The Double Life Of A Restaurateur: Keith McNally Selects

When one thinks of Keith McNally many words come to mind; bright, brazen and innovative are some that describe him. The New York Times has referred to him as “The Restaurateur Who Invented Downtown.”  Keith has left an indelible imprint on downtown New York with his legendary restaurants that shifted the culinary scene and put downtown New York on the map.


His restaurants also have a deeply cinematic feel, so it makes sense that Keith is a cinephile at heart. He even made a film that premiered at the Cannes film festival in 1990, End Of The Night. The Roxy Cinema asked Keith to guest program a special series to launch this September. The series is called THE DOUBLE LIFE OF A RESTAURATEUR. Keith McNally will kick the series off in person on September 15th and introduce Sexy Beast on 35mm.


Additional films in the series are Dog Day Afternoon (35mm), The Graduate (35mm), The Third Man (35mm), Klute (35mm), The Conversation (35mm), The Double Life Of Véronique, Chinatown (35mm), and Husbands and Wives (35mm). We may even have a special screening of End Of The Night. Stay tuned for updates!


Roxy Cinema Director Illyse Singer recently sat down with Keith McNally for an up close and personal interview in anticipation of his upcoming series. Read about it here:


IS: What is your first cinematic memory? 

KM: A scene from the film Little Fugitive where seven-year old Joey is tricked into thinking he’s shot and killed his older brother. He spends the rest of the film hiding out on Coney Island.

IS:  When did you fall in love with cinema? 

KM: I never fell in love with films. I’ve always watched them at night and left them in the morning.

IS:  Who was your first actress crush? Who is your crush now?

KM: My first crush was on Cyd Charisse during the trailer for Nicholas Ray’s 1958 film Party Girl when she said: “I’m a party girl. I go out with men for money. The money I want. The men you can keep.” 

From the 60’s onwards I’ve had crushes on just two women: Anna Karina and Monica Vitti.

IS: If you could only pick one film to watch over and over for the rest of your life which would it be? 

KM: The Third Man. The dialogue – written by Graham Greene – is fantastic. It’s not my absolute favorite film, but every single aspect of it works: actors, direction, script, music, locations, cinematography. It’s flawless.

IS: What is your most hated film? 

KM: Barbie.

IS:  Did you think you were going to be a restaurateur when you were young? Or did you want to be an artist?

KM: Hate the word artist.   I never knew what the word restaurateur meant until a year after I became one. Then it was too late to get out.

IS:  Which is more difficult? Making a film or managing a restaurant?

KM: Managing a restaurant. At least with a film there’s a completion date. And when it’s made everyone sees the same film.  With restaurants there’s no completion date. You might eat well at a restaurant one day and return the next day and have a terrible meal. This never happens with films.

IS:  Was getting into Cannes everything you hoped it would be? 

KM: Like most things one really looks forward to, it was vaguely anticlimactic.

 IS: Was food important at home? It seems that you and your brothers all went into food and hospitality…

KM: Food wasn’t at all important growing up. My mother was a terrible cook. My grandmother was even worse. Owning a restaurant is nothing to be proud of. It’s on par with being a card shark.

IS:  Is New York your favorite place to be? If not where is? 

KM: New York is definitely my favorite place to be.

IS:  What is your favorite New York memory? 

KM: New York on February 12, 2006. The city’s heaviest snowstorm ever. (26.9 inches!) Nothing’s as beautiful as New York in a snowstorm.

IS: What’s the hardest part about having children with different women?

KM: The alimony bills.

IS:  Is it hard to be in a relationship while building an empire?

KM: No relationship is hard when you’re fully employed. But when you’re unemployed they’re next to impossible.

IS: Do you wish you could have done anything differently in your life?

KM: Yes. All the time.

IS:  If you had advice for your younger self what would it be?

KM: Don’t follow your dreams. Read Chekhov’s short stories instead.

IS: Why did you choose the movies in this series? 

KM: They each contain a number of seemingly insignificant elements that, when examined, are transformed into greatness.

Photo by Benjamin Norman/Redux

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