Dan Fogler, Tony winner and star of ''Balls of Fury,'' shares anecdotes about working with Walken, reveals his Ping-Pong playlist, and talks about his next big-screen comedies

By Mandi Bierly
Updated September 04, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
  • Movie

After Dan Fogler, 30, won a 2005 Tony Award for his performance in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Hollywood came calling. How did he pick his breakout big-screen role, Balls of Fury‘s washed-up, Def Leppard-loving Ping-Pong prodigy? When did he first know he clicked with Christopher Walken, who plays the evil table-tennis fanatic Fogler helps the FBI nab? What would be on his ultimate Ping-Pong playlist? All fine questions, which we asked him.

After I won the Tony Award, the film floodgates opened, so I was like a kid in a candy store. I saw the Balls of Fury script, and I was skeptical at first. The title? What kind of movie is this? And then you read further, and your character is Randy Daytona, and he wears short-shorts, a silver shiny jacket, and a Def Leppard shirt. You’re like, Wait a minute, wait a minute. What’s going on here? Then I met with [writer/director] Robert Ben Garant and [cowriter] Thomas Lennon and realized I’ve been a huge fan of these guys forever, from The State, from Viva Variety, from Reno 911!. They’re improvisational gods. I’m gonna be in good hands here.

Was Randy’s Def Leppard obsession always in the script?
Yeah, it was for some reason. I had a thing too, when I was in, like, fifth grade. I think that’s when the album that ”Pour Some Sugar on Me” was on came out, and I was at the height of my enjoyment of Def Leppard. I was probably air-guitaring at a dance with a girl, or practicing my quote-unquote ”dance moves” in the mirror.

And now you’ve karaoked that song with Christopher Walken. How did that scene happen?
They basically said, ”We’re gonna do some karaoke.” Everybody from the movie was sitting around, and we kept on adding people in and taking people away. And then suddenly Chris is up there and he’s swaying to ”Pour Some Sugar on Me,” man. It felt like a surreal dream. You’re like, ”Wait, there’s too many things that I enjoy going on here at once.”

When Walken comes out on the set in that ornate purple costume, do you laugh at him? Do you not laugh at him? How do you handle that?
Exactly — there is sort of a grace period in the beginning where it’s just like ”Walking With Walken.” He’s more animal than man. You have to gain his trust, obviously, like anybody else. But it definitely got to a point where things were very cool. I just saw him in Hairspray, and he’s wacky. He loves that sense of humor. So I could definitely point to his head and be like, ”Man, what is that? A giant jewel?” He’d share crazy stories about his days [in flawless Walken-impression mode] working on the silver screen. It was something that you write a chapter on in your memoir: ”My Time With Walken.” He’s one of my heroes.

Was there a moment when the two of you clicked?
I think it was because I was just a good listener. I wouldn’t be scared to ask him, like, ”What the hell are you talking about?” [Laughs] It was on the day of his monologue, where we’re walking through this bamboo forest and he’s talking about all the explosives that are all over his mansion. Basically I just go, ”Blah,” and then he has this enormous monologue, so I was in actor’s heaven. He told me that he had watched the Discovery Channel last night, and I’m like, ”Yeah? What happened on the Discovery Channel? I love that stuff.” And he was like, [in Walken voice] ”You know, Dan, the universe, it has a hum.” He goes, ”Waa waa waa.” I’m like, ”What are you talking about?” And he goes, ”A black hole, you know, it has a certain flapping hum. Waa waa waa.” I’m like, ”Man, that’s insane.” He’s like, ”Yeah, you know, Dan, when you were born, you made that exact sound, except 15 octaves higher, WAA WAA WAA!” And I’m just lookin’ at him, like, I don’t know what the hell to do. And I go, ”The hum of the universe.” He goes, ”Yeah, the hum of the universe.” And then he walks off, and, like, Action! And you’re like, What the—? Wait a minute

Did you ever do your impersonation for him? Because it’s very, very good.
No, but there were so many times… Not that he wants any feedback, but you can’t help it — you’re just like, ”Oh my God, that was great when you were just like…” and then you start to go into it. But then you realize he really doesn’t like it when you do it. And everybody has an impression of Christopher Walken. Wouldn’t it be weird for you? It’s like you go to buy bread, and the girl behind the counter is [in Walken voice] ”Heeey. Hiii.” So I would catch myself. It would always be like a weird Jerry Lewis routine, where I’d just be like, ”Man, when you were just all, Whoooa, Hiiii, Heeey…” and then I’d change the accent into something else. But then you go off into like a dark corner where all the other actors on the set are doing their impressions. Someone would be a lookout and say, ”Jesus, fellows, he’s comin’.”

Last Walken question: Did he ever cook for you, or bring in food for the crew?
[In Walken voice] ”I got eggplant parmesan in my trailer! And cookies!” No. Like, come on.

Well, that would’ve been a great story if he had, so I had to try.
That would be awesome if he was just always like, [in voice] ”Yeah, you know me. I like to get everyone around the dinner table.” [Laughs] ”I made zucchini!” What the hell? I’m sure he would if you asked him to, but I think he just likes to cook for himself.

NEXT PAGE: Fogler’s ultimate Ping-Pong playlist, and details on his upcoming movies (including Fanboys)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Since you’re a musical guy like your character [who uses Def Leppard as his theme music], tell us what would be on your ultimate Ping-Pong playlist.
DAN FOGLER: I’ll put some ”Pour Some Sugar on Me” on there, just to get things rollin’. That’s my warm-up song. I’m gettin’ loose. Then when we start playing, we got a little ”Wanted Dead or Alive,” Bon Jovi. [Hums] That’s probably the ultimate karaoke song. It’s off the Slippery When Wet album, which was also a huge album during my formative years. I probably kissed the first girl to that album or somethin’. Then out of nowhere comes ”Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys. It gets the adrenaline pumping. I always put that on workout tapes. [Laughs] And I also have a million different short movies in my head that go to ”Sabotage.” They’re all directed by Quentin Tarantino. Then comes ”Back in Black” from AC/DC. I used to put that song on when I played pool growing up in Brooklyn. You knew you were going to get beat…during that song. Okay, then we’ll do some Red Hot Chili Peppers, ”Under the Bridge.” I’m gonna be winded, so I’m rope-a-dopin’…leanin’ back like I’m tired. But what I’m really doing is enjoying the song. I kissed several other girls during that song. Then on comes ”Sweet Emotion” from Aerosmith, or the Black Crowes’ ”Hard to Handle.” One of those will get me to the point where I’m just like Ping-Pong Buddha.

Your next film in theaters is Sept. 21’s Good Luck Chuck. Who do you play?
I play a chauvinist plastic surgeon, specifically breast surgeon. He’s the devil on the shoulder coaxing Dane Cook into Caligula status with women all over San Diego.

Another interesting choice for a Tony winner.
I knew that people would come see this movie, because it’s got a lot of sex in it, and it’s got Jessica Alba in it, and it’s got Dane Cook in it. I’ve played a similar character before, and you wanna hit it out of the park because you only get so many chances to make an impression. Also, the producers were a huge donor to my theater company, Stage 13, which I was trying to get going at the time. So I owe a lot to that movie.

Let’s go through some other films on your IMDB page: You’re supposed to someday play Alfred Hitchcock in a movie called Number 13, which would costar Ben Kingsley and Ewan McGregor.
That’s something that’s been in the works for a little while. It’s a hysterical thriller. I would be playing Hitchcock in his 20s after making his very first feature. He’s commissioned by Ben Kingsley’s character, this flamboyant actor who wants to be the lead of this movie that Hitchcock directs. It’s gonna be a great comedy, except when people view it, no one laughs. So Hitchcock owes all this money and he’s freaking out. It’s great because you see him when he’s just a starving artist. Everyone knows him when he’s in his 60s, just being all, [in Hitchcock voice] ”I’m a crazy weirdo, and I’ve invited you into my mind.” It’s a lot like Shakespeare in Love. Ewan McGregor would play the editor that Hitchcock hires, who starts to suspect him of murder.

You’ve also got the film Kids in America coming up with Topher Grace.
I’m most excited about that one. It feels like a lost John Hughes movie. It’s set in the ’80s, over the course of one night and two parties. These kids, who were sort of on the fringe of the cool kids in high school, are now in their early 20s trying to find themselves as adults after college. I’m Topher Grace’s longtime buddy, who is a car salesman who models himself after Michael Douglas in Wall Street. He gets fired from his job and goes off the deep end.

Tell me about 2008’s Fanboys — that sounds fun.
These guys who love Star Wars have been friends forever. It takes place in ’98, before Episode I opens. They’re huge fans of the first three films, which I totally am myself, and one of the friends gets sick and as a last hurrah, they wanna drive cross-country and break into Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch to steal the first copy of Episode I so they can be the first to see it. I sort of embody both Han Solo and Chewbacca in this movie. [Laughs] Toward the middle [of the shoot] Lucas got wind of it, and he put his stamp on it. It’s one of those lessons: If you build it, they will come.

Did you get to film at Skywalker Ranch?
I didn’t. Only one of the guys, Chris Marquette, got to go to the ranch. And it was very secretive, he said. I think they blindfolded him and chloroformed him or some s—.

Balls of Fury

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 90 minutes
  • Robert Ben Garant