Take Me Home Tonight - Dan Fogler
Barry Nathan (Dan Fogler) © 2011 Relativity Jackson

Dan Fogler has successfully made that difficult transition from Broadway to the big screen. The Tony Award winning actor, [for his role  in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee], he has been seen in such movies as Taking Woodstock, Love Happens, Balls of Fire and can be heard in the animated features Kung Fu Panda and Horton Hears a Who.

In his new comedy Take Me Home Tonight, which is set in the ‘80’s, Fogler portrays Barry, who has just lost his job at a high-end car dealership. With nothing to lose, he goes with his best friend Matt (Topher Grace), and Matt’s twin Wendy (Anna Faris), to an all-out party celebrating the end of summer. Little by little Barry falls apart, stealing a car from his old dealership, trying drugs at the party and ends up in a no-holds-barred dance-off.

Barry has quite an arc in this.

[Yes,] Barry starts out uptight. He doesn’t do any drugs or alcohol. He has worked as a salesman of luxury cars since he got out of high school and it’s his life. It’s the way he gets ladies, the way he gets income and the thing that keeps him out of living in is mother’s house. But then he loses his job, because he’s really not very good at it.

When you were in high school, what group did you fit into?

I was a theatre geek. But I went to a school where [people were] into sports and jocks, alpha male and cheerleaders. I definitely liked the cheerleaders but I wasn’t in their crew. They only gave praise to you in and around the performance that you did. That’s really the only time they talked to you, ‘Good job on the show. I can’t be seen with you.’

Did you do any research into the ‘80’s?

Take Me Home Tonight - Dan Fogler and Michelle Trachtenberg
Barry Nathan (Dan Fogler) and Ashley (Michelle Trachtenberg) © 2011 Relativity Jackson

I think there were a stack of ‘80’s movies to watch and I watched all of them and I really wanted to make an homage to certain people like the very quick talking Anthony Michael Hall did. I wanted to master that.

I love the idea of Bruce Willis in Blind Date where he starts of together and by the end of the movie he’s [wasted]. I like staying wound tight at the beginning [of this movie] and finally being able to let loose was a lot of fun.

Your dance moves in this are outrageous. Did somebody choreograph that or was it freestyle?

I choreographed it. They gave me the song beforehand which was [he sings], ‘You can dance if you want to,’ and I just did a whole routine in my condo apartment and it had a lot of wild movies in it and I had t pare it back. It was too elaborate I guess. They said, ‘You have to look like you’re not a good dancer.’

How much improv did you do?

Take Me Home Tonight - Dan Fogler
Barry Nathan (Dan Fogler) © 2011 Relativity Jackson

They let us play. We always did what was on the page then they gave us time to play. It was about 50/50.

The cocaine scene in the bathroom, I think there was one line in there and then it became a monologue. And all the dialogue on the dance floor, ‘I’m growlin’ at you! I’m a lion,’ that’s not in [the script] at all.

Which was your favorite scene?

I loved stealing the car.

What is Barry’s relationship with Wendy?

She has a very combative relationship with Matt and Barry as she has always been maybe one of the guys in that relationship, so I don’t think she’d be the one to come down on them necessarily. She wants to be a part of the fun.

What is your favorite, definitive ‘80’s jam?

Take Me Home Tonight - Topher Grace and Dan Fogler
Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) and Barry Nathan (Dan Fogler) © 2011 Relativity Jackson

I loved the whole [Michael Jackson] Thriller album. I was in the 4th grade, and we would stay in from playtime and listen to the album and dance. It was crazy. And I listened to that song by L Debarge about a million frickin’ times, The Rhythm of the Night.

What words reminds you of the ‘80’s?

I’d say bright neon or Miami Vice.

Was it hard to shoot a movie about an era that you actually lived through?

It was great because you feel like you’re an expert in it. You lived it. I was in Taking Woodstock and we went back to the ‘60’’s and I felt like, ‘Am I ‘60’s enough right now?’

Do you feel this movie could have been set in modern times or do you think it needs to be the ‘80’s?

Take Me Home Tonight - Dan Fogler
Barry Nathan (Dan Fogler) © 2011 Relativity Jackson

I think it’s relevant right now with a lot of people getting out of college and not having a purpose and not having a job to go to. It’s very relevant. So it could have taken place now but I love that it took place in the ‘80’s. That was my formative years so it was great to go back and relive that at an older age when I could go back and relive the insanity of it.

What’s next for you?

I’ve got a movie called Mars Needs Moms coming out. It’s a motion capture. It’s very different than this character. It’s a big 3D Disney thing. I play Gribble, this guy who has been cast away on Mars for 20 years and all he knows is the ‘80’s actually!

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.