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.