Dan Fogler may not yet be a household name, but with his unbelievable range and strong work ethic, he soon will be. This jack-of-all-trades has run the gamut from Tony Award winning actor to producer to writer to accomplished director and back again. Always fanning the creative flames, Fogler pours his heart and soul into every aspect of his work, making each project jump from the page or screen — and Hollywood has begun to notice! His latest outing is a raunchy, romantic and ultimately touching blast from the past set to an awesome soundtrack of timeless rock and hip-hop hits called ‘Take Me Home Tonight. In the film, Fogler shares the screen with an ensemble cast that features Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Teresa Palmer and Chris Pratt. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this multi-facted artist to discuss his roots in the entertainment industry, bringing his character in ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ from script to screen, his graphic novel ‘Moon Lake’, the status of his next directorial outing ‘Don Peytote’ and much more!
Tackling a career in the entertainment industry isn’t for the faint of heart. What made you pursue a career in that realm?
Wow! It was kinda early on I decided, man. I knew that I had to be doing something creative at least or else I was gonna wither away into this world. I really didn’t find my path in any other thing other than the arts and in theater, and pretty early on, and then once I decided I was gonna be an actor, that was it. I was like, that’s it! I can’t do anything else.
Who would you cite as your biggest influence professionally?
Really, there’s a lot of people, but definitely my first influences were Jim Henson and watching “The Muppet Show” and watching “Sesame Street.” They were really brilliant actors and comedians, those guys, storytellers. So anyway, I grew up on that stuff, grew up on “Looney Toons,” watching Bugs Bunny sing opera. It ain’t just pratfalls! It’s kind of a higher education in a lot of ways! [laughs] You collect all these things, and then if you’re able to imitate, and then you’re able to jump around like Daffy Duck and make people laugh, and flip, you know, be a lunatic like a Looney Toons’ character, that just translates into improv and standup comedy, and then the ball keeps on rolling!
Your latest film is “Take Me Home Tonight.” What can you tell us about your role in the film for people who might not be familiar with it yet?
My character is that ‘80s character that starts off at the beginning of the movie kind of put together. They got their suit, they’re kinda wound tight, and then over the course of the night they get more and more disheveled so, about by the end of the night, you’re like, oh, their pockets are ripped, and totally blasted out of their mind on some hallucinogenic, and their hair is all over the place, and they’re covered in dirt and grime, and they’re just wearing the night at the end of the night, you know? That’s my character, which is a lot of fun to play, obviously.
Yeah! It’s very kind of Belushi-esque.
Your characters are always so full of life, and they really jump from the screen, which is a lot of fun, as a fan, to watch. What’s the process like for you to bring a character from the written page and really make it pop off the screen?
Well, I come from theater, and I put a little bit of myself into the character. You know, kind of have seeds of yourself at first, and then grow the character out of that, and so basically – I mean, what did I do for this? I watched a lot of ‘80s movies, and I watched a lot of Belushi. I listened to a lot of ‘80s music, and I already had kind of an anxiety, that energy a little coming into it. And people say, “What’s the difference between doing theater and doing film?”
And yeah, you have to tone it down a little bit for film, I think, but as long as you’re believing it, as long as you’re fully committing to the moment, then you can be as much of a lunatic as possible. You know, a lunatic if you want, really, on film, and it’ll be okay because you’re believing it, in the vein of Jim Carrey or Robin Williams. They really commit, so the audience just goes along with them.
How much of what we see on screen comes from you doing some improvisation?
I’d say about 50 percent, man. A lot of it was scripted and then there was time to play. Definitely, they let me do a lot of crazy stuff, and it ended up on the screen, I think.
I wanted to touch on the director of the film a little bit as you are a director yourself. What was it like working with him? Did you pick up anything in working with him, and what do you think he brought to the table for the project?
He had a great vision, and I loved his – Mike Dowse directed a movie called “It’s ‘All Gone Pete Tong,”’ and it’s this wild modern Beethoven about a DJ that goes over the edge, loses his hearing, and I saw the movie and I was like, “I love the energy in this, man.” It’s really bright and it moves, and there’s a lot of cocaine use in it, and it’s just like wired. There’s like electricity in it, and he really captures that, and I thought, you know, that’s really kinda ‘80s kinda vibe to it. I thought he could capture the same kind of a feeling, and then working with him, he was like a big teddy bear, man. He was just like, “Yes, play.”
Well, actually, at the very beginning, he was very good at reigning me in because he knew that if I was more – the tighter I was wound at the beginning, the more subdued I was at the beginning, more like a kettle about to boil, the better because it just made for a better arc. And then once I was able to let loose, she really let me let loose, you know.
Looking back on this particular project, what do you think was the biggest challenge in making the film, for you as an actor?
The biggest challenge? Well, I want it to be authentic. I’ve never done cocaine, and I want it to seem real, and I was basically snorting powdered milk, which basically made the drip. You know, it made it drip in the back of my throat. It was like a dairy drip, and that was like, I was told, very authentic, so I was like, “Cool. You know, I’ll go with that.” [laughs] And I watched enough movies where I could kind of fake it, but really about the grinding of the teeth and everything, that was kinda hard on my jaw. And it was also, you know, you’ve gotta figure out how to keep up that intensity without actually being on any drugs.
It’s intensive. I kinda hit my stride toward the middle of the shooting, thank goodness because we were up nights. We were doing all straight nights, and if you do that enough times you get really loopy, so I was able to use that and that was like the biggest challenge, really, just to keep up that energy at night, you know. But it was cool. After a while it was really fun!
Looking back on your career so far, how do you think you’ve evolved in your craft?
It’s a long ride, man. You know, when I first got into the business, I was a kid in a candy store. I was just like, “You wanna do a movie about ‘Star Wars’?” Absolutely, sir. “You wanna hang out with Christopher Walken all day?” Absolutely, sir. So I would choose a lot of, you know, and I was getting married and started getting ready to start a family, and maybe I made some decisions that were based on putting some money in the bank, but I don’t regret anything. A lot of the people that saw those early movies, they come to me and say it’s what they watch over and over on HBO or whatever. It becomes their favorite movie, so I’m a happy man.
And I feel like if I get a little bit more time here, a couple more years in the business, people are gonna start to see the extent of my abilities a little bit further, and they’re gonna, you know, instead of pigeonholing me in a certain way, they may say, “Well, this guy can really do anything.” I think that I just gotta keep on trucking and people will eventually figure that out.
Do you think there are any misconceptions about yourself? You kind of alluded to that.
Yeah, sure. I mean, people see one layer. They see what’s out there. They don’t know what I can do. They don’t know that in college I was doing Shakespeare, and Chekhov, and Mamet, all of these things that you wouldn’t expect. People just pigeonhole you. You do one thing and oh, that persons that thing and that’s it. And it’s a tough business, that’s why you just gotta keep on plugging and know thyself, essentially, and say, “You know, I’m that and a million more characters, across the spectrum of characters.” Yeah.
I wanted to talk about another one of your exciting projects. Tell us a little bit about your graphic novel, “Moon Lake,” and how that kinda ties into what else you’ve been doing.
Right. I directed this movie called “Hysterical Psycho” in preparation of playing a young Hitchcock in this movie coming up soon called “The Number 13.” That’s pretty far off, but in the meantime I directed this movie, which was like Hitchcock on acid meets “Evil Dead” called “Hysterical Psycho,” and it takes place at this place called Moon Lake, which is this place which has just kind of like the island of lost. You know, it’s up north between Canada and America, and it’s on the border and it’s been displaced in time, and it’s just this place that has just been inherently evil since the beginning of human history, and it’s a magnet.
It just draws bad things there, so “Moon Lake” is the graphic novel expansion of the movie where you get all the different stories that have happened on Moon Lake since prehistoric times until now. Yeah. We’re trying to expand that into a television show. I’ve got a lot of big ideas for that. It’s becoming a franchise, you know.
That’s awesome! Now, you’re also, or you were at least, in the process of directing “Don Peyote.” What’s the status of that?
I’m directing it right now. I’m in the middle of it. It’s amazing. It’s gonna change the world, I hope. I think it’s got a lot of potential, man. We’re hoping it’ll be out this time next year, and it’s good. We’re getting incredible people involved. It’s like a documentary, like a Michael Moore documentary, meets Andy Hall, meets “Easy Rider.” It’s like a Terry Gilliam film. It’s just like hybrid creature that is – I think we’re gonna blow peoples’ minds.
Since you have such a unique background, what’s the best piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in a career in the film industry?
The wheel keeps on turning, man, and there are opportunities all the time, and you just have to be prepared for it. You really just have to worry about yourself. Just worry about your work, getting it to the right point where you’re happy with it, where you really feel like it’s – when you’re ready to, you know. When opportunity knocks because it will, it doesn’t stop. It just keeps knocking. You just gotta be ready for it, and you have to stick with it because as soon as you give up on yourself, then it’s over. You just kinda keep on doing it, and you have to know that you have to keep on doing it until the day you die, whether you are successful or not, and that’s the only way to make it in this business.
Where are the best places for fans to catch up with you online to see what you’re up to?
Thanks a lot for your time and best of luck to you in everything you do. Look forward to talking to you again.
Visit the official site for the film at www.iamrogue.com/takemehometonight. Also, be sure to visit TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT on Facebook at www.facebook.com/takemehometonight and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/#!/TMHTthemovie
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.