SANTA MONICA, California — How do you spell rising star? D-A-N F-O-G-L-E-R. The Tony Award-winning star of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," Fogler is slated to appear in six movies within the next two years, among them "Balls of Fury" (in theaters August 29), in which he plays a down-and-out ping-pong player recruited by the FBI to enter an underground table-tennis tournament. In this interview, Fogler gave us the skinny on his ping-pong technique, his scandalous future in Hollywood (which includes a kick-ass action movie), and the secret, true identity of the actor otherwise known as Christopher Walken.
MTV: Let's talk about "Balls of Fury." What makes you the fiercest ping-pong player at the table?
Dan Fogler: Just my sheer ability. After my training for the movie — which was rigorous — I went from crappy player to Bruce Lee-quality player. I'm a ninja of ping-pong right now. Some people might say it's just a matter of a turn of the wrist, but for me it's all moxy, blood, sweat and tears.
MTV: Is this your Old West moment, where every two-bit thug with a paddle tries to come along and take your crown?
Fogler: I've got a lot of people coming to try to knock the king off the hill, but I've turned in the paddle. I can't do it anymore because I've hurt someone — detached a man's retina in Reno playing ping-pong. I won't do it anymore.
MTV: I was hoping that we could have a little ping-pong match right here.
Fogler: I would hurt you.
MTV: A verbal ping-pong match. Since "Balls of Fury" is a play on "Fists of Fury," we're going to think of the funniest movie title by replacing a noun with the word "balls." I'll start: "Good Ball Hunting."
Fogler: I feel like saying "Goodfellas," so "Ballfellas"?
MTV: How about "Fried Green Balls"?
Fogler: How about "Balls to the Future"?
MTV: How about "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Balls"?
Fogler: How about "The Empire Strikes Balls"?
MTV: How about "Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Balls"?
Fogler: "Love the Balls." That was great. Is there a movie with "balls" in it?
Fogler: What if it was just "Ballsballs"?
MTV: That's the winner. I don't think you can get better than that.
Fogler: Yeah. God knows, I get kicked [in the groin] so many times in this movie it's unbelievable.
MTV: Is there a technique to it?
Fogler: I think the technique just lies with the other person. You take their energy and use it. Use it against them. It has to do with the reaction — mostly in the reaction. I get kicked 17 times in this movie, and I think it has to do with the whiplash.
MTV: Would you call that your "Welcome to Hollywood" moment?
Fogler: I would say [it was in] "School for Scoundrels." It's amazing how much goes into shoving a man's head into a toilet over and over again when you've got a big budget. There's harnesses involved, and cables. My arm was totally messed up afterward. You get a larger budget, and the next thing you know there's explosions and Billy Bob Thornton standing in the corner watching your every move.
MTV: So if that was your "Welcome to Hollywood" moment, what is your "Farewell to Hollywood" moment going to be?
Fogler: Everything was going well, then all of a sudden they found Dan Fogler alone with all of his Polly-O String Cheese wrappers and pudding cups, just delirious, running naked through the streets, totally drenched in his own sweat. And he probably had sex with lots of women.
MTV: In your speech at the Tonys you said you felt like Rocky. The idea of you as Rocky has stuck in my head —
Fogler: — Urgggghhh! [He laughs.] I'll let you finish your sentence.
MTV: Give me the pitch for the Dan Fogler action movie. Who do you play? What are you after?
Fogler: I'm probably some sort of bank-robbing Mafioso type, like a real guy from the streets. A real hard-nosed killer. Probably kill you with my thumb, you know. Hit the bridge of your nose and send the cartilage to your cerebral cortex. Get some Chris Walken action in there; I like working with him. Let's make him my mentor. So he and I, "Thelma & Louise"-style, are driving across the country in a convertible, being chased by the Army. So, we're driving in the desert, chased by the army, explosions everywhere, then Bruce Willis — let's make Bruce Willis the bad guy. That'd be awesome. And he's driving on a motorcycle toward us, face completely frozen, flying at us in a motorcycle, explosions all around him, and he says, right at the last minute, "In the fifth your a-- goes down." Bam! Dan Fogler, Friday! "Cosmic Explosions." That's the name of the movie, "Cosmic Explosions."
MTV: Speaking of Chris Walken, he's your co-star in "Balls of Fury." Does he have an off switch, or is Chris Walken exactly what I think he'd be like off screen?
Fogler: He's a robot. He does have an off switch, and I've seen the off switch, and it's weird. It's right at the base of his neck. He'd be chilling, [eerily accurate Chris Walken impression] "Wow, right now," and an assistant will come by and [power him off], and he'll sit in his director's chair waiting for the next take. And someone will "click," and he's back on again, acting up a storm. [He laughs.] Does that answer your question? He's as eccentric and as wacky as you'd expect him to be, but he's also cool. He's got a certain smell, a real Walken-y kind of smell.
MTV: Can you describe the Walken smell?
Fogler: I'd say lilac and orange peels.
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