(Repeats to add dropped word "are" in fifth paragraph)
By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas, March 9 Actor, director and
screenwriter Jon Favreau traded the high-flying super hero
antics of his "Iron Man" movies for a quieter new film about a
celebrated chef who quits his job at a top-flight restaurant and
takes to the road in a food truck.
"Chef," a small-budget, independent comedy with a big-name
cast, including Iron Man veterans Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett
Johansson, made its premiere at the South by Southwest film
festival in Austin this weekend.
It will open nationwide in the United States on May 9.
For Favreau, "Chef" helped cleanse his palate after
directing the first two of the three Iron Man films, which have
a combined world box office of more than $1 billion. The movie
also comes ahead of what will likely be his next expensive
project, an adaption of "The Jungle Book."
"If you are spending in excess of $100 million on something,
you better make sure that you make that money back," Favreau
"When you are doing something for a fraction of that, the
smaller you make the movie, the smaller the risk, and the more
specific the audience can be."
His new movie is more of a personal story about a chef named
Carl Casper pushed out of his kitchen due social media gaffes
that spiral out of control and conflicts with the restaurant
owner, played by Dustin Hoffman.
At the heart of the film is the troubled relationship
between Casper and his son, who has been living with his mother
after a divorce.
"This movie deals with issues that coincide with the stage
in life where I am, specifically fatherhood and the
prioritization of family over career," Favreau said.
To keep costs down, the A-list actors were paid the bare
minimum and the special effects of his previous films have been
traded for close-ups of the knife work used in preparing food
for the kitchen.
Gratuitous shots of mouth-watering dishes take the place of
To get the feel of the movie right, Favreau enlisted the
help of Roy Choi, who rose to fame by starting up a food truck
that served Korean influenced tacos.
"Maybe the food truck does not have as much money as being a
big chef, but you never have to compromise your visions," Choi
Choi helped Favreau learn the tricks of the trade and said
by the end of the film, the star was cooking all the food for
the scenes in the movie.
Favreau said putting the script together for this movie
brought back memories of "Swingers," the 1996 comedy he wrote
about unemployed actors and a swing dance revival that helped
propel him and co-star Vince Vaughn to prominence.
"I have a lot of really, really good eight-page scripts and
then you forget what you are doing," he said.
On both films, Favreau kept going - plugging away for about
two weeks each and coming away with an entire story.
"The big movies have to appeal to everybody, young or old,
male or female, every market around the world to get their money
back," Favreau said.
"But little ones like this you can make for you and an
audience that can connect with it more personally," he said.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz, editing by G Crosse)