At the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of his directorial debut, actor-turned-filmmaker Dan Fogler (“Balls of Fury,” “Fanboys”) wanted to kick-off the Q & A by thanking his friends, family and most of all, his fiancé for “keeping me sane.” “Well, she’s not doing a good job,” Fogler’s mother yelled from the back of the theater, demonstrating that humor has been passed down in the Fogler family, and nuttiness — who’s to say? And it serves him well — “Hysterical Psycho” is the kind of crazed slasher film/comedy that Alfred Hitchcock would’ve made had the famed auteur been able to fully indulge in all his alleged perversities onscreen. Fogler actually made the film in preparation for an acting role as the young Hitchcock, corralling the members of a theater company he started with his friends from Boston University called Stage 13 and taking $200,000 to shoot in the snowy woods of Maine. (The trailer is here.) It’s a modest production, but one that was clearly fun for Fogler, who flew in for the film’s premiere from Los Angeles, where he has been filming Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture extravaganza “Mars Need Moms.”
Is there more pride in showing the first film that you directed to your parents or showing them a film as crazy as “Hysterical Psycho” and still having them love you?
[laughs] Well, I put them in the movie, so…they were pretty thankful for that. They’re very supportive. I think if it was horrible, they would’ve probably been like “that was the best thing ever!” But thank God, they dug it.
How did this movie come about?
I wanted to do an acting exercise, because there’s a movie called “The Number 13” where I’m supposed to play a young bohemian Alfred Hitchcock who’s just directed his first film, a comedy that doesn’t work as a comedy. He has to edit it and it becomes a thriller and that’s how he finds his voice. I thought it’d be cool, having my first [film] be an homage to him — a black and white hybrid of comedy and horror. [While I was] formulating it, we were doing a play called “The Voyage of the Carcass,” about friends who go out into the middle of the woods to create something. The thing that they create — because their relationships are so strained — is this play about clowns freezing their asses off in the Arctic, cannibalizing each other. So I had in my head all these images of psychotic clowns and the [idea of] going out into the wilderness, which is a common slasher movie theme — friends going out into the middle of the woods.
The director [Randy Baruh] of the play would sit in the audience and enjoy the play so much, and he would let out these little suppressed, breathy laughs. [imitates laugh] He would mouth everything and it was so freaky hearing that coming from the darkness, and then it hit me like lightning one day — that’s perfect, he’ll be the psycho in the movie. He’ll be the hysterical psycho!
You said for a while you had to act out the whole story to convince the other actors since you didn’t write the script.
My DP was the one who I just told him the concept to and he was like “I’m in!”, but everybody else…[laughs] Every time we added another member to the crew, I had to break into my one-man “Hysterical Psycho” for everybody until I gained enough respect and perspective [for] everyone to know what they were getting into. Then it was convincing them to come into the middle of the woods to freeze their asses off. [laughs]
It’s obvious that you guys are all friends and someone mentioned how you lived together in the woods as you were making the movie — how did you negotiate where the film ended and real life began?
Yeah, it’s life imitating art imitating life imitating art, working on a play about friends going out into the middle of the woods and suddenly we were out in the middle of the woods and that’s what the movie was about. Thank God everyone got along — it became a big party.