IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Dan Fogler Talks 'Don Peyote'

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 21:13 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Dan Fogler Talks 'Don Peyote'

Actor and comedian Dan Fogler is known for his outrageous comedy but he definitely pushes the boundaries with his new film Don Peyote, which he co-wrote and co-directed along with Michael Canzoniero, and opens in theaters on May 16th. 

Fogler began his career on Broadway winning a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his work in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. After making the jump to the big screen he has appeared in such films as Good Luck Chuck, Balls of Fury, Horton Hears a Who!, Kung Fu Panda, Fanboys, Take Me Home Tonight, Scenic Route, Free Birds, and Europa Report. He has also appeared on the small screen with his own TV series entitled Man Up!, and a recurring role on Hannibal. Don Peyote marks Fogler’s second time as a writer/director following 2009’s Hysterical Psycho

Don Peyote tells the story of Warren Allman (Fogler); an unemployed stoner who finally finds a purpose in life after an unpleasant encounter with a homeless man preaching the end is near. Fueled by vivid apocalyptic dreams, Warren becomes obsessed with 2012 doomsday theories and decides to make a documentary on the subject while his fiancé is busy planning their wedding. In addition to Fogler, the film also features performances from Jay Baruchel (Goon), Josh Duhamel (Safe Haven), Topher Grace (The Double), Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride), and Academy Award-winner Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables). 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dan Fogler about his work on Don Peyote. The hilarious and accomplished actor/filmmaker discussed his new movie, coming up with the crazy concept for the film, co-directing with Michael Canzoniero, breaking the 4th wall, the incredible cast, reuniting with his Scenic Route co-star Josh Duhamel, working with the great Wallace Shawn, being inspired by The Blues Brothers and A Clockwork Orange, trying to get Quentin Tarantino's attention, and his pot smoking device of choice. 

Here is what Dan Fogler had to say about Don Peyote:

IAR: To begin with, can you talk about how you came up with the idea for Don Peyote? It’s a pretty crazy movie, were you on heavy drugs when you wrote it?

Dan Fogler: I have in my time, yes. Hasn't everybody at some point? I wanted to capture a certain mood and I think that it was mandatory to have drugs for that movie. But it's more than that. It's a hero’s journey. It'll make you think and the idea came from a lot about how I was feeling in my life at the time. I was getting married and I was stressing out about the future, and I wanted to capture that. I wanted the film to have a documentary style, almost like a mockumentary. Then the movie kind of organically grew out of that.

In the film your character is doing a lot of research about 2012 and the end of the world, was that a surrealistic journey that you were actually going through yourself at the time?

Fogler: Yeah, I mean I turned the dial up for Warren in the movie, but I was going through my own little introspective, spiritual moment. I was about to get married and I had a lot of questions coming up in my life. I was like, if I'm going to start a family what kind of future am I getting into? So I wanted to research that. I thought it was my responsibility. I thought the only way I would be able to finish that journey would be to document it. I knew that if I started filming that I would finish the journey. So a lot of it came out of my life and then of course I put my own crazy dream stamp on it. A lot of the second half of the movie is very much like a Alice in Wonderland homage where he looses his mind and suddenly he starts seeing the world in a whole different way. He transforms into this in the movie. It's really a transformation movie where he goes from this purposeless kind of every man and then he finds his purpose. In this scenario he is more of a peaceful version of that.

I know that you have directed before, but can you talk about co-directing Don Peyote with your writing partner Michael Canzoniero?

Fogler: I like working with Mike. He's a buddy of mine and I trust him especially when I'm acting in the movie and he can watch my performance. He knows all the nuts and bolts of being behind the camera. He seems to be a really good cameraman as well. It's a good balance with us where we're working on stuff. I made another movie with him. We made our first movie, Hysterical Psycho like that. I was credited as director on that because I wasn't acting as much as I was in this one, but we made that movie the same way. I thought it would be great to work with Mike again.

There was one scene in the movie in particular that was very cool and extremely Meta. The film the audience is watching all the sudden stops and Dan Fogler’s agent (played by Topher Grace) is shown watching the same movie. He then turns to the camera and says, “What is this? Why would my client make this?” Was that inspired by your own fear of what your agents would say when they finally saw Don Peyote?

Fogler: Well no, that was my homage to Annie Hall or something that breaks the 4th wall. We break the 4th by having my Dan Fogler's agent talking about “Oh, my God what is this crazy movie?” That was basically what I imagined my agent would say once he saw the movie. I knew I'd have to win them over with this movie somehow because it's so out there and crazy. That came out of that. I thought that would be a hysterical moment. I thought, let's throw that in there and Topher thought that was funny too. He came in for a day and wore a crazy wig. I think that stuff is hysterical. 

In addition to Topher Grace, you have some great actors in this movie in small roles like Anne Hathaway, Jay Baruchel, and Josh Duhamel. How did you get them all in the film? Were they just friends of yours and you just said to them, “Hey, can you come and do a day on this movie I’m making?”

Fogler: Yes, exactly. That's what I did. I thought that in order for this movie to have the best chance to get out to the world, that I would really have to put some good names in there. I tried to reach out to as many people as I could that I thought would do it.

We spoke to you last year for Scenic Route and you mentioned that you actually gave Josh Duhamel the Mohawk that he wears in that film. I noticed that he is still wearing that Mohawk in Don Peyote. Did you shoot his scenes for this movie while you were making Scenic Route?

Fogler: Yeah, we shot this right after we finished Scenic Route. I was half way through shooting Don Peyote when I did Scenic Route and I met Josh. I thought he was an awesome dude and wanted to capitalize on that. He’s so good. It was literally maybe three weeks after Scenic Route that we shot his scene for Don Peyote.

You also have a scene in the movie with the great Wallace Shawn. What was it like working with him, and did you have to hold yourself back from shouting his iconic line from The Princess Bride, “Inconceivable,” while you were filming?

Fogler: Yes, that was very difficult. I love him and I love that impression so there were many times where I wanted to scream, "Inconceivable!" I would hear him say a word and I would be giggling to myself. We did a scene that didn't make it into the movie where we got him to say, “Warren my boy come over here. I want you to try this device. It's a vaporizer!” I'm really sad that didn't make it into the movie, but every time he said, "Vaporizer" it cracked me the hell up.

Your character breaks out into a song and dance routine at the end of the movie and it reminded me a little of The Blues Brothers. Was that movie an influence on this film?

Fogler: Well, you know that black suit I’m wearing is kind of iconic to The Blues Brothers. I love The Blues Brothers, and I love Belushi. The black suit is also me trying to get (Quentin) Tarantino's attention. In the dancing and the singing sequences I go nuts and kind of lose my head in a real Looney Tunes kind of way. That's definitely inspired by Belushi.

You just said that you were “trying to get Tarantino's attention.” Is he a bucket list director for you? Is that someone that you really want to work with someday? 

Fogler: Oh yeah, absolutely! I think he's amazing. That would be a dream come true for me to work with him or J.J. Abrams. I love all the great directors just like everybody else does. 

While we’re talking about influences, I couldn’t help noticing that the poster for Don Peyote resembles the poster from A Clockwork Orange. Was that done on purpose?

Fogler: Yes. There are many elements to it. When I first pitched it to the distributor I said, let's do something really simple. Let's do just the broken peace fingers and have everybody have a little animated still inside that, and that would be the poster. What they brought back was this epic almost Star Wars meets A Clockwork Orange kind of poster. I looked at it and I was like, that's basically what we'll give people to sell this movie. They sprinkled a little Cheech & Chong in there too. I wanted to attract a wide audience with this film because there's a lot of contemplation on very deep subjects. 

Finally, your character smokes a lot of weed from an apple bong in the movie. Is that personally your smoking device of choice?

Fogler: I mean if I have to. It is kind of fun to do that and then eat the evidence. But I think that in the movie it became a symbol of knowledge, you know the apple of knowledge, and a new way of getting that knowledge. Of course his fiancé doesn't want him to smoke, so he's finding interesting ways to do it without any paraphernalia.

Don Peyote opens in theaters on May 16th. 

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