The charming and laidback Dan Fogler took some time to chat with me about his latest release, “Don Peyote,” a fun, mind-bending comedy about a man who becomes obsessed with doomsday theories and is set to hit theaters next week.
Good morning Dan! Thanks for taking the time to chat this morning. I really enjoyed the movie; it gives people a lot to talk about.
In “Don Peyote”, you’re discussing consolidation of wealth and power, conspiracy theories, media, materialism, and spirituality; could you tell me where this story started for you?
It’s very much basically how I was feeling before 2012, I was getting married, and a lot of people out there were saying, ‘okay, you know, is the world going to end?’ and then there were people saying, ‘the world’s not going to fucking end.’ I was at a point in my life where I was nervous about the future and the movie came out of that. I turned the dial up on that, for the character in the movie, Warren Allman. He bumps into the end is near sign guy and he gets so obsessed with that concept that he starts trying to find answers before the possible end. During that course, he realizes, it’s not about finding answers, although that was an interesting journey, it’s about kind of embracing it and then he says, ‘well, dammit, now I’m going to try and save the world.’ It came out of a lot of what I was going through in 2011 and just trying to answer a lot of questions. The only way I figured I could do that was to go out and find the people, who are the experts at that, so that’s the first part of the film. Daniel’s going out; he’s literally going out to Pinchbeck, who wrote this 2012 book. So the whole movie is made up of kind of that and the whole movie is kind of magical. It’s very experimental, there are scenes in it- were you able to follow the whole thing from the beginning to end?
Yeah, I could definitely follow it, and I like that it got to a certain point when you weren’t sure anymore if he was dreaming –
Nice, that’s awesome. I think it’s a very simple journey, a modern prophet journey. He bumps into the guy with the end is near sign and then he comes a version of that guy. He literally transforms into that character. I’ve always been fascinated by that guy. How the hell did that guy get there? Was he always like that? Was he born screaming about the end of the world?
I was, I’ll tell you that; I was born screaming about the world.
You’ve used a lot of mediums for your art; obviously, you’ve been on Broadway, stand-up comedy, etc. what made you choose film for this story?
Yeah, I like all sorts of mediums; I do graphic novels as well. I was talking to Archaia, who I make my books with and I think we’re going to make a good graphic novel out of Don Peyote, there’s a lot of stuff that didn’t make it into the film and it could be his own story. The interviews that didn’t make it in, stuff that might come out in another form, like a documentary or graphic novel, something, there’s a lot to explore with this thing. After going through this journey with the movie I could talk about crazy subjects, all day. I basically just went down the rabbit hole of the internet with this movie, and found and uncovered some incredible stuff out there. I also love movies, so the second half of the movie, the idea for the movie was that the first half of the movie is documentary style, and then suddenly he loses his mind and he’s in wonderland. So we were shooting on 7D’s and 5D’s and we switched them, and then the phantom camera, so then the second act will be a real switch, suddenly you’re no longer in a documentary, you’re in a weird dreamscape.
How was your writing process for something like this? There’s so much to cover. Did it change organically at all while you were shooting? How many drafts did you have?
The original script was a giant, a very similar story but I had a larger budget in mind. It was so much more grandiose. I was also sprinkling the Don Quixote thing in there, so I had scene where he’s walking in New York and everything is fine, it’s hustling it bustling, but he’s seeing the possible future, which is desolate and he see’s skeletons walking around. So, I had this image of the city of skeletons that he sees. Then he sees the Empire State Building, and it has this strange fan on the top, like a giant solar windmill or something, and that was my homage to Don Quixote. Then obviously, ‘Are you crazy!’ We can’t put that in this movie.
We had a very small budget, which I think adds to the charm. So obviously, during the course of the movie I had to cut endings, we had to change things around, very organic. The core process was very much like a ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ or a ‘Waiting for Guffman.’ We have things that are written down and then end up improvising and going with the flow, talking to the characters, actors coming in and saying , ‘you’re so cool, what do you want to do here?’ I’d see if they have any ideas for a scene and then they’d come up with gold. It’s just this real join the caravan kind of process. I would just say yes to everything and that’s how the movie was made. It really got tightened up at the ending, because you can imagine, I had interviewed so many people. I couldn’t stop doing interviews. Then there were giant mel brooks-ian dance numbers that got cut out.
Aw, damn, don’t tell me that, I loved the dance numbers.
There’s a scene where he goes down into the underworld and maybe everybody’s telepathic, I don’t know, it’s very strange, he goes into this underground subway realm where all of these homeless telepathic people are living very happily. He walks in and during that scene I had written that a gigantic dance number breaks out and we shot this thing where all these telepathic hobos are doing this kick line, and they’re all kicking me and I’m spinning around like a lunatic. That was an awesome scene that got cut, but it’ll make it onto the DVD.
Good! I was just going to ask.
There’s a lot of stuff that will make it onto the DVD. So you dug all the dance numbers, so you dug it?
I did! I think it’s great when artists make films that make an audience talk when they get out of the theater, and there’s so much in this to talk about. I think that’s always really wonderful and important.
Okay, last question before you have to go, writing, directing and starring, which do you find the most taxing? Or do you find there are parts of each that you enjoy?
I’d rather just show up on the set and act and not have to worry about being the captain of the ship. If I can just show up and act, and just worry about my part, that’s like awesome. A lot of the reasons I made this movie was that I wanted to show more of my acting chops, and show the audience different aspects of my ability. Hopefully, this movie will show people another side of me, or think of me for more serious parts or stuff that you don’t normally think I would do. I’m always thinking as an actor. I’ll tell you something, if I’m only directing, and I don’t have to act or anything, wearing all of those hats is like a marathon, but if you can do one at a time, if you’re just directing, that is awesome. I’d love to sit back and direct.