Exclusive: Devon Sawa on THE FANATIC + National Tragedy That Tanked Potential IDLE HANDS Franchise
When I first heard that Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst had written and directed a horror movie, I confess my knee-jerk reaction was less than objective. “Is he doing it all for the nookie?” I asked myself? Having just seen The Fanatic, however, I’m reminded of the adage advising against judging books by their covers. The Fanatic is fantastic!
Is Durst the next James Wan or Mike Flanagan? Probably not. Still, the rap-rocker delivered a riveting indie with genuine suspense, a film that benefits immensely from top-notch performances by its leads, John Travolta and Devon Sawa. Named Moose and Hunter respectively, Durst is obviously setting up a stalker/prey relationship—but it’s deceptively straight-forward. In fact, this exploration of the dark side of fandom is anything but predictable.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Sawa last week to discuss The Fanatic, a film based on actual events. Give our exclusive convo a read below the film’s trailer and synopsis.
A rabid film fan stalks his favorite action hero and destroys the star’s life.
Dread Central: I know that I should be asking Fred Durst this question (and hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity), but what do you know about the actual events that inspired The Fanatic?
Devon Sawa: I met the guy the [Moose] is based on and he was actually on set while we were filming. So, if he was really as crazy as he was in the film, obviously he wouldn’t have been there. But I think this guy, back in the Limp Bizkit days, just crossed a couple of lines, and Fred just thought, “What if he went all the way with this [obsessive fandom]?” And that’s how The Fanatic started.
DC: John Travolta is amazing, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say his portrayal of Moose was Rain Man caliber. What was it like working with him?
DS: I’m lucky because this was my second film working with John Travolta. But he was amazing and completely immersed himself in the role. Everyone on set, from craft services on up had to call him Moose. When he and Fred talked off set, he would still be Moose. He was completely dedicated and it shows. We all enjoyed watching that ride, man. It was great.
DC: This is more of an observation than a question, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. I loved how The Fanatic completely upends the concepts of villains and heroes. You have a bad guy antagonist in, Moose, who’s so sympathetic he’s almost lovable; and Hunter (your character) is a protagonist who you can relate to, but he’s such an asshole you practically hate him. It’s like the terms “antagonist” and “protagonist” don’t even apply!
DS: That’s exactly what we were trying to achieve and I’m so happy you picked up on that. When you’re watching the climactic scene at the end of the movie, Moose is obviously doing things that he shouldn’t be doing. At the same time, we don’t like Hunter because it’s like, does this guy have the right to be a dick just because of all this shit going on in his life? It’s confusing, like, who should you be rooting for in this situation, and that’s kind of what we were going for. Fame can be stressful and some people just handle it better than others.
DC: How have you handled the dark side of fame? Like the character Hunter, you actually are a horror movie star with a large following. So, what’s the creepiest, real-life fanatic experience you’ve had and how did you deal with it?
DS: I’m lucky because, for the most part, I’ve stayed under the radar. I don’t go to premieres or big parties or whatnot, so I’ve been pretty blessed not to have these kinds of negative experiences. Back in my childhood when I was on Teen Beat and all that stuff, I’d get some crazy fan letters and boxes with girls sending me their braziers and locks of their hair and stuff like that. But other than that, unlike Fred Durst, I haven’t had a psycho yet!
DC: Let’s switch gears, Idle Hands turned 20 years old in April. How do you feel looking back on that film?
DS: I just did one of my first horror conventions ever because it’s the 20th Anniversary of Idle Hands. It was nice to hear the love people have for that film. It’s crazy because it didn’t do that well at the box office, and it came out at the same time as Columbine, but people loved that film. It’s still to this day one of the best times I ever had on a set.
DC: That’s interesting because I didn’t connect the dates up until you just mentioned it. Do you think that the timing with the Columbine massacre in Colorado had a negative impact on the film’s box office draw?
DS: I do. We were supposed to have a premiere for Idle Hands, but that got cancelled after Columbine happened. The film was completely removed from a lot of theaters, especially in Colorado. Idle Hands came out right around the same time as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, and that big teen horror film craze. So, while we were making it, Idle Hands seemed like a shoe-in to be the next successful franchise. But then Columbine happened and—it is what it is. But I did Final Destination a couple years later, so it was definitely an important stepping stone for me and something I’m extremely proud of.
DC: You should be! Final Destination was definitely your big breakout moment, but those of us who enjoy horror and cannabis in equal measure have always had a soft spot in our hearts for Idle Hands!
DS: I’ve got to give it a watch again soon to see if it stands the test of time.
DC: Is there anything else you want to tell us about The Fanatic before I let you go?
DS: It’s one of those indie films that all of us just put our heart and soul into. John Travolta put his entire life into this film, and it really shows, so I hope people check it out!
The Fanatic arrives in select theaters this Friday, August 30th and on digital and On Demand beginning September 6th, 2019.