Unless you’re a theater nerd, you may not know who Dan Fogler is…yet. The star of this week’s ping pong spectacular Balls of Fury is like a hairy teddy bear in person, with an infectious belly laugh that erupted many times during our chat at Comic-Con…and he’s got a really lethal table tennis game (read on for more details)!
The 31-year-old Fogler honed his comic timing as an adolescent competitor in the Tony-winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and will be seen in a gaggle of comic roles in the upcoming Good Luck Chuck, Fanboys, and Kids in America. He’ll soon also lend his deep, raspy voice to a few animated characters in Horton Hears a Who and Disney’s Rapunzel. But first things first; this week, Fogler stars as competitive ping pong-er Randy Daytona, the troubled hero who stumbles into an Enter the Dragon-style table tennis tournament in Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon‘s Balls of Fury.
We spoke exclusively with Fogler in San Diego during Comic-Con, where the busy actor was promoting Balls of Fury. As we discovered in our chat, while Fogler’s assessment of his own skills borders on what can be construed as athletic enlightenment (“sort of a Buddha level”) his ping pong past harbors some moments of real-life danger (“I detached a man’s retina”). Thankfully, that briefly awkward moment gave way to the most enjoyable interview we’ve done at RT — hey, all it takes is talk of nerds, a hairy Wolverine, and “Eat your way out” candy tanks — and so it is with our pleasure that we introduce you to the man, the mind, the movement: Dan Fogler.
Rotten Tomatoes: So, ping pong…
Dan Fogler: Yeah!
Had you played before?
DF: Yeah, I mean I played in my basement when I was a kid.
I mean, like hardcore play?
DF: No, not until the movie. And then it was all intense and hardcore.
How much training did you do?
DF: So much. I played to the point of…almost insanity. Exhaustion of the spirit. And then there was a breaking…of my soul at one point, and then there was a sort of a rising like a fiery phoenix from the ashes…
Of your soul?
DF: Of my soul, and of my skill, and I became a master and surpassed my masters. And now I’m sort of at a Buddha level with my skills, and it’s not about either winning or losing…it’s just about not playing at all. I mean, I could probably beat anybody in the world. And also I hurt somebody. I hurt somebody really bad.
In a tragic ping pong accident?
DF: Why does everyone say it like that? Yeah, in a tragic ping pong accident.
OK. You don’t have to divulge too much…
DF: Uh…I detached a man’s retina. I was a little kid.
Oh wait. That was real? OK. I’ll scratch that from the record…
DF: No, keep it. I like it. Is that scary?
Yeah. The power you wield with a little paddle…(Changing the subject) I like your sweatband.
DF: Do you?
It makes you look very sporty.
DF: Just in case I have to run from the cops, I can always just wipe my brow. Or if I’m in a bar brawl that just breaks out…
Or if you’re walking through the convention halls [at Comic-Con] and you rub up against too many sweaty nerds…there are a lot of them, I tell you. We should all have sweatbands.
DF: [Laughing] I’m a sweaty nerd!
I was talking with Robert [Ben Garant] and Tom [Lennon] about how this is nerd central…
DF: Yes, Sundance for fanboys.
They’re gonna love your movie; ping pong is the national sport of the nerd.
DF: Is it? Awesome.
That is, aside from video games.
DF: Yeah. But if they ever drop the video games, it’s definitely straight to the ping pong table. Nice! You’re the first one to make that observation, out of everyone today!
Well I work with web engineers; that’s what they do. Are you getting a lot of the same interview questions over and over again?
DF: Of course! But I’m used to it [because of] the Tony nomination experience. That experience sort of prepared me for this experience.
Are theater nerds as intense, or more, than regular nerds?
DF: [Laughing] Neeerrrrds!
Sorry, I have nerds on the brain.
DF: You should have a box of candy nerds to throw at people!
[Laughing] I would never have enough boxes!
DF: An entire stack of Nerds…
Nerds, the candy company, would make a fortune here! They should set up a booth…
DF: Yeah, like a giant nerd booth…or like, “Eat your way out” or something…
Although that is a big choking hazard, I think.
They’re so tiny! Wouldn’t that be awesome if you were walking around Comic-Con and you look around and there’s a booth where this dude is in a tank full of nerds, trying to eat his way out, and everyone’s just like, “Go! Go!” I think that’d be great!
Since we’re at Comic-Con, if you were to play any superhero which one would you want to be? Have you been asked that before?
DF: I haven’t! Oh man…well, if they wanted to go the Wolverine route, if they wanted to make Wolverine authentic — a runt of the litter, a hairy maniac — I would love to take a stab at that at some point, get totally buffed out. I’d also love to be some kind of flying superhero, but I hear the harnesses they have to wear… I had to wear a harness once in Balls of Fury. I was hanging from a rope bridge, and I don’t know how much you understand this…these things are built so that the entire weight of your body has to be held by your pelvis.
DF: Well, I’m above 200 pounds…so try and figure that one out.
OK, one serious question…Number 13 has you as Alfred Hitchcock — that sounds pretty interesting, can you tell me more?
DF: Sure! It’s in pre-pre-pre-production, but like Shakespeare in Love — it would be Hitchcock in Love. You see him in his twenties as a struggling artist, and he’s got bills to pay. You see him with his first project, which is supposed to be a comedy — but it’s not funny, so he finds his own niche and he finds out that it can be brilliant if it’s a thriller. And then you see over the course of the movie, little things that happen — oh, that’s the impetus for Psycho, or that’s where he got the idea for The Birds.