On Global Morning Live, we chat about how Hollywood’s most memorable characters, from James Bond to Hannibal Lector, have always had a little help from the wine bottle … and help yourself to those I nominate as the best wines in a supporting role for watching the Oscars this year.
By Natalie MacLean
Although this year’s Oscar-nominated movies have many merits, oenophiles are bitter over the lack of great wine scenes. For example, couldn’t The Wolf of Wall Street show a little class and decant some Chateau Margaux in the midst of all that excess?
Leonardo DiCaprio’s last pivotal wine scene was in the 2002 movie, Catch Me if You Can. His character’s parents unwittingly spill wine on the carpet as they’re dancing, then grind the stain in with their feet—a harbinger of darker days to come. (Wine lovers in the audience whispered: “Use salt.” “No, white wine will do it.” Meanwhile, the beer drinkers were able to follow the plot.)
Like some of Hollywood’s most versatile actors, wine has long been cast in both good and bad guy roles: either it is a mark of sophistication or of evil. Rarely, is it neutral in the way beer is.
Perhaps that’s because we view wine as a drink loaded with our own insecurities. For example, appreciating wine is often part of both coming-of-age films and make-over movies. In My Fair Lady (1964), Professor Henry Higgins teaches Eliza Doolittle how to taste wine.
In a modern twist on the same theme, Michael Caine plays an aristocratic snob hired to teach the tomboy undercover cop Sandra Bullock how to act like a lady in Miss Congeniality (2002).
In a restaurant, he sips on his red wine while she chugs her beer. Caine says to the sommelier, “Gaston, I’ll have another cabernet sauvignon.” He looks at Bullock and asks, “And another keg for you?”
When the streetwise CIA agent Chris Rock must pass himself off as an art dealer in Bad Company (2002), he’s taught how to appreciate bordeaux and port. And of course, there’s the champagne of James Bond making wine connoisseurship sexy.
But mostly it’s women who are on the receiving end of instruction: In the 1958 musical Gigi, for instance, Lesley Caron must learn to drink wine as part of her training as a courtesan.
The most memorable song in that film (after Thank Heaven for Little Girls, of course) is The Night They Invented Champagne. More than any other type of wine, champagne represents refinement, luxury, love and celebration.
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman drink champagne in Casablanca (1942) to forget the imminent war. Sam plays As Time Goes By, and Bogie says to Bergman, “Henri [the proprietor] wants us to finish this bottle, and then three more.
He says he’ll water his garden with champagne before he’ll let the Germans drink it.” He offers his classic toast, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
But when they kiss, the camera pans down to reveal that Bergman has tipped over her champagne glass—symbolizing the end of her happy times with Bogart.
In Batman Forever (1995), the beautiful Dr. Chase Meridian says to Batman, “I’ll bring the wine, you bring your scarred psyche.”
In The Jerk (1979), the nouveau riche Steve Martin takes his fiancée to a fancy French restaurant. In his opinion, it’s a disaster: First there are snails on the plates, and then they’re served old wine. Martin insists on a bottle of their freshest—and reminds the waiter not to forget to put umbrellas in the glasses this time.
Martin’s the man, after all, who once ordered a “beige wine”—not red, not white, just middle of the road in a Saturday Night Live skit.
And in The Muppet Movie (1979), playing the sommelier to Kermit and Miss Piggy, he brings them a sparkling muscatel (one of the finest from Idaho) and asks if Kermit would like to “sniff the bottle cap.” After pouring, he produces two straws for their glasses.
Wine has also made hundreds of appearances in Hollywood thrillers. In Disclosure (1994) Demi Moore uses wine to instigate some nefarious action of her own. In her executive penthouse office late one night, Moore tries to seduce her new manager, a married man, played by Michael Douglas.
She tells him to pour each of them a glass of wine. Picking up the bottle, a rare Californian cult cabernet, Douglas asks, “Pahlmeyer’91—how did you know I’ve been looking for that?” “Well,” she says, “I want all the boys under me to be happy.”
Of course, those were the sun-dappled days of innocence, before wineries and other consumer products began paying tens of thousands of dollars for such a mention. Word has that Disclosure’s production manager phoned Jayson Pahlmeyer and asked for a free case of his wine to use in the movie.
Pahlmeyer told him that it cost $25 a bottle and hung up. But then Pahlmeyer recalled that the bottle of champagne that Tom Cruise drank in Top Gun had garnered Taittinger $150,000 in free publicity. So he called the production manager back. When Disclosure was finally released, Pahlmeyer’s phone rang constantly, for weeks; and it rang some more after the European release and the television rerun. Had he made four times the amount of wine actually produced, he could have sold it all.
When the Academy Awards air this year, wine lovers will no doubt be watching with a good glass of wine in hand, reminding them of the irritating way that many actors’ hold their wine glass—by the bowl rather than the stem, thereby warming the wine and leaving unsightly fingerprints.
Directors consult all sorts of experts, from set designers to makeup artists; so isn’t it time that they included an oenophile on the team? If nothing else, she could choose the wine when the cast dines out at those chi-chi Hollywood restaurants. Martin Scorcese are you listening?
Posted with permission of Global News.
Wine’s Finest Movie Moments: The Award for Best Cabernet in a Supporting Role Goes to …
Kris: Now, of course, everyone is clearing up with their Oscar pool. What will you be sipping when you sit down to watch the Oscars? In this setting Natalie MacLean joins us; a wine expert and obviously wine can take a starring or a supporting role in films as well.
Natalie: It can. Exactly!
Kris: Can we go to some of the biggest moments – the highlights?
Natalie: Sure, yes! I’d love to give out my Oscars for best movie moments in, you know, like champagne in the best supporting role.
Kris: I love the bubbly!
Natalie: Isn’t bubbly great? It’s featured in so many films. If we take, like, the classic, Casa Blanca, and you know Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart are saying goodbye and the camera pans down towards she kind of tips over the champagne glass, it’s a harbinger of things to come. And of course James Bond is very famous for his champagne, champagne is in most all of them.
Kris: Not just Martinis.
Natalie: No, no and Bollinger is often the champagne of James Bond before product placement days, when they didn’t have to pay for it. Yes, so champagne is pivotal, it’s in a lot of movies to indicate celebration.
Kris: Excellent and then?
Natalie: Well, if we move on one of my…
Kris: Bridget Jones!
Natalie: Bridget Jones! She sort of… that movie coined Chardonnay Girl. Of course Helen Fielding is out with another book now. But I think chardonnay sort of came into its own with Bridget Jones and you know she was home, and mopping, and eating chocolates with Chardonnay.
Kris: And happy to drink all by herself!
Natalie: Exactly! That’s a bad pairing by the way.
Kris: Yeah Yeah.
Natalie: Don’t! Chocolates and Chardonnay. But now we have the movement against chardonnay but you know all things take full circle. I am sure chardonnay will be back in style.
Kris: I’m going to jump over to here.
Kris: Because everyone will remember this.
Natalie and Kris: And Fava beans.
Natalie: Yes, in the vain of queasy wine pairings. Fava beans is not a good (inaudible).
Kris: But it was (inaudible) moment in that movie.
Natalie: It was, it was. And you know, wine in Hannibal Lecter was an indication of his supreme culture, intelligence and learning and Jack’s juxtaposed, of course, with barbaric food pairing. So in the movie they say it is Chianti, that’s what he says – Anthony Hopkins. But in the book it’s Amarone.
Kris: Oh really?
Natalie: So wine lovers will really upset about this because they felt that Hollywood had dumbed it down; but they’re both very lovely, full-body wines. Amarone, look for a hardy meat dish, the bovine kind, yes.
Kris: And they go well with the Doritos as well?
Natalie: Doritos? Yes! Movie snacks – popcorn by the way for the chardonnay; Doritos, Pretzels for the big reds.
Kris: Yes and the bubbles clear out the pallets.
Kris: So anything greasy.
Natalie: Greasy, salt and vinegar chips…
Kris: Excellent! Okay, so now we’re on Hitchcock, apparently has movie… wine in his films as well.
Natalie: Yes, there’s a pivotal moment in that movie where they go down to the cellar and it’s a spy movie, and Cary Grant exclaims ‘Oh my Gosh, it’s vintage sand!’ and it’s the key to unlocking the mystery of the bad guys. So they open a Pommard, which is a burgundy, in the cellar and all is unfolded. This one though, is a modern day classic Pahlmeyer. We’re moving on to disclosure with this wine.
Kris: Right here. Light in colour, isn’t?
Natalie: That’s Pinot Noir and it’s right there and Michael Seresin, he is a famous movie director. So not only are wines in the movies but they’re also made by directors. We look at Francis Ford Coppola at the end.
Kris: Of course, fantastic vineyard.
Natalie: I know. Dracula very brooding and dark.
Kris: In California?
Natalie: Yes, and Michael Seresin – you think Angela’s Ashes, Midnight Express, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Kris: Really he has a vineyard?
Natalie: Exactly, and locally here we have Closson Chase, Sonja Smits if you remember Street Legal?
Kris: Oh yes!
Natalie: And her husband, Seaton McLean, a director own that, in Prince Edward Country, Ontario. Beautiful wines. I should say all of these wines are available, but back to Disclosure. I do want to mention this because it’s a great scene with Demi Moore and Michael Douglas up in the penthouse. And if you remember she’s trying to seduce him and wine plays…
Kris: Oh yes in a very evil way.
Natalie: Yes, exactly! And Michael Douglas says ‘Pahlmeyer! How did you know? How did you find this wine?’ And she goes ‘I like all the boys under me to be happy.’ And she pours the wine and etc.
Kris: Yes. Well I think what’s interesting here is, do you remember the character of Paul Giamatti played in Sideways, he was a bit of wine snob.
Natalie: Yes, Sideways!
Kris: You know this guy is middle aged; going through a crisis and he decides to take a road trip.
Natalie: That’s right!
Kris: But it doesn’t have to be that kind of high brow experience.
Kris: You really can pop open a few if you’re having a party.
Natalie: Absolutely! And in Sideways they love Pinot Noir which is the wine closest to you because it was light in fruit. Of course he sent Merlot on a tail’s spin; you know, his comments about Merlot.
Kris: Yes of course.
Natalie: But a lovely wine to watch the Oscars.
Kris: Of course just don’t drink and drive.
Natalie: No exactly!
Kris: The proper way to taste of course is to spit it out afterwards, there you go.
Natalie: Exactly! Absolutely!
Natalie: Yes! Cheers!
Kris: To the Oscars!
Natalie: Cheers to you!