TRIPPIN” ON DON PEYOTE
A Spotlite on Comedian DAN FOGLER
By Matthew Leeb
In comedian Dan Fogler’s newest project, the film Don Peyote, the funnyman explores life through art. Warren Allman, Fogler’s character, parallels the many anxieties Fogler felt around the period in the film: a successful artist about to marry, yet consumed with the many “what if”s surrounding the 2012 end-of-the-world prophecies–and an avid pot smoker. Both Fogler and Allman were searching for a sense of self, and both journeyed for answers with the making of a film. From there, Allman and Fogler parallel only in Fogler acting out Allman’s downward spiral into insanity, which Fogler plays in his trademark, charismatic style.
Don Peyote is a wickedly funny, twisted, psychedelic journey into madness, complete with oddball characters, wildly vivid hallucinatory scenes, and a couple invigorating dance numbers echoing back to Fogler’s Tony-winning days on Broadway. In theaters and on VOD now, Don Peyote is certainly one to throw on time and time again with friends and philosophize into the night.
Matthew Leeb: What inspired you to make Don Peyote? It seems to echo a bit of your own life.
Dan Fogler: Absolutely. It was just what was happening in my own life at that time, right before 2012. I was getting married and all the anxieties I was feeling about that. People talking about the possible end or changing times–and I myself wanted to get the bottom of a lot these questions, find out what was coming. So I thought the best way to finish that journey was to capture it in some kind of documentary or documentary style movie, and that’s what led to Don Peyote.
ML: Don Peyote deals with a lot of conspiracy theories. Are you a believer like Warren?
DF: Ha! Yeah. I have an appreciation for it. I like watching Ancient Aliens on the History Channel. It just seems so interesting to me that it has become so mainstream. Like I remember seeing JFK as a kid and thinking “wow, that actually happens in our country.” And there are many questions raised that haven’t been answered yet. And I see echoes of that in 9/11, and in a lot of stuff going on. On one side, it’s our patriotic duty to keep questioning these things, because as long as American people are getting hurt we should try to get answers. Then on the other side, some of these conspiracies are as much a story as Star Wars. What do you believe? I’ve never had an experience with aliens–at least I don’t think I have. Although once I had a dream where this one dude came to me and downloaded a bunch of information in me. And in the dream I understood it perfectly. But then I thought, when I wake up I’m not going to remember this shit. And that’s exactly what happened–I forgot. So I don’t know what’s real and what’s not in the conspiracy world. The only things I can tell, like what I can add up, was my experience with 9/11. I was here in New York, and the minute I saw that–and I saw that up close–it didn’t make sense to me. So that made me really question a lot of what’s going on.
ML: The film features so many cameos. Were there any you wanted to get but just couldn’t schedule, or perhaps left on the cutting room floor?
DF: I called in favors from all of my friends to get them to come into this movie, and a lot of them said yes. It wasn’t really hard to get people on board because the way I presented it was they would have a chance to put their own stamp on their characters. Jay Baruchel comes in and that scene was basically a paragraph. It was an outlined scene. And he shows up and he’s supposed to talk conspiracy theories. That was basically what his direction was, and he was able to go off for hours on conspiracies. That was what he was bringing to the table–his knowledge–and he shaped that whole character. 100% of that scene was improvised. That was cool. People were excited to be able to let loose and stretch their muscles in the end. Like Anne Hathaway got to be all badass. And Josh Duhamel got to be funkier and dirtier than you usually see him. I think he did a great job. And that was kind of the reason I did the movie, because I got to do stuff that I don’t normally do in films nor in real life.
ML: You guys interviewed a lot of people for the documentary footage. Did these people know it was for a feature film or did you give them the impression it was documentary?
DF: We just approached them as we were at that point. This is Warren Allman and this is his journey–his transformation into Don Peyote. And we said the first act of this movie would be these documentaries and then he goes off the deep end. Everyone knew that going into it. So we had real experts mixed in with the actors to really give the movie that feel of being on the cusp of reality and fiction. This is what I assumed happens when someone is slowly losing their mind. They don’t know that they’re losing their mind. So to them the reality starts to blend with some hallucinations, some wild stuff that they really believe, and that’s what happens in the movie to Warren.
ML: What was the favorite scene you did? I’m always a sucker for big dance numbers so those were among my favorite.
DF: Ha! I really loved the dance numbers too. My favorite scene though is what people call the orgy scene, although it’s not really an orgy. Only one person’s getting fucked. It’s the Jacob’s Ladder scene. There’s a moment in there where I go nuts and my glasses break. I love that bit. I just love it.
ML: Will Don Peyote live again in a sequel?
DF: There’s certainly seven years in there where he’s walking the world like Forrest Gump and changing people’s concepts. We were thinking about doing a graphic novel or something. There’s a sister documentary that we’re putting together of all the interviews that didn’t make into the final cut. So that’s a whole other movie.
ML: Yeah, I was told by that there are reels and reels of footage and backstories left on the cutting room floor.
DF: Yeah. Definitely. There’s that whole underground hobo scene where a huge dance number broke out. This massive, Mel Brooksian style dance scene. They were kicking me around and it’s hysterical. That never made it into the movie.
Dan Fogler is an American stand-up comedian, actor, musician, playwright, filmmaker, and voice artist.
Written by Matthew Leeb
Photography by Patrick McMullan for PatrickMcMullan.com
Design by Mina Darius
Screening of DON PEYOTE by DAN FOGLER, Drinks by Clifton Dry Premium Cider, PMc Studio, 321 West 14th Street, NYC, Photography by Patrick McMullan for PatrickMcMullan.com