Food & Drink Monday, August 27th

WATCH: Why The Beefy Boys’ silver screen debut was bigger than burgers

Food & Drink Monday, August 27th

WATCH: Why The Beefy Boys’ silver screen debut was bigger than burgers

Imagine if (/when) Helen Mirren gets to a point where she’s so tired of winning Oscars that she decides to get a food truck. This is that, just in reverse. The Beefy Boys – from Hereford – twice held the World Food Championship belt for their burgers, and, with their effortlessly-English charm and surprising connections to the the rap community, they are basically the Mirrens of mince.

But not content with their shelves of awards, or their queue-around-the-corner restaurant in the Old Market, the Beefy Boys made a move in to movies, premiering The Devil’s Cookbook at the Courtyard earlier this summer.

Ostensibly it’s the mostly-fictional antics of a group of Marvel-loving burger chefs shot between bars and burger competitions at the World Food Championships. It’s anarchic and absurd and, I’d imagine, one of the best souvenirs anyone’s ever brought back from Vegas.

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Which is kind of the point. It was shot over four years and in eight parts by Ed Deacon, and written and cut together by the Beefy’s own Lee Symonds. But with the team losing both one of their chefs and one their best mates in Alex Evans since that final frame was filmed, for those involved the project became one of catching their memories of a wild time spent with a good friend, and immortalising them on film. And, it was an excuse to roll around half-naked to the Dawson’s Creek theme tune.

In part Alex’s death is what lead to the one-night-only premiere at the Courtyard, where the team presented a stitched-together version of all eight episodes for a packed crowd, among whom were his friends and family. Between the brioche bun stab vests, and Red Dwarf special FX, there’s a lot heart and a load of great lines – a number of which are delivered by the former-actor himself. There’s a fund set up in Alex’s name which offers both counselling and creative opportunities for young people who want to get in front of a camera. The premiere helped shine a light on that, and you can find out more here.

All the episodes of The Devil’s Cookbook are now on Youtube (embedded throughout, or on the Beefy Boys’ channel here - and guaranteed to get you in the mood for tomorrow's National Burger Day) but we caught up with Anthony Murphy and Lee Symonds to talk Cannes nominations and cameos.

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Was there ever a point across the multiple, sun-soaked trips to Vegas and Florida where you thought – ‘we could be out by the pool now with a Jack and Coke instead of charging round a dimly-lit house vanquishing demons’?

LEE: It was really very much like that: we had gone to two of the biggest party capitals of the world for two weeks  and we spent the majority of the time pretty much indoors for 15 hours a day filming. We really did it all wrong!

MURF: We did get to do a bit of partying in all the places we went, especially Vegas, its hard not to. Florida was great with the theme parks, and Alabama and New Orleans are awesome places too, each day would be a mixture of cooking burgers, getting drunk seeing the sights and filming, and not necessarily in that order.

What’s harder, cooking hungover or filming hungover? 

LEE: God, that is tough. During the America stuff we pretty much drank continously through the whole thing so it kind of postponed any hangovers.

MURF: Cooking. Cooking hung over at that level is horrendous, everythings got to be perfect. It's mad because normally I can cook 500-600 burgers a day but when you have to make just 6 for the world burger championships it suddenly becomes painfully stressful.


What do you think was Alex’s more challenging performance – The Devil’s Cookbook, or BBC's Teachers? 

MURF: Al was such a versatile actor he could take on any role, he was a natural comedian and could go between comedy and tragedy in a moment. What ever challenge you threw at him he could do.


Was that one of the bouncers from Saxty’s towards the end?

LEE: Yeah, that was Andy the bouncer from the Kerry. We used to make videos with the staff for the Jailhouse christmas party and Andy was always really good so we wanted to make sure that as soon as we got a proper role for him we'd get him involved. Ian Morris from the Hereford times was a fun little cameo.

You’ve missed Cannes this year, can I assume you’ll be entering the Palme D’Or in 2019?

LEE: I'm afraid contractually we can't answer that one currently.

When you sat down at the editing desk for this chapter, how tough was it to go through Alex’s scenes – and to leave in Christian’s ‘I f***ing cried about you’ line?

LEE: It was tough yes, but also very helpful for me, it gave me something to do with my grief and helped me process it a bit. The more difficult bits for me weren't the bits when Alex was in character, it was when we were just doing documentary-style stuff that was the most heartbreaking, like during the competition or in between takes.

I had been working on the script when i got the call telling me the bad news and I left right away. When i finally got back around to working on the script again a few days later I opened my laptop and the last sentence I'd written was dialogue from Alex saying "the fellowship is now broken". That was pretty upsetting.


What was the best/worst scene that you remember filming across the whole series?

LEE: I think the best scene for me was maybe the last scene between Provago & Tarby (the series' bad guy) when it's been revealed who Tarby is. We never got to show Tarby's face off before and so I think we never got to show off what an amazing actor he is, and Alan (Provago) was fantastic too so just having them together was just brilliant.

We normally do a tonne of takes and it takes all day, but we literally did the majority of it in one go because we knew right there and then that it was gold. Except just after Provago was stabbed for the first time some guy came over because he thought it was real, and the police turned up too as they thought somebody had actually been stabbed.


As for the worst scene I'd say, the scene just before Alex jumps out of the wardrobe. We'd been filming for hours, and we were all cranky and tipsy and Dan didnt want to film anymore. Me and him had a huge argument that literally escalated into a shouting match but we had to keep filming because we were running out of time before we had to come back to England  - so we had to film a load of scenes together pretending on camera it was all good! Christian was really drunk during that whole bedroom scene too & Ed the cameraman was really tired & stressed. It was pretty gruelling! It was all fine the next day though!

MURF: Favourite scene for me was the Al mince-in-pocket scene. It was never in the script and it was just improvised. When you improvise with Al it quickly becomes a game of who can make who laugh first so you end up throwing extra things in to make the other one crack. I've never laughed as much in my life as filming some of those scenes.

To what extent do you think Thanos’ depiction in the MCU was influenced by the character of Tarby?

MURF We re currently have a law suit pending. 

And can we look forward to similar standalone films in an expanded Beefy Boys Cinematic Universe  - Chris Williams’ adventures on the poker tables of Asgaard, Murf grilling up Jurassic Boys with Akil in Wakanda… that kind of thing?
MURF: That would be incredibly awesome. Next up is the currently untitled sequel, which takes place at the world burger championships in Alabama, We've got to sort the footage and film some extra scenes but hopefully we will get the first episodes of that out before the end of the year, after that we are looking at a time travel story, Its surprising how far you can push the boundries of a video about burgers. 


If you were giving out Oscars – who’s most likely to win Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor?

LEE: Well obviously Alex was the Best Actor in it, in fact, he is the only person in who actually was an actor, everybody else is blagging it. He was so funny and made so much stuff up on the spot, there's so many subtle gags. Quite often we would send him off with just the cameraman and they would just film stuff. It was a nice surprise while going through footage to just find these random scenes that he's come up with & kept quiet.

As far as supporting actors go, it'd be hard to pick between Tarby & Provago. They both did such an amazing job. Tarby had never acted in his life and didnt even want to do it. We kind of continously harassed him into it. He's so good though, he needs to take it further.  spent so much time practicing the Boston accent that if he was going to slip back into Herefordian he would drop the F bomb to get it back on track. That's why he swears so much in it.

MURF: Yeah obviously Al for best actor. The bloke's incredible, and Tarby and Alan had such a good dynamic. I could totally watch a Provargo/McTaggert spin-off. 

What was your favourite joke from the whole series?

LEE: There's tons of stuff in there that makes me laugh but i think the one that makes me laugh the most is when Murf is mouthing off about Mctaggart being bald & he doesnt realise he's sat in front of him.

MURF: I think my favourite line is Als "One eyed tw**." When we filmed it we'd been to the welcome party of The World Food Champs which had a free bar and we were all leathered. That shot took about 30 takes as no one could keep a straight face.

Is there any truth to the rumours that like Fonda and Nicholson in Easy Rider, the cast took acid on set of Chapter Eight to ensure a truly method realism to the drug-adled scenes?

LEE: no comment

As a group of mates, what did it mean to you guys to see it up on screen at the Courtyard – given everything that’s happened since you finished filming?

LEE: It was all tied in with Alex, all the work on it, re-writing it and shifting the focus so it was more of a tribute, it really was like letting go or coming to terms with things. A bit of closure.

MURF: It was incredible as he audience was all Alex's friends and family. It meant so much to share it all with them.

What is the Alex Evans fund, and where can people find out more about it?


LEE: It is a charity fund set up by his brother, raising money for counseling services for young adults, and also to provide development and training in the performing arts. The web address is https://www.alexevansfund.co.uk 

Are the Beefy Boys’ brioche buns really an effective substitute for a stab vest?

LEE: They are quite effective but i personally prefer the flexibility of a bacon lattice if I'm being honest.

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