Interview: Siobhan Fallon Hogan on stepping out of her comedic comfort zone to tackle the American college rituals of hazing in Rushed

“Actors are egomaniacs, we need to be complimented at least once a day”

It was that self-deprecating note that began a conversation between our Peter Gray and actress-turned-writer Siobhan Fallon Hogan for the film Rushed, a dramatic thriller marking the actress’s debut as a screenwriter.  Known for her more comedic stylings, seen in such efforts as TV’s Saturday Night Live and feature films like Forrest Gump, Men In Black, and Baby Mama, Hogan is moving further outside her wheelhouse with this film, one that touches on the hazing rituals of American colleges and how one mistake can spiral into something tragically fatal.  As the film begins its select theatrical run across the United States, as well as its VOD engagements, Hogan discussed how her own maternal instincts inspired the story and utilising her industry contacts over the years to get the film made.

Having known you primarily in comedy, something like Rushed really made me take a step back.  This subject of hazing is not one that we are overly familiar with here in Australia, it’s not a ritual we adhere to, and I’ve only ever seen it play out in films.  How did this idea come about for you?

A lot of people don’t really understand fraternities and sororities in Europe and Australia.  This basically came from the point of view of the mom.  I have three kids, and even if you take the fraternity element out of (the story) you look at how parents worry about their kids from the moment they start going out.  We have this bizarre culture where we have these telephones and we text our kids and we let them go off to college, and when I went off to college I’d be lucky if I got to call my parents every couple of weeks if I got a free spot on the payphone, but now we can keep in such contact with our kids.  I’ve lived in my bedroom with the cell phone next to me thinking, at 1am in the morning, “Oh surely I’ll hear something now”.  You hear nothing.  “My daughters and sons wouldn’t do this to me”, then it gets to 8am in the morning and your mind goes wild! You imagine the worst.

It really came from the imagination of a mother, well, my imagination, thinking “My gosh, what if this happened to me?” This movie really has two big audiences.  Kids going to college and then those that just got out, that know this culture, and then the parents.  I don’t think kids know they torture their parents as much as they do.  All those times we’re told “Sorry, my phone died”, we’re thinking “Oh my God, they’re dead!”

I’m not a parent, but I am experiencing some hardships where I have needed my parents lately, and this film really leans into that mentality of “we never stop needing them” and “how far would you go for your kids?”  I think this film really taps into that, and even if you can’t relate to the film from the hazing point of view, everyone should be able to look at this film and understand that temperament.  I believe that’s a testament to your writing.

I appreciate that, Peter.  I’ll say this to you, it’s a thriller.  And I’m a redhead, to begin with, and I’m Irish.  I have an Irish temper, and combined with being a redhead, that’s a lethal combination of a person.  That’s an atomic bomb of a human being!  If something happened to my kids, and you can see it in the film, the reaction is extreme in her trying to find the right route.  It’s funny you’re saying about needing your parents at whatever age, my mom passed away this past March at 96, and whenever I do an interview I have her photograph with me.  I know she’s watching over me.

This film is an international effort too.  I’ve done three Lars von Trier movies – I did Dancer in the Dark, I did Dogville, and most recently with Matt Dillon, The House That Jack Built – and when I wrote this film, and I never fancied myself a writer, I always just saw myself as an actress, sitting in my trailer eating Bonbons, getting fatter and fatter, depending on the length of the movie.  So, when I thought to myself that I’ve been in this industry for so long, I decided to write a movie, so I did.  I sent it over to Lars von Trier’s company Zentropa Films and they wanted to co-produce.  It was this crazy effort with all these people that I had worked with over the years…I basically called in all my chips.

Might as well put all your contacts over the years to good use…

Exactly.  Jake Weary, I worked with him when he was 19, Robert Patrick I have worked with several times, Peri Gilpin…I did a play with her when I was in my 20s.  I knew I was creating a great cabinet.

I was going to ask about those singular sequences you have with Peri Gilpin and Rusty Schwimmer.  Rusty Schwimmer’s scene was heartbreaking…

I met Rusty when I was a non-working, or semi-working actress, in LA.  She worked at this 1950’s hamburger place, and she danced at my table.  I said to her “I want to be your friend” and we exchanged numbers.  I then got cast on a sketch comedy show, and Iain Paterson, whose doing Stranger Things, asked me who I thought was funny and I recommended Rusty.  All these years we stayed friends and I needed a mom who is a great dramatic actress.  She’s another one who’s pegged for being funny, but she hits it out of the ballpark.  Peri Gilpin? Fabulous! These women are amazing actresses and I was so lucky to get them.

Your character does what she believes is the right thing.  As I was watching it gear towards its climax though, I felt incredibly tense.  First off, I do have to commend you on your performance.  The nuances in that were incredible.  She’s this woman who never thought she’d leave her home, and there’s something so joyful about her giddiness and that wide-eyed school-girl mind set as she’s travelling to all of these new places, but then you flip that with the reality that her son has essentially been killed and she’s a mother that will stop at nothing to seek that justice.  The whole spectrum was incredible to watch.

I really do appreciate that.  You don’t really know your limits when something happens to your child.  And quite frankly, from the movie, I’m not really that proud of myself because I had extreme possibilities (laughs).  I always tell this story about my uncle Mickey, and his parents wanted him to be a surgeon.  He wasn’t even allowed to take out the trash because they wanted him to have “surgeon hands”.  He never drank, never did anything wrong, was a successful surgeon, but someone crossed his daughter and he took them aside – and he’s in his 70s at this point – and said “You come across my daughter again and I will take you out! I’ve lived my life and I don’t care if I spend the rest of it in jail”, and quite frankly, that’s what a lot of this film is based on.

How much research did you have to do on this subject? It’s such a horrible thing to endure.

It is horrible, but the sad part, and it’s something I feel bad about, is that there’s great fraternities too.  I don’t want it to come across like I’m saying (fraternities and sororities) are the worst.  It’s one bad apple, and with the internet it spreads like wildfire.  It’s really unfortunate that one bad guy can get a whole crew to follow.  If someone is a bad person, no matter if it’s an office or a camp ground, there’s got to be a point where someone calls them on it.  I think Australia, from having lived there (when shooting Charlotte’s Web), the drinking culture is a bit more normal.  The drinking age here (in the US) is 21.  Kids can vote or go off to war at 18, but they can’t drink? It’s ridiculous.  So it then becomes this thing of wanting what they can’t have, and instead of drinking beer they’re just playing Russian roulette with harder liquor.

Rushed is currently screening in select cinemas across North America and available on VOD/digital.  An Australian release is yet to be determined.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.