Synopsis: Inspired by the real life experience of writer, director and star James Morosini, I LOVE MY FATHER follows Chuck (Patton Oswalt), a hopelessly estranged father desperate to reconnect with his troubled son, Franklin (Morosini). Blocked on social media and concerned for his son’s life, Chuck poses as a waitress online and begins contacting Franklin. But things get rolling when Franklin falls in love with this imaginary girl (Claudia Sulewski) and wants nothing more than to meet her in person since Chuck accidentally hooked his own son. A suspenseful comedy with an unexpected twist, I LOVE MY FATHER also stars Rachel Dratch, Lil Rel Howery, Amy Landecker and Ricky Velez.
Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature – SXSW
Audience Award for the Narrative Feature Competition – SXSW
Audience Award for Narrative Feature – Chicago Critics Film Festival
Best Feature Film – Hill Country Film Festival
Written and directed by James Morosini
With 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’ve had the opportunity to read some of your interviews. I read your interview with Quinn Shephard and was blown away. All of your questions are so thoughtful and questions I’m sure she’s never been asked before. It is very refreshing to read your interviews.
Q: That’s great to hear. Let’s get started. 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 headspace in a way?
JM: One hundred percent. It just started out as an empathic exercise for me to understand my father’s perspective in creating this fictional profile and where his head was. I really wanted to understand his perspective on our relationship. Then it just assembled from there, and then it started to integrate a lot of 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 wrestle with that question.
Q: Since this was based on a true story, this was a bit of a scary truth… lol, but you also add some fiction to make it funny and heartwarming for theatrical effect. How do you balance that?
JM: At the end of the day, I always try to guide an audience’s experience with my own creative interests and personal investment in a story I’m trying to tell. So it was important to me that the entire film be 100 percent emotionally true and that I could stand behind every single moment of the film from a place of my own personal investment, that I felt like I was making a film about my reality relationship to my father.
But then the theme became how far someone will go to connect with someone they love, and when is that too far? And to really explore that lineage throughout.
Q: This is definitely a unique and original story. How did you get the financing for this film?
JM: I found partners that resonated with the film’s underlying theme of trying to connect with someone you love. I could find actors like Patton Oswalt, Lil Rel Howery, Rachel Dratch, Claudia Sulewski, and Amy Landecker—those people who could rally around the central idea and really get behind it. And then it was about people trusting the script, seeing my previous work and liking that, and then all aligning with the same vision.
Q: You made a feature film in which you also worked as an actor, screenwriter and director: “Three”. How did that experience help you master the making of this film?
JM: I see all of these roles as different sides of the same thing. With this film I wanted to invest as much as possible in the storytelling. I loved the idea of the person who happened to see the story basically reliving it. Creatively, it was very exciting for me. But I really like having as much ability to express every nuance of the story as I can. So the more I work on a film, the more creative I often am.
Q: How did the decision to cast Patton Oswalt come about? What was his fascinating trait that made him perfect for dad?
JM: I think Patton has an incredible ability to be really funny but also to bring a lot of heart to everything he does. Those qualities seemed important to me in the role of Chuck, and I knew he would resonate with the material and have the emotional intelligence to help me tell the story the way I wanted to tell it.
Q: The film won two awards at the SXSW Film Festival: the Jury Prize and the Audience Prize. How was this experience for you and did it influence your career?
JM: South by Southwest is one of my all-time favorite festivals. They are committed to groundbreaking, irreverent storytelling and are not afraid to take risks. I’ve always looked up to a lot of filmmakers that have come out there and screened films there and I was in great company there this year. It meant everything to me that everyone in the audience and the grand jury and so on reacted to this film the way they did.
In terms of the response the film has received, it has definitely opened some doors for my next project and I’m looking forward to that momentum carrying me into my next endeavor.
Q: Could you walk us through the process of casting Claudia Sulewski who started her career on YouTube. What impressed you most about casting her?
JM: We saw a lot of actors auditioning for the role of Becca, I met some incredible actresses. Ultimately it came down to being a phenomenal actor and a very willing and dedicated collaborator in the process. She brought all her skills to this project and I knew from the moment I met her that she would be perfect for the role.
You’re right, it’s a tricky balancing act. She’s playing a real person, but then she’s also playing the projection of Franklin, and then she also has to be aware that in those moments when she’s with Franklin, she’s also playing his father in a way. So a lot of our work was figuring out which moments she’s really which character.
Q: You brought your real father to South by Southwest for Q&A. How was this experience?
JM: My father first saw the film in an audience at South by Southwest, in front of five to six hundred people. I grew up watching a lot of films with him; he and I watched Seinfeld together. Much of my sense of humor comes from his sense of humor. To have him celebrate the film’s sense of humor and stand behind him like that was really so meaningful and it feels like a full circle experience for me. I’m so glad he “got” the film I wanted to make.
Q: What was the creative decision to have the actual physical person appear while writing the messages?
JM: I wanted to make sure the texting and messaging experience was cinematic and that the audience would enjoy watching. I didn’t want people just staring at screens for two hours. So I thought a lot about what it feels like to text someone. It often feels like the person is right there: you can really feel the person’s energy and await their responses.
So I decided that she should just show up, and that it would also create this great irony because we would have to keep reminding ourselves that this person is actually his father. I think we naturally tend to encourage romance on screen, but this is where we need to remember the true nature of that “romance”.
Q: What was the most surprising reaction you got from audiences after seeing this film?
JM: After the South by Southwest screening, a young guy came up to me and said, “Hey, I haven’t spoken to my dad in five years. I’ll call him this afternoon.” That really meant so much to me. I didn’t expect the film to have this impact, but I’m glad 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 something else?
JM: I think it was everything you could imagine. [laughs]
Q: So what’s your next project?
JM: I have a few scripts that I’m really looking forward to. One project in particular looks like I’ll be doing it in the near future. And then I also read a lot of material that I can consider as an actor and director.
I look forward to continuing to tell stories that feel like they come from the heart and that also have a certain mischievous quality.
Q: Thank you.
JM: Yes, keep writing great stuff.
Q: Thank you James.
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The film is scheduled for release in theaters on August 5, 2022 and on-demand on August 12, 2022
Here is the trailer of the film.