We have hit that point of the year when New Year’s resolutions do not stand much of a chance: March 14.
Truthfully, Pi Day is a totally fake holiday that gives us an excuse to eat as much sugar as we want. But for pop culture nerds, it is also an opportunity to look back at Hollywood’s weird history with pie. The dessert has played a pivotal role in a surprising number of movies and TV shows, whether to serve a sexually curious teenager in “American Pie” or to help an abused maid seek revenge in “The Help.”
Let us take a closer look, shall we?
Double R Diner’s cherry pie from “Twin Peaks” (1990-91)
Dale Cooper, the FBI special agent who visits Twin Peaks to solve Laura Palmer’s murder, loves his coffee as black as midnight on a moonless night. And you know what goes well with black coffee? Some damn fine cherry pie.
The latticed pies became a trademark of David Lynch’s quirky series, a welcome addition to each scene set in the town’s Double R Diner. Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) describes his frequented joint as “where pies go when they die” and even says that “they’ve got a cherry pie there that’ll kill ya.” (No, it did not kill Laura Palmer.) Ahead of the “Twin Peaks” revival on Showtime last year, prop master Jeff Moore told the New York Times he made sure to always have both the double-crusted dessert and doughnuts on set.
“There was a reason why the pie worked, and there was a reason doughnuts worked,” he said. “Those two things represented Twin Peaks, the normal American town.”
That apple pie from “American Pie” (1999)
There are a number of reasons this teen comedy left a mark on American culture — think about how many times you have heard a story jokingly begin with, “This one time, at band camp” — but perhaps none as memorable as the titular dessert itself. The curious Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs), one of the movie’s four teenagers who vow to lose their virginity by prom night, gets caught having sex with an apple pie.
Seventeen years after the film’s release, Biggs said he felt “a weird sort of little pride” in being an actor who would do such an outlandish thing.
“So, if I can believe that my character needs to [expletive] a pie, then I believe the scene will work and that other people will hopefully believe it. … At this point, I have no shame,” he said, per HuffPost.
The meat pies from “Sweeney Todd” (2007)
It is hard to think of a pie that would make you lose your appetite, but the aforementioned apple pie and the ones from “Sweeney Todd” are two perfect examples. The demonic barber, played by Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s adaptation of the Sondheim musical, murders his clients with a razor and, along with his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), processes their remains into meat pies.
Gross, right? Bakers worldwide have embraced the weirdness. Last fall, former White House pastry chef Bill Yosses helped bake English meat pies that were served before a production of the musical at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York.
He told Playbill, “I must say, I did not leap at the chance at first because I had just started this business and I didn’t know if I really wanted to be typecast as cooking humans.”
Minny’s chocolate pie from “The Help” (2011)
Octavia Spencer won an Academy Award for her performance as maid Minny Jackson in “The Help,” a film set in the civil rights-era South, and there is one scene that best captures her character’s spunky spirit. After she is unjustly fired, Minny returns to the home of her boss Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) with one of her famous chocolate pies. We find out after Hilly shovels a bunch of it into her mouth that the pie is actually, well, not chocolate at all.
When Hilly demands Minny cut another slice of the pie for her mother, Minny looks directly at Hilly and says, “Eat my s—.”
The peach pie from “Labor Day” (2014)
The film centers on single mother Adele (Kate Winslet) and her son, who allow escaped convict Frank (Josh Brolin) to stay with them. Adele and Frank are love interests, of course, and there is a romantic scene in which the two make a peach pie that rivals the sensual pottery scene from 1990s “Ghost.”
USA Today published a recipe for the pie, adapted from the novel, and shared an amusing quote from the movie’s food stylist, Susan Spungen: “You can seduce just about anyone with a homemade pie.”
Rooney Mara’s sad pie from “A Ghost Story” (2017)
We saved the best for last. David Lowery’s film about a recently deceased man who returns to his home as a white-sheeted ghost infamously features a lengthy scene in which M, a grieving widow played by Rooney Mara, sits on her kitchen floor and eats an entire chocolate cream pie. The unbroken sequence totals at least five minutes — during which viewers squirm from either boredom or the visceral depiction of heartbreak — and ends with M running to the bathroom to throw up.
If Mara is to be believed, the most fascinating thing about this particular pie is that it is the only one she has ever eaten. The actress, who would have been 31 while shooting the project, revealed this insane fact to the Los Angeles Times while promoting the film with Lowery and co-star Casey Affleck last year.
“I just don’t really have a sweet tooth, and I was a really, really strange, picky child,” she said. “Something about pie always grossed me out, and I just never tried it before. And this came along, and I tried making them switch it to something else, but David really wanted it to be pie, so we did pie.”