Interview: Siobhan Fallon Hogan on ‘Rushed’ and Her Catholic Faith
Known best for her work in comedy, the writer, producer and star of a new thriller talks about bringing the story of a funny, faith-filled family facing tragedy to the screen.
Siobhan Fallon Hogan’s character in Rushed, an upstate New York Irish Catholic mother named Barbara Brady whose life is altered forever by a fraternity hazing incident involving her son, is like a force of nature — and, talking to Hogan, it’s not hard to see where the energy comes from.
A scene-stealing comic presence in movies like Men in Black and Holes, Fallon Hogan has also explored darker material in films like Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark and Dogville.
Rushed is Fallon Hogan’s first film as a writer and producer and the first film from her new company, Emerald Caz, formed with her husband, Peter Hogan, and their son, also named Peter. During pre-development Fallon Hogan reached out to von Trier, and his Zentropa Entertainment is a producing partner on the film.
Fallon Hogan has two more Emerald Caz films in production, including one in which she plays a would-be country singer from West Tennessee — a character who, like Barbara Brady, is a devout Catholic, so there’s definitely a pattern emerging.
In our recent phone conversation I asked Fallon Hogan about working in Hollywood as a practicing Catholic, how her Rushed character does and doesn’t reflect her, and the movies she would like to make.
Rushed is available for streaming rental or purchase on all major streaming services, including Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.
You’ve talked in the past about being careful as a Catholic about choosing roles and turning down projects. Can you talk a bit about the challenges for you as a Catholic working in show business?
My parents gave me such a great faith and confidence. I’m from a family of five. My father was extremely funny. He was an extremely confident man and grounded in his faith.
It was harder when I was younger. As you get older, you realize that people understand you if you’re strong in your faith. So I have said No to many projects, and if people don’t understand it, I don’t really care! (Laughing)
It’s great because now that I’m older, that’s pretty much known. In the old days, I would just kind of hand it over to God, but I wouldn’t say exactly why I wasn’t doing a role. When I give advice to young people, I say, “You don’t have to explain yourself! You can be grounded in whatever is your faith, but don’t have to explain yourself.” Everybody has the right to follow their path.
This movie Rushed that I did — the Catholic faith is completely obvious in it. Have you seen Rushed yet?
So you know! Robert Patrick — my really good friend, who plays my husband in it — said to me, “You know, Siobhan, I loved it because it’s not icky.”
So is that one of the reasons you wanted to write a film yourself? To play a character whose faith is integral to who she is?
I started writing Rushed about three years ago. I thought: “Now I’m at the point in my career where maybe I should start to not only do parts that I like, but maybe make a little bit of a difference.”
This is fiction, but it’s based on a lot of true stories. I have a sister-in-law who lost a son. He was 29. The day of his funeral, I asked her, “Margie, how are you doing this?” And she said, “I figured if the Blessed Mother could watch her Son on the cross, then I could get through this.”
So I didn’t consciously say, “Oh, I want to make a movie like that.” But, you know, Rushed is very funny at the beginning, because my family in real life is a funny family. And I was always pegged as comedy first, but there’s something really poignant and moving about a faithful, strong, funny, Irish Catholic family who has faced a tragedy.
And you see that. That Rosary she says at the beginning. She’s swearing when she says it sometimes, because the kids are late getting up for school. Faith is what pulls her through. That’s kind of who I am. I really love the Blessed Mother, and I really love my faith. I think you don’t have to hit people over the head with it, but it’s nice to see that people aren’t afraid to share their faith.
It’s interesting that you talk about being a funny family facing tragedy, because watching this movie, it occurred to me that there has almost been a kind of a split personality in your career. There’s a comic side associated with Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld, Forrest Gump, Men in Black, Holes and so forth, but then a much darker side connected with Lars von Trier and also films like Funny Games and We Need to Talk About Kevin. I wonder whether these two sides of your career have ever come together this way and whether the idea of fusing dark-thriller moviemaking with comedy was a central inspiration for Rushed.
I think it absolutely was. And I think there’s a real dark Irish side. I’ve seen people with terrible drinking problems who are the funniest people in the world, and it’s so sad to watch hilarious strong people have terrible problems and they don’t want to admit it.
My father quit drinking when I was 15 years old. He was never a day-to-day alcoholic, but he struggled — he couldn’t drink. And he was a strong leader in the community. He was hilarious. It was only because of his faith. He never went to AA, but I do know that usually the people that are successful with addiction are those that have a higher power.
My father was a daily communicant, and my mother was very devout, very dedicated to the Rosary. And I said to myself, “I’m just a big idiot if I don’t go to daily Mass, because what the heck else am I doing when I’m not working? And even when I am working, I should be going to daily Mass.” So I went to daily Mass, and I said to God, “I’m writing movies. If you help me get this made, I promise I’ll spread your word.”
So my alma mater, Le Moyne College, asked me to come to an event where they were honoring me and two other actors. And at the event someone introduced me to this woman, Mary McNeil, who donated millions of dollars to Le Moyne. I thought, “Why in God’s name am I speaking here when this family donated millions to Le Moyne?” So I completely changed my speech and made fun of myself, and they thought it was really funny.
Two days later, I emailed them and said, in the words of my kids, “This might be really greasy, but I wrote a movie, and how would you like to invest in it?” And they read the script, and they were like, “Yeah.” Then I sent it to Lars von Trier, and his producers were like, “We love it.” Then I had the confidence to go to other people and raise the money.
Then I called all my friends — Robert Patrick, Peri Gilpin from Frazier, Jake Weary — and somehow it came together. It came out looking like a $7 million movie, and the budget was $800,000. And I think it’s a miracle from God because I went to daily Mass!
So your character in this movie, Barbara, is a New York-area, Irish-Catholic mom with a number of kids — and that describes your family of origin as well as your own household. How much of yourself did you put into Barbara?
A lot! I basically wrote dialogue the way we talk to each other in my family. We have the same sense of humor as the family in the film. They can be sarcastic; they can be funny; sometimes they can be rude. Like when I tell my daughters in the film, “Pull your skirts down — you look like hookers!” And you laugh, but you mean it, you know what I mean?
Now, the part where it becomes a thriller and the revenge part. … I do have red hair, and I am Irish. So I do have a temper! And if someone crossed my kids, the way that the kid in the movie is crossed, I’m afraid of what I would do. I’m kind of “Go big or go home” — that’s basically my personality.
So let’s talk about that revenge-thriller part of the story. Not only is it the key turning point, it’s also a dramatic departure for Barbara. Not just because it’s such a departure for her personally, but also because — as she seems to acknowledge, standing before the statue of the Virgin Mary — it also presents a problem for her as a Catholic. It’s contrary to —
Absolutely. So she’s not perfect. She’s not exemplary, and no one should follow her character in any way when they see that.
But does her faith continue to guide her during this dark chapter? And if so, how?
Absolutely. She goes to the Blessed Mother and says, “I’m sorry,” because she is sorry. And the reason — I don’t want to give away the ending, but she still has compassion, despite what that other person did to her son. She despised him for it, but she would never, ever let another mother suffer like she has suffered.
She was not graceful, like the Blessed Mother. She didn’t choose the right path, but she comes back and asks for forgiveness, and she didn’t lose her faith because of it. The saddest thing is when someone loses their faith because they think, “Why did God take my child?” And then you’ve lost you. You haven’t just lost a child; you’ve lost your faith. And that’s so tragic, because then do you believe that you’ll meet again?
And it’s so sad.
Is Barbara different from you in any notable way?
Yes, because Barbara is like many people I knew growing up in upstate New York who are happy living simply and never traveling too far from home. Whereas I’ve kind of been like a Gypsy — I’ve got to keep moving every couple of months. I’ve traveled all over. I don’t have that fear, the way Barbara really was fearful, of travel. She didn’t want to have to go to the homes she visits.
And the way she’s impressed by wealth — she keeps saying, “Oh look, these big homes.” She has this idea that these people, because of their wealth or their importance, are a little better than her. I don’t think like that. I believe people are equal.
I learned from doing movies with Lars von Trier that the European way of doing movies and the American way are totally different. In Europe, at least with Lars, there’s no “above the line” and “below the line.” So if you’re standing online for lunch and I’m the star of the movie, we’re all in this project together. And that’s the way I run a set as a producer. Then people come back and want to work with me again, even if it’s for peanuts.
Fascinating. So is there a particular story, or an idea for an unmade film, that you feel drawn to as a Catholic?
Yes. I read the book of the Jewish nun. What is her name? Is it Stein? That was on the train to Auschwitz.
Edith Stein. I think it was the most beautiful story, because of the merging of the two faiths and cultures. I think that would be an unbelievable movie.
There is a movie!
Who’s in it?
I wrote the DVD booklet for it — I should know the answer to that — but I can’t tell you off the top of my head … oh, wait, Maia Morgenstern. The woman who plays the Virgin Mary in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. She plays Edith Stein in The Seventh Chamber.
I didn’t know it was made into a movie!
So I have a friend whose father was a doctor and scientist in Italy, and he did not believe in God, and his wife was riddled with cancer. This was like in the 1920s. He went to see Padre Pio, and Padre Pio said, “I will try to heal your wife, but you have to convert.”
And he went in the chapel, and he said to God, “I will convert if you will heal my wife.” So her mother was completely cleared of cancer. And her father became such a good friend of Padre Pio that he built a chapel and a hospital in Italy because of that. I think that would make a great movie.