a billion dollars?" with a mouthful of pastry is pitch-perfect 'eating-acting'.