When John Travolta texted him regarding his new film, The Fanatic, Devon Sawa knew he would stop at nothing to get the second lead role in the Fred Durst-directed thriller. Sawa stars as Hunter Dunbar, a movie star on the edge of sanity with a wide variety of stresses in his life. Meanwhile, Travolta plays Moose, a mentally unstable megafan who idolizes the Hollywood icons he sees on the big screen. Naturally, these two men find themselves on a crash course with one another.
Fred Durst is best known as the frontman for Limp Bizkit, but he's also an accomplished film director, and The Fanatic is his latest and greatest work, combining black comedy, psychological terror, and passionate empathy to create a truly unique work of art.
While promoting the film, actor Devon Sawa spoke with Screen Rant about his work on the film and his friendship with his co-star, John Travolta. He also discusses how he still gets starstruck from time to time, and how director Fred Durst brought Rollin' Rollin' Rollin' energy to the set. The Fanatic hits theaters on August 30, and releases On Digital and On Demand on September 6, 2019
This movie is so deliciously uncomfortable. It's my kind of movie!
Good. That's it, that's what we we went for! I'm glad you said that, because that ending, the climax scene, is what we want. We should be thinking somewhere between uncomfortable and confused. So that's good!
I want to talk about it without spoiling it for the Screen Rant reader, but was that ending part of what made you sign on to The Fanatic? What was the process of getting this movie in your oeuvre?
The process of getting this movie was a very big fight on my behalf. I'm gonna be open about that. Travolta and I worked together on another film, and Travolta had suggested me to Fred Durst for this part. Fred wasn't completely sold on me. He hadn't seen me on anything mainstream for quite a bit of time. I had been doing TV and whatnot. So I had to fight my ass off for this film. And I did it because I knew... John sent me a picture of what he was going to look like, and he told me a little about what he was going to do, and I had to get it. I laid every single scene from the movie down with another actor. We did the whole thing on tape and sent it to Fred. Fred took it for a few days, and finally I got it. It was a fight. I have a text from John Travolta, saying "This is what I'm going to look like in the movie," and I was like, oh my God, that's crazy... That's when I decided to fight for it.
You've worked with John before, and part of this movie is about fandom and having a disconnect from reality when it comes to movie stars. I know you've been an actor for many years, but I can't imagine anyone meeting someone like John Travolta and not having a moment where you just have to tell him, "Oh my God, I loved you in Grease."
Yeah. Well, it was Pulp Fiction for me. I was 14 or something like that when it came out, and it was life-changing for me. Up until that point, I was just going to set to be with other kids and have fun and giggle and have that whole thing. But when I saw Pulp Fiction, I don't know if it was just the right timing, but seeing Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, and John Travolta as these larger-than-life characters in a different world, it just changed things for me. I remember the first time I met John on the movie, Life on the Line, and I was very nervous. He came into that room and you just felt like a movie star walked in. I was super nervous for that table read. That was the first day on set. John comes with the greatest stories ever. Like, he has stories of Marlon Brando. He has stories of Muhammad Ali... He's amazing, that's all I can say.
Have you ever had that with any of your other co-stars who you've loved and adored for years, and then you get to see them as peers?
Yeah, Stallone was another guy I worked with, last year. If you told 12-year-old me that I'd be working with Stallone, I would never have believed you! But believe me... And we did a fight scene! I got there two weeks before, and I had a choreographed fight scene with the John Wick stunt crew, and when we got to set, he didn't like it. So he said, "we're just gonna fight for real. We'll see what happens. If we don't like it, we'll go back to the choreographed scene. But let's just go in there and pull our punches." He started going, "remember Rocky 2, when I did this?" And I was like, dude, do I remember Rocky 2? Are we really doing this right now?
You're working in this movie, not just with John Travolta, but with Fred Durst, who casual viewers might not recognize as a filmmaker, even though he's been doing movies for more than a decade, and I think he has a really great eye in this movie.
I'm glad you mentioned that, because there were a couple of movies I did where they thought this was Fred's first movie. But Fred has put in his dues. He did a slew of music videos before he got The Education of Charlie Banks. That was a critical success for him. Then he did more videos and then the Ice Cube movie (The Longshots). He's put in his dues. This is just another stepping stone for him to the next big thing he does. He's got a great energy, he knows what he wants. Like, he knew which DP he wanted. And Travolta spent the whole time in character. He never left character. We called him Moose, and all that. He and Fred would talk, and he would be Moose, and Fred would be his buddy. They would do a little improv before they would start a scene, and it was awesome to watch. Fred is the real deal, man! And I won't lie, he does bring that Limp Bizkit flavor to the set. There is a little bit of that Rollin' Rollin' Rollin' sh** going down, you know what I mean? You feel that energy, and it's nice!
You said Travolta was method. Do you have any rituals like that? To be honest, five minutes before this interview, I felt nervous, kind of scared, because you can be so mean and scary in the movie! Like, I know you're an actor, it's the job but when you're playing an actor, there's an extra layer of reality, at least to someone on the outside looking in. How do you get into that persona?
I'm not method. I do take moments before doing a scene, I think of where my character has been before this, where he's going, the whole backstory thing. For this character, I drew on the breaking points we've seen from different actors over the years. Like, Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, Britney Spears. The breaking point with the paparazzi, they pick on them just enough where they hit them with an umbrella or throw a punch or knock the camera out of their hands. That's what I drew on. Moose is my breaking point. All this stuff is going on in Hunter Dunbar's life: the wife, the maid, the agent, the son. All this stuff is going on, and Moose is the breaking point. That's when I break, you know what I mean?
Yes, absolutely. This is a question I like to ask everyone I interview. Do you have a movie or a show, anything that you're particularly proud of, from your career, that you feel didn't get the attention it deserved at the time, that you'd like to shout-out for the Screen Rant reader?
Oh yeah, I mean, Idle Hands was supposed to be a lot bigger than it was. Who knows? They ended up pulling it from a lot of different states, especially Colorado, since it was coming out the weekend after Columbine had just happened. They cancelled the premiere, they stopped doing press, they stopped playing the promos on TV. We never got to see how it would have done in real life. It was kind of buried because it's about a kid whose hand goes on a killing spree in a high school. It was obviously not appropriate. But we never got to see what it would have done.
The Fanatic hits theaters on August 30.
- The Fanatic (2019) release date: Aug 30, 2019