Aasif Mandvi has a big appetite. A conversation with him will touch on curries and tandoors, the best places to get Indian dishes in New York and London, and the connections between Indian food and family life.
It comes as a surprise, then, that the "Daily Show With Jon Stewart" correspondent actually shed pounds while filming "Today's Special," an upcoming comedy in which he stars as a highly trained Manhattan chef forced to take over his family's Indian joint in Queens.
"That's not because I wasn't eating!" he laughed during a recent conversation with MTV News. "I was eating like a crazy person. But we were sweating our asses off. Those kitchens are incredibly hot. There were flames. You stand there for 12 hours a day, and the first week we were only shooting in the kitchen. It was like Bikram yoga class."
Mandvi did quite a lot of sweating over the project before he stepped into that kitchen too. The film is based on a one-man, off-Broadway play he staged in 1998. It was a six-character drama inspired by his family members and first brought to life in his standup routine. Years later, he returned to the play with Jonathan Bines, a writer for "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and together they sculpted the raw material into the screenplay that became "Today's Special." It's getting a North American release on October 8.
We've seen Mandvi a lot on camera, from hilarious work opposite Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" to his supporting comedic roles in films like "Ghost Town," to more dramatic work in "The Last Airbender" and the CBS series "Jericho." But until "Today's Special," Mandvi has never been able to show off his range as an actor. The film allows him to veer from the broadly comic to the dramatically energized to the tentatively romantic.
For the portrait of his chef, named Samir, Mandvi and Bines pulled from a wide spectrum of celebrity cooks. "He's an amalgam of different chefs," Mandvi said. "When I was writing the script, I went and hung out in Rocco DiSpirito's kitchen. He's got some Emeril Lagasse in him and some Gordon Ramsay in him. Samir isn't a celebrity chef, though. That's part of his problem, I suppose, because he'd probably like to be."
From the saucy Jessica Alba in "Little Fockers" to James Franco's grueling journey in "127 Hours," the MTV Movies team is delving into the hottest flicks of fall 2010. Check back daily for exclusive clips, photos and interviews with the films' biggest stars.