The culinary arts and filmmaking don’t seem to go together that often. You get the occasional great picture set in the restaurant world — “Big Night” and “Ratatouille” spring to mind — but more often than not, you end up with films more like “No Reservations” when you try to put cooks on screen. But now, chefs are suddenly the new, uh, Snow White, with two big names gearing up rival foodie-related pictures, to the extent that legal issues may be brewing over their titles.
Jon Favreau is prepping to star and direct in a return to his indie roots with “Chef,” a film about a professional cook who loses his job and sets up a food truck, and he’s been quietly assembling a nice cast, with Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale and, most impressively of all, a cameo from megastar Robert Downey Jr. And now he’s recruited another Avenger, as Screen Daily announce that Scarlett Johansson has come on board the project in an unknown role. It’s all shaping up nicely, and after a string of disappointments (“Iron Man 2,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” stalled development on “Magic Kingdom” and “Jersey Boys“), stripping down to something more character-driven seems like the right move for Favreau.
But there is a minor hitch: Bradley Cooper has now committed to a rival project, also known as “Chef.” The script, by “Eastern Promises” writer Steven Knight, has been in the works for a while (David Fincher was going to direct in an earlier incarnation), but Cooper’s attachment gave it a new lease of life, and after Derek Cianfrance flirted with it, “August: Osage County” helmer John Wells came on board recently. And that project is also close to locking down a female lead, with Deadline reporting that Michelle Williams and Marion Cotillard are both possibilities to join Cooper and “The Intouchables” star Omar Sy on the film.
So will it be a case of too many cooks? We’re sure there’s room for the rival projects, even if it seems inevitable that Favreau’s will have to change its name at some point. But all being well, both should be plating up sometime in 2014.