The Menu Interview: Hong Chau on Creating a Character for Elsa

Film

ComingSoon spoke with The Menu star Hong Chau about her experience playing Elsa. Chau described her process of helping to craft the character and how she’d feel about being in a franchise film. The Menu is now playing in theaters.

“A young couple travels to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises,” reads the film’s synopsis.

Jonathan Sim: You play a very complex character in Elsa. When reading about this character, how did you go about taking this character off the page and finding her humanity, if any?

Hong Chau: There wasn’t a lot on the page for Elsa. You’re correct. It’s something that I had a lot of discussions with Mark Mylod, our director, about … I wanted to have some moments in there where the audience could get glimpses of who she might be outside of the restaurant and give little clues of how she might have come to join Chef Slowik’s crew. But I didn’t want to do that through dialogue. I didn’t want to add more lines or anything like that. I definitely am a believer in less is more. So for me, it was just about creating a backstory for my character. One that I felt passionate about.

I sent Mark Mylod some inspiration photos of how I wanted the character to look, and it didn’t really match what Mark had pictured initially for the character. So we had a lot of back and forth about that, and I was really stubborn and dug my heels in, so we compromised on some things. Then Amy Westcott, our amazing costume designer, was also on board. She happens to be married to Mark in real life, and she was very happy to join me in conspiring against Mark. She came up with this amazing costume for Elsa that I think really serves the character well.

Was it a challenge to play this character and balance that interesting tone that this movie has of both unsettling and humorous?

It was a tricky character to play for that reason. She had to be putting on a bit of a performance as the face of the restaurant, as the person who is greeting the diners and escorting them around the estate and talking about the restaurant. So she has to have a certain level of professional warmth — not genuine warmth, but professional warmth. Throughout the movie, you see that facade go away and you learn how she’s truly feeling about things. It was that calibration that I found really exciting to get to play with.

What was your favorite scene of The Menu to film?

Oh, my favorite scene … I guess it would be … there’s a scene towards the end of the movie between Elsa and Margot, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, and we rehearsed that a lot. We worked with a stunt team and it was something that I had never had an opportunity to do before. I love action movies, and so when I read the script, I thought, “Ooh, what a nice juicy scene to get to do.” And it was intense, but I really am happy with how it turned out.

You’ve had this great career behind you with roles in Inherent Vice and Downsizing. Would you ever consider taking part in a franchise film? What franchise would you want to be a part of?

Honestly, I’ve never thought about that. It would just have to be something that I felt like I could grow with, you know? That I wasn’t doing the same thing with each succeeding movie. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about that. That’s a great question. I’m going to think about that after this!

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