Patton Oswalt on His “Ballsy” Movie About a Father Who Catfishes His Son

A father catfishes his own son. That isn’t just the one-line synopsis of writer-director-star James Morosini‘s SXSW entry, I Love My Dad. It’s also something he actually went through in real life.

I Love My Dad is based on Morosini’s personal experience. He stars in the film as Franklin, a young adult who’s going through a tough time. His father of him Chuck (patton oswalt) is eager to help, but due to their turbulent relationship, Franklin opts to cut his dad out of his life entirely. Desperate to find a way to reconnect with his son, Chuck decides to impersonate a young woman (Claudia Sulewski) on social media. Things spiral when Franklin falls hard for her and then Chuck finds himself forced to keep up the pretense, pushing it further and further.

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Patton Oswalt in I Love My Dad
Image via I Love My Dad, LLC

With I Love My Dad celebrating its SXSW world premiere, we got the opportunity to chat with Morosini and Oswalt about their experience bringing the story to screen. Morosini began by confirming, yes, this movie is based on his own true story about him:

“Basically my dad and I got into a big fight and I blocked him online. And I was going through a tough time. He was worried about me. I got home one day, this really pretty girl had sent me a friend request on Facebook and I was really excited, and this story was born.”

Morosini’s an experienced actor, but a newer voice behind the lens. Oswalt, on the other hand, is a non-stop creator with a significant fanbase and a slew of exciting projects on the horizon. what was it about I Love My Dad and Morosini in particular that made Oswalt think, this is a filmmaker on the rise worth taking a chance on? Here’s what Oswalt said:

“The script was fantastic and it really went where this story would go. There wasn’t any shying away from any of the cringey elements, but also the hilarious elements, a lot of which were hand in hand. And I’m a big film buff and I like working with newer voices, writers, directors, and especially when I read a script this ballsy. It had that feeling of, ‘I just want to see if we pull this off.’”


Patton Oswalt and James Morosini in I Love My Dad
Image via Hantz Motion Pictures

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As one might expect, Oswalt committing to the project was a game-changer for Morosini and I Love My Dad. In fact, had Oswalt not signed on, Morosini might never have made some of his boldest choices from him, like making the decision to both direct and star in the film. Morosini recalled:

“It was a pretty late in the game decision for me to play the role of Franklin, and that was a decision that Patton helped me make. I went over to his house and we screen-tested me playing the role of Franklin because we were like, ‘Is this gonna work? Do we both feel comfortable diving into this?’ Because it presents a lot of opportunity, but also a lot of challenges and so I feel like Patton really helped me navigate some of those trickier decisions.”

When you see the movie, it’ll be quite evident that I Love My Dad is absolutely packed to the brim with tricky decisions, especially when it comes to figuring out how far to push this premise. Oswalt proved to be an invaluable partner in that pursuit as well. Morosini explained:

“[Patton] has an ability to tackle really delicate subject matter with a lot of heart and levity, and I think that’s what this story needed. And so throughout production, I would sometimes come to him and be like, ‘How do you think we can thread this needle tonally,’ and he would always be super helpful in helping me execute in those ways.”


modok-hulu-patton-oswalt
Image via Hulu

If you’re looking for a little more clarity on exactly how Chuck operates in I Love My Dad, comparing him to another not-so-great on-screen dad could help! Perhaps someone like the main character of Marvel’s stop-motion adult animated television series, MOD OK. While Oswalt couldn’t give us an update on MOD OK Season 2, he did pinpoint some “warped connective tissue” between MODOK and Chuck:


“First off, I can’t say whether we’re doing Season 2 yet. When you work for Marvel, you sign NDAs that are the size of phonebooks so I have to be very circumspect. But it’s weird that you bring up MODOK because there is some really warped connective tissue between MODOK and I Love My Dad in that MODOK is an equally catastrophically horrible husband and father who is trying — and actually even worse than Chuck — actually thinks he’s nailing being a dad. Whereas Chuck at least has the decency to be desperate and sweaty in what he’s doing, MODOK has this undercurrent of, ‘You’re welcome. I’m really nailing this,’ where he’s just destroying the lives of everyone around him.”

Looking for more from Oswalt and Morosini on I Love My Dad? You can catch our full SXSW 2022 interview in the video at the top of this article!


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