The psychedelic comedy, Don Peyote, starring and co-directed by Dan Fogler, opens in theaters Friday. We caught up with Folgler (he plays Warren in the film), and chatted with him about his audacious stoner flick.
The Brooklyn-born actor is best known for his starring role in Balls of Fury and supporting roles in Taking Woodstock and Take Me Home Tonight.
Don Peyote is a paranoid fantasy. One movie it reminds me of is The President's Analyst, a 1969 film starring James Coburn, who's followed by various people and organizations throughout the movie. He smokes hash with hippies in one scene. Ever seen the film?
Nope. I will now though, brother. But yeah the vibe of Don Peyote, the tone is very much an homage to the experimental films of the '60s and '70s - real run-and-gun Easy Rider kind of fun stuff.
Are there one or several movies that inspired you to make Don Peyote?
Easy Rider, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Annie Hall, Jacob's Ladder, 8 1/2, The Fisher King, the list goes on. I'm inspired by movies and I put homages everywhere in my work.
While we're on the topic, what are some of your favorite stoner movies?
Well, are these strictly stoner movies or movies that I love to watch when I'm high? Like, Empire Strikes Back with Pink Floyd in the background is nice - but so is Young Frankenstein or Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke if we're hitting bull's eyes. But shit, I'd watch Raging Bull high if you let me.
What was it like for you to be both behind and in front of the camera?
Don Peyote was my first time starring and co-directing with Mike Canzoniero. It's always good to have a co-director when you're in your own picture, someone you trust to watch your performance.
How did you decide to partner with Canzoniero on the film?
I've known Mike a while and acted in a few of his films. We all eventually formed Studio 13, which is a collective of filmmakers who are accustomed to DYI productions, and who wear many hats.
Speaking of peyote, have you ever taken it?
Not yet. The universe keeps deterring me. I've tried all sorts of fun stuff though. I know a lot about San Pedro (cactus) from my research.
There's no peyote in the film (except for the character Balance mentioning it in the shower). But you do take several gulps of ayahuasca. Have you ever actually drank ayahuasca? If so, where? Have you ever done it in South America?
Well, perhaps Warren DID take it since Balance may be somewhat of Warren's Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt in Fight Club). Who knows? And yes, I have and it was in a funky mansion in New Jersey with a certified medicine man. I suggest you be by trees when you do it though. It’s happening all around us, you just got to know where to look. Sweat lodges too, the works. One of the producers went to Peru and had some amazing stories about the shaman there who seemed to communicate with the jungle and who knew secret stuff about him with no Internet, TV, nothing. I went to Costa Rica and became one with the jungle myself.
You smoke pot out of an apple throughout the film. Why did you choose this smoking method? Is it your favorite way to consume marijuana?
I'd rather have a nice glass bong with ice - but for Warren the apple was for convenience. His fiancé didn't want him smoking so he always had to hide it and make a device where he could eat the evidence later. The apple also became a symbol of new knowledge, if you want to get all biblical about it.
What's your take on marijuana prohibition?
It used to be cannabis before they dubbed it marijuana in the '30s and made it illegal for basically racist reasons. It's a miracle plant that can be reverse engineered to clothe, fuel, feed and heal the world right now, and legalization is the first step in a global THC technology trend and should not be kept from the world. Billions of dollars, which should be going to build up city infrastructure, is leaking into the hands of the underworld. If it gets legalized - and it will - it should be treated like alcohol. Let the shady-ness end.
What are you trying to say with Don Peyote?
It’s time to embrace change and manifest a better future together. Our happiness is something we control and it can spread. Thinking outside the box is mandatory to ensure the survival of our species, because the status quo keepers are going to take us down with the ship if we let them. Oh, and try not to worry because then everything will just go to shit. Compassion goes a long way, and peace is durable. Peace is so much more rock & roll than war.
Extras: Dan Fogler on Marijuana
The legalization of marijuana is only one aspect of my political passion. I like to smoke it, vaporize it and eat it just as much as the next person. But I'm an advocate of THC technologies, creating a hemp-based society to reach for a new kind of green utopia. By embracing the reverse engineering of the marijuana plant, we can create various jobs in several fields across the eco and geopolitical board including alternate clean power sources to ween us off of oil, as well as feed and clothe the hungry and poor. And we can help heal the world and rid it of diseases like cancer.
Pharmaceuticals are poison. The drug war is a sham. If we took half the time and energy and money we waste demonizing pot, we could solve 90% of the issues threatening the earth and humanity right now. And that's just one plant. Imagine if we took the stick out of our collective asses about medicines like ayahuasca. We could actually take our spiritually bankrupt society and start evolving in the right direction. The undiscovered country is not in the rain forest or at the bottom of the ocean or on Mars. It is within ourselves, within our mind's eye. We just have to wake it up again to regain the knowledge we need to answer the questions threatening the future of our species today. If we eliminate the need we can end war and feed the world with weed. In the film, we offer up alternate solutions to solve the hard life questions facing us presently. Perhaps the reality currently presented to us wouldn't be so daunting if we just took our collective brain power and started thinking outside of the box and off the grid. Smoking pot hasn't halted our progress. It is ignorance and fear that has stunted our growth. It's time to take action now before the damage is irreversible. It's time to set our goals a little higher.
On Conspiracy Theories and the Evolution of Don Peyote
I became a conspiracy theory fan after seeing Oliver Stone's JFK. And after 9/11 I had many questions about the course our country was taking in history. I disagreed with many of the decisions to go to war. It seemed as though there was a maniac at the wheel, the bus was out of control and we were just along for the ride. I needed truth. Who was really running the show? Many people had the same questions and were desperate for answers. I became obsessed with solving the mystery. It seemed to me a patriotic duty. Each theory I researched seemed to lead deeper down the rabbit hole and were all leading me toward the biggest conspiracy of all: 2012. It was 2010 when I first had the idea for the film. It started out as a dark romantic comedy about the possible Apocalypse.
I was about to get married and I was mired in anxiety and the uncertainty of our future. Did I really want to raise a family in this chaos? And on top of that there was a large faction of people who really believed the world was ending. Talk about stress! If the world was going to end I wanted to know why. At the very least I wanted to be prepared spiritually and physically. And if it wasn't ending then what was coming? Because the landscape was definitely changing. As an artist I knew the only way that I'd complete this journey was through making a film about it. The concept was simple: it would be the story of the modern prophet. How does the man preaching about the Apocalypse with his END IS NEAR sign become that man?
Warren Allman (or "warn all men"), the aimless neurotic Everyman was born. He has no real purpose in life till he literally bumps into an end-is-near street prophet and becomes obsessed with the concept. He would go around collecting interviews and information from various wise men and women, desperately looking for answers before the whole proverbial shithouse goes up in flames. He becomes so swept up with the fear, in fact, that he loses his mind. The film would take a drastic turn from this point on. It would cease being a raw mumble-core, doc-style film and it would turn into a lush Terry Gilliam-esque wonderland. And Warren would emerge a changed man. He would become “Don Peyote”: a peaceful warrior hell bent on saving the human race. We had little money, no cast and no script. Only the outline and passion to make the film and a few cameras. The process was completely organic and backwards, even by indie feature standards.
The universe conspired in our favor and here we are today in 2014 with a completed film about to go into movie theaters. I learned that 2012 was never about the end, it was always about a new beginning. And there are many out there awakening to this concept of a shift in consciousness. The human species is growing a conscience. And if Don Peyote is able to open some eyes and help shift the tide toward a more harmonious world, then we've done our job well.