The Hollywood actor, director and fashion designer shares his ‘last meal’ in a restaurant built into the rocks near his home in Provence.
“I’d want my last meal to be a happy occasion. I would invite my family, my movie-producing partners and probably a few of my really good friends. I just want it to be a normal night out. For the most part, for someone who has been as lucky as I have been, life has been incredibly, indescribably beautiful. When I die I don’t want people to be unhappy for two minutes. Things went along well enough before I was born and they will go along well enough – let’s hope – after I’m gone.
I’ve had a house in Provence for 17 or 18 years or so and I’ve been coming to Le Fournil for many years. The food is always very good and it’s one of the only places open in winter. The weather can be quite cold and a little grim here then, so inside is very cosy. It’s a cave – Le Bonnieux is one of those cliff cities with a lot of Troglodyte houses carved out of the rock.
I’ve done 70 or 80 movies or more, and I can’t remember well over half of them. The only meal I ever enjoyed on screen was in Rounder’s where I ate about 600 Oreo cookies. I think that’s about 30,000 calories. They were Oreo Classics, none of this double cream nonsense. I try to never eat anything in a dinner scene because you’re going to be doing that for 12 hours. I remember when I did a film called The Ogre and my friend [the director] Volker Schlöndorff wanted me to eat some kind of jellied eel. Really not my bag.
My mother was not a cook, nor could she do the dishes. Her domestic duties were summarily taken away from her when I was very young. We ate whatever was easy and fast – essentially junk food – but she did chilli con carne not too badly. One of her famous dishes was mashed potato with a dog food called Alpo. She used it for extra flavouring. Some people used horseradish, my mother used Alpo.
My wife and daughter are spectacularly good cooks. When my daughter was seven she could bake without a recipe. Our house here in France always has a lot of guests. There’s lots of cooking, lots of grocery shopping, different dishes and cleaning up – the meal is really the event. One of us will sous-chef for the other.
My wife is Italian and she likes it when I make pasta, which I do a lot of weird versions of. My Italian fashion partner and his girlfriend were here recently and I did them something I call Turkish pasta, which uses yoghurt, lemon, lemon zest with lamb, pine nuts and mint – it’s quite difficult to do but simple when you know how.
When I was growing up no one dreamed of having a farmers’ market, even though we lived in one of the most arable regions in America. Here there’s a farmers’ market somewhere almost every day of the week. Everything has taste. Chives taste like chives and onions taste like onions. I also have a kitchen garden here and pretty much all you need for cooking. I do it for the pleasure of watching things grow. This year I did San Marzano and Crimean tomatoes (they were unbelievably late because we had such a non-summer). I grew two of the world’s hottest varieties of peppers – one called Facing Paradise and one called Inferno – and I did habaneros and a Spanish pepper called pimientos de padrón, which is fantastic. I am pretty fastidious. Or whatever the next level is – I think it’s called crypto-fascist.
A good eater makes a good cook. I think that’s pretty critical. But I don’t know much about big chefs. I’ve only ever read one book on cookery. It was a spectacular read about this French chef called Bernard Loiseau, who committed suicide. There were a lot of theories about why he did it. He was afraid he was going to lose one of the Michelin stars. But then there are a lot of reasons why people commit suicide.
I don’t like to be full when I’m performing. When I’m working on a movie, breakfast is just coffee and toast and then I’ll have a light lunch if I have it at all. I eat at night – really that’s the meal. And if I can, I like to set up a kitchen on set. I did a film a few years ago in South Africa called Disgrace and we went to a tiny place called Citrusdal where there were very few places to eat. I had a perfectly serviceable but primitive little kitchen, so I’d make food for quite a few people every night. I made carrot cake for the crew.
A little refinement goes a long way for me and too much refinement just irritates me. I love Polish food. Around 20 years ago during the last long period I spent in London, I used to go to the Polish Club on Exhibition Road for Sunday brunch where my friend [film producer] Hercules Bellville used to have lunch with his mother. It was great food – lots of pierogi, great barszcz, amazing salmon – and you could watch his mother insult him for two hours. She was quite acidic. It was great fun and he always took it.
For my last meal I’ve ordered a presse du porc – a Provençal pâté similar to rillettes but with less fat – and simple brochettes de volaille. Looking back, there were things I should have gotten out of earlier, situations I never should have put myself into, movies I shouldn’t have done, plays I shouldn’t have directed, things I shouldn’t have said, or could have said, or might have said better or communicated differently. But what difference does it make? In the end we will all die and the sun will burn out eventually.”
Actor and director John Malkovich divides his time between Massachusetts, Provence, and Prato in Italy.
1953 Born in Benton, Illinois
1976 Co-founds the Steppenwolf Theatre Co.
1988 Stars in ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ opposite Michelle Pfeiffer
1999 Stars in black comedy ‘Being John Malkovich’
2002 Directorial debut, ‘The Dancer Upstairs’
2011 Operatic debut as Casanova in ‘The Giacomo Variations’. Launches menswear line, Technobohemian, using Italian fabrics and Japanese denim
Le Fournil is set in a natural cave in the beautiful cliff top village of Bonnieux in France’s Luberon valley. Tourists and food fans from around the region frequent the shady terrace with its 17th-century stone fountain and vast plain trees. The chef, Guy Malbec, uses exclusively local produce and Provençal recipes. 5 Place Carnot, Bonnieux, + 33 4 90 75 83 62
Starter: Presse de porc with courgette and coriander.
Main: Brochette de volaille (chicken kebab) aux épices douces, rice and vegetables.
Dessert: One scoop of lemon sorbet.
To drink: One Perrier, one Coca-Cola with ice (one poured slowly into the other). One espresso
Brochette de volaille
600g chicken, cut into cubes
Shallots to taste 2 lemons cut into pieces
1 cup of chicken stock
For the marinade: 1tbsp olive oil, 1tbsp lemon juice, 4 cloves of garlic, 5 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp freshly chopped ginger, 1 tbsp cumin, 2 tbsp sumac pepper, pinch of saffron, salt and pepper.
Marinate chicken for four hours. Thread onto the brochette interspersed with bits of lemon. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes on the barbecue or very hot grill. For the sauce fry some shallots, add chicken stock. Reduce by half, then add 5 tbsp of marinade. Thicken into a sauce. Serve with Butanese or Camargue red rice, seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice.