A movie role that's as easy as pie

Susan Spungen on the set of "Labor Day" with Josh Brolin.

Being that today is National Pie Day, let's talk about what Huntingdon Valley-bred author/food stytlist Susan Spungen did for a couple of months in the summer of 2012:

She wrangled pies in Massachusetts for Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet as they shot the film adaptation of the Joyce Maynard novel Labor Day, which reaches theaters Jan. 31.

This work not only meant converting "cases and cases" of fresh peaches into hundreds and hundreds of pies, but helping to teach Brolin the technique of pie-making. (There's a scene in which Brolin's bad-boy character, Frank, gets baking, as it were, with Winslet's mom character, Adele, and the heated interplay supposedly ranks up there with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze's pottery-making romp in Ghost.)

It was Maynard herself, Spungen says, who led the first piemaking class for the actors, sharing her tip of adding a touch of cold water instead of refrigerating the dough and rolling out the dough between sheets of wax paper. Brolin, she says, was "fairly handy. He picked it up really quickly and had a comfort level." (Supposedly, Brolin really got into the piemaking off-camera during the shoot.)

For Spungen, the real challenge was "making pies that were a little messy, not perfect."

In fact, she says, they never did get around to actually baking pies in that New England summer.

"We got the money shot in L.A.," she told me. Using a glass oven for the cameras, Spungen and her assistant re-created the pies as originally assembled on set, and baked them.

Spungen's usual work aims at beauty shots, as she did for the films Julie & Julia, Eat, Pray, Love, and It's Complicated.

As a teen (Lower Moreland High 1977), she worked at the Commissary in Center City before setting out for New York and a job at Coco Pazzao). She was the first food editor at Martha Stewart Living, cowrote Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook, and helped launch Everyday Food.

Her latest gig is food editor of the new Dr. Oz the Good Life magazine.