Part of Kathy Caprino’s Forbes.com series “Creativity at Work”
For over thirty years, Siobhan Fallon Hogan has been one of the most iconic and recognizable working character actresses, appearing in blockbuster comedies (Men in Black) as frequently as independents (Dancer in the Dark, Dogville). Now, for the first time, Fallon Hogan is appearing in a lead role, starring as the tortured yet deeply relatable (and often funny) matriarch in the thriller, Rushed, which she wrote and produced. Fallon Hogan’s first role was in Golden Girls, and she has appeared in (or had featured roles in) Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld, Forrest Gump, and many more TV shows and films.
Rushed features Fallon Hogan’s friends and family in her hometown of Rumson, New Jersey—and serves as a capstone to one of the most unsung careers in Hollywood. For decades, the talents of character actresses like Fallon Hogan have gone overlooked, which is in part why she decided to write and produce this female-directed (and casted and edited) film.
It is the story of Barbara O’Brien (Fallon Hogan), an Irish Catholic mother living in upstate New York who says her rosary daily, then swears profusely as she drives her kids to school. After her life is ruined when her son Jimmy, a college freshman, is involved in a fraternity hazing incident, Barbara resorts to extreme measures. In addition to Fallon Hogan, Rushed stars Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Walk the Line), Jake Weary (Animal Kingdom, It Follows), and Peri Gilpin (Frasier). It is a powerful story about tragedy and a mother’s love, anchored by Fallon Hogan. Personally, as a mother of a grown son and daughter, I found the film riveting, relatable and deeply moving.
Film Threat from Andrew Stover shared, “Siobhan Fallon Hogan is the driving force behind Rushed, both as the lead actor and the screenwriter. She perfectly embodies the tense, grieving mother with untapped anger.”
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I caught up with Fallon Hogan this month to learn more about her new film, her inspiring career story, keys to great artistic success in the entertainment field, and advice she gives for newcomers.
Here’s what she shares:
Kathy Caprino: Siobhan, you’ve had a highly successful, 30+ year career in film and TV, which many share is not easy for women today in the entertainment field. Can you share what prompted you to become an actress and the hopes and dreams you had back then for a career in acting?
Siobhan Fallon Hogan: I grew up in a big Irish family. Storytelling and humor were our main focus. I lived in costumes and wigs. My father made me deliver Christmas presents dressed as an elf from the time I was 4 years old until I couldn’t fit in the costume any longer around 12. I love pretending I am someone else—as do insane people!
I was the class clown all my years in school and my ultimate goal was to be on Saturday Night Live (SNL). After I finished my M.F.A. at Catholic University, I went to New York City and was going nowhere fast. Trust me, I had zero skills. So, out of desperation, I wrote a one-woman show playing several characters that I would love to play if by any chance anyone would consider casting me in them. Casting directors and agents constantly told me that I would work a lot in my late 30s and 40s. They said that I would grow into myself because I had a really deep voice and a big red head. I was weird, apparently.
My parents were great and my mother always said, “They’re just jealous. Cream rises to the top!” I really believed my mother and that coupled with a trait my father coined, “unearned effervescence,” I honestly thought “Screw them. I can’t wait until my late thirties!”
So, I auditioned for an improv comedy group, Who’s On First? in New York City. Improv was all the rage there in the 80s. I got in the troupe and there were lines around the block. After a few weeks, the director suggested I write a one-woman show.
I wasn’t doing much else other than answering phones at a law firm so I wrote it and put on the show in a lobby in an Off-Broadway theater, West Side Arts, on Sunday and Monday nights. I would hand out flyers in Times Square and tell people it was a fantastic Off-Broadway show for only $9.99. People thought they were getting a bargain to an Off-Broadway show but the truth was I only could afford to perform it the lobby. I set up plastic chairs and filled the place.
A reviewer from the NY Post came and gave me a rave review so I thought I was on my way to stardom and brought the show to Los Angeles with the $5,000 I had earned as a receptionist. In LA, I was teaching English as a Second Language to Japanese students so my whole audience in the 50-seat theater I rented was Japanese. I was a really bad teacher so they didn’t understand it but they understood the physical comedy.
I got reviewers to come by pretending to be my own publicist and delivering chocolate and my flyer to them and the word got out. Pam Thomas from SNL came, Seinfeld came and get this: my good friend David Goodman—who is now the President of the Writer’s Guild of America, was a writer on The Golden Girls at the time—came and cast me as Betty White’s assistant. That was my first job on TV! I loved Betty, a true gem and class act.
Caprino: With your new movie Rushed, you wrote this film and starred in the leading role. What led you to write this, after serving as an actor for many years?
Fallon Hogan: Every time I had a lull in my career, I would write a one-woman show. I am a member of the Atlantic Theater Company in New York founded by David Mamet, William H. Macy, Neil Pepe Mary McCann and several other fabulous people. After I birthed three kids, I put my second one-woman show on there. About three years ago my youngest daughter Sinead was heading off to college and I thought, “I am sick of myself; I can’t bear to do another one woman show. I have been in so many movies maybe I can write one.” So I gave it a whirl.
I raised three children with my husband Peter. Bernadette is 26 and the New York Post‘s Albany Bureau Chief. She broke the nursing home story and is fearless. Peter is 23, and an actor and Sinead, an actress, is 20 and in college. They are fantastic in Rushed. All three of them were wild Irish Rovers and gave my husband Peter and I a run for our money and many sleepless nights.
Rushed came from laying in bed at 3 a.m. in the fetal position and imagining the worst when they were way past curfew. We all know the horror stories and my mind would go there. I imagined what I would do if anyone hurt my kids. The movie is a revenge thriller; if you see it you will know that I am definitely not right in the head or my Irish temper tends to get the best of me.
Caprino: How did Danish film director and screenwriter Lars von Trier and his company Zentropa become involved and what impact did they have?
Fallon Hogan: I have been in three Lars von Trier films over the past 23 years, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville and The House That Jack Built. I love Lars and I am a Danophile as I have spent so much time there and they are the best. After I wrote the script, I sent it to my good friend Robert Patrick who I have worked with many times over the years and offered him the role of my husband. He loved it and said, “Do you have any money?” I said, “Oh no, but I will raise it!” I then sent it to Lars and his producers at Zentropa. I had just gone to Cannes with Lars, Matt Dillon and the Zentropa team for the House That Jack Built. Lars’ producers made the mistake of saying to me, “If you ever write anything, let us know.”
I sent the script over to them and they got back to me and said they would like to co-produce the film with me and my husband. I was out of my mind as my dream was becoming a reality. Lars’ producer, Vibeke Windelov then recommended my fabulous Danish director, Vibeke Muasya, and the rest is history.
Caprino: You have had a powerful and acclaimed career with great roles that are both comedic and dramatic. How did your dramatic acting emerge after your time on Saturday Night Live, as it seemed you were doing mainly comedy?
Fallon Hogan: After SNL, I was playing Phoebe in New York Shakespeare Festival’s As You Like It in Central Park. The fabulous casting director, Avy Kaufman, saw it and called me in to play a serious role in Lars’ Dancer In The Dark. She did not know I was pegged as a comedienne in the US and cast me in a very serious role as Bjork’s death row prison guard. I was so exhausted from my daughter being up with an ear infection that I was able to cry on command. They thought I was genius. I was really just shot! Avy Kaufman single-handedly helped me break out of the comedy mold and 23 years later she cast Rushed.
Caprino: Would you write and produce again?
Fallon Hogan: I have and I did. I wrote another film last year, Shelter In Solitude starring Robert Patrick, Peter Macon, Dan Castellanetta and me. My brilliant team is back. Vibeke Muasya directed, Sabine Emiliani is editing again and Matthias Schubert is our cinematographer. We have a great team—three strong women plus Matthias. Avy and Leeba cast the film again and this time we shot in my hometown, Cazenovia in upstate, and cast and crew lived with friends there. I am joining Sabine in Paris for the edit after I complete a role in Eileen directed by William Oldroyd and starring Anne Hathaway and Thomasin McKenzie.
Caprino: Any last words of advice for women who wish to build acclaimed and rewarding careers in entertainment, and do it on their own terms?
Fallon Hogan: Have faith in your dreams when no one else does. Pray, hope and don’t worry. What goes around comes around and there is no room for jealousy. Live everyday like it’s your last and I hope you meet fabulous women like I have to help you accomplish your dream—and great men too. There is room for all of us.
For more information, visit Rushed, which had a limited engagement in theaters and is available currently via streaming/VOD.