Synopsis : Inspired by writer, director, and star James Morosini’s true life experience, I LOVE MY DAD follows Chuck (Patton Oswalt), a hopelessly estranged father who desperately wants to reconnect with his troubled son, Franklin (Morosini). Blocked on social media and concerned for his son’s life, Chuck impersonates a waitress online and starts checking in with Franklin. But things begin to spiral when Franklin falls for this imaginary girl (Claudia Sulewski) and wants nothing more than to meet her in person, as Chuck has inadvertently catfished his own son. A thrilling comedy with an unexpected twist, I LOVE MY DAD also stars Rachel Dratch, Lil Rel Howery, Amy Landecker and Ricky Velez.
Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature – SXSW
Narrative Feature Competition Audience Award – SXSW
Audience Award for Narrative Feature – Chicago Critics Film Festival
Best Feature Film – Hill Country Film Festival
Written and Directed by James Morosini
Starring Patton Oswalt, James Morosini, Claudia Sulewski, Lil Rel Howery, Amy Landecker, Ricky Velez, and Rachel Dratch
Exclusive Interview with Actor/Writer/Director James Morosini
JM: I got a chance to read some of your interviews. I read your interview with Quinn Shephard and I was blown away. All of your questions are so thoughtful, and questions that I’m sure she hadn’t been asked before. It’s very refreshing to read your interviews.
Q: That’s great to hear. Let’s get it started. So how did you decide to write this personal story instead of a fictional one? Is it because you want to get into the father’s head space, in a way?
JM: One hundred percent. It started just as an empathetic exercise for me to understand my dad’s point of view in creating this fictional profile and where his head was at. I wanted to really understand his perspective in our relationship. Then it just compounded from there, and then it started to integrate many other things that I was interested in exploring. But I’m interested in the idea of someone doing something wrong but for the right reasons and really wrestling with that question.
Q: Since this was based on a true story this was a somewhat frightening truth..lol, but you also add something fictional to make it funny and heartwarming for theatrical effect. How do you balance it out?
JM: At the end of the day, I’m always trying to navigate an audience’s experience with my own creative interests and personal investment in a story that I’m trying to tell. So to me, it was important that the entire movie was emotionally a hundred percent true and that I could stand behind every single moment of the movie from a place of my own personal investment, that I felt that I was making a movie about my real relationship with my dad.
But then it was exploring thematically how far someone will go to connect with someone they love, and when is that too far? And really exploring that line throughout.
Q: This is definitely a unique and original story. How did you get the funding to make this film?
JM: I found partners that resonated with the underlying theme of the movie, which is trying to connect with someone that you love. I was able to find actors like Patton Oswalt, Lil Rel Howery, Rachel Dratch, Claudia Sulewski and Amy Landecker — these people that were able to rally around the central idea and really get behind it. And then it was a matter of people trusting the script, seeing my past work and liking that, and then all aligning on the same vision.
Q: You made a feature film where you also did acting, writing and directing: “Threesomething”. How did that experience help you to navigate making of this film?
JM: I look at all of these roles as different sides of the same thing. On this film I wanted to be as invested in the storytelling as I possibly could. I was excited by the idea of the person the story happened to watching them essentially re-experiencing it. It was creatively very exciting to me. But I really like having as much of an ability to express every nuance of the story that I can. So the more on a film that I’m doing, the more creatively invested I am, often.
Q: How did you decide to cast Patton Oswalt? What was his quality that you found fascinating that made him perfect for the father?
JM: I think Patton has an incredible ability to be really funny, but also bring a lot of heart to everything he does. Those qualities seemed important to me for the role of Chuck and I knew he was going to resonate with the material and have the emotional intelligence to be able to help me tell the story in the way that I was interested in telling it.
Q: The film won two awards at the SXSW Film Festival: the Jury Prize and the Audience Award. How was that experience for you, and has it affected your career?
JM: South by Southwest is one of my favorite festivals of all time. They’re committed to ground-breaking, irreverent storytelling and they are not afraid to take risks. I’ve always looked up to a lot of the filmmakers that have come out of there and that have had films play there, and I was in great company there this year. So to have everyone in the audience and Grand Jury and whatnot respond to this film in the way they did meant everything to me.
In terms of the response the film has gotten, it’s definitely opened up quite a few doors for my next project, and I’m excited to have that momentum carry me into my next endeavor.
Q: Could you take us through the process of casting Claudia Sulewski, who began her career on YouTube. What was the quality that struck you most to cast her?
JM: We saw a lot of actors audition for the role of Becca, I met some incredible actresses. It ultimately came down to a quality of being a phenomenal actor, and a very willing and invested collaborator in this process. She brought every ounce of herself to this project, and I could tell that from the moment I met her that she was going to be perfect for this role.
You’re right, it’s a tricky balancing act. She’s playing a real person but then also the projection of Franklin, and then also has to have this awareness, through those moments she’s with Franklin, that she’s also actually playing his dad in a way. So a lot of our work was in carving out which moments she’s which character, really.
Q: You brought your real father to South by Southwest to the Q&A. What was that experience like?
JM: My dad saw the movie for the first time in an audience at South by Southwest, among five to six hundred people. I grew up seeing a ton of movies with him; he and I watched all of “Seinfeld ” together. A lot of my sense of humor comes from his sense of humor. So to have him celebrate the film’s sense of humor and to get behind it in the way he has, has really been so meaningful and it feels like a full circle experience for me. I’m so glad that he “got” the film that I was intending to make.
Q: What was the creative decision to make the actual physical person appear while they are texting the messages?
JM: I wanted to make sure that the experience of texting and messaging was cinematic, and one where the audience would have a lot of fun watching it. I didn’t want people to be just staring at screens for two hours. So I thought a lot about what it feels like when you’re messaging someone. It often feels like the person is right there: you can really sense the person’s energy, and you’re anticipating their replies.
So I decided that she should just appear, and that it would also create this great irony, because we would constantly have to remind ourselves that that person is actually his dad. I think we’re naturally inclined to be rooting for an onscreen romance, but here we would have to be reminding ourselves of the true nature of this “romance”.
Q: What was the most surprising reaction that you got from the audience after they saw this film?
JM: After screening at South by Southwest, I had a young dude come up to me and say “Hey, I haven’t talked to my dad in five years. I’m going to call him this afternoon.” That really meant so much to me. I wasn’t expecting the film to have that level of impact, but I’m happy it has.
Q: What was your reaction when you found out your dad was your girlfriend? Was it like in the movie or was it more of something else?
JM: I think it was everything you could imagine it was. [laughs]
Q: So what is your next project?
JM: I have a couple of scripts that I’m really excited about, One project in particular looks like I’ll be making it in the near future. And then I’m also reading a lot of material to consider as an actor and a director.
I’m excited to keep telling stories that feel like they’re from my heart and that also have some mischievous quality to them as well.
Q: Thank you.
JM: Yeah, keep writing great stuff.
Q: Thanks, James.
The film set to be released in theaters on August 5, 2022, and on demand on August 12, 2022
Here’s the trailer of the film.