At the end of October I spoke with Patrick Fabian to discuss the end of of season four of Better Call Saul and his upcoming film DriverX, an independent film, that sees Fabian deliver a richly deep performance of a man trying to start life over in his 50’s. When the times have seemingly passed him by. With no job and money quickly depleting Patrick’s character, Leonard, signs up to drive for a program called DriverX. Something that is very much like Lyft or Uber. What follows is a story about a man who tries to rediscover himself while picking up the pieces of a past that’s gone.
DriverX is a film filled with the ups and downs of life. An accurate depection of the toll losing your dream job will do to a person’s marriage, emotions, and existence. Patrick Fabian presents Leonard, and all his flaws, in a raw performance that is sympathetic, enfurating, and emotional.
In part two of our discussion Patrick Fabian discusses his thoughts on Leonard, music, and marriage.
Kevin Carey: DriverX, like I told you I saw the movie over the weekend and really, really enjoyed it. I know they’re two completely different movies but I got kind of a No Country For Old Men type vibe from it in the sense that this is life and life moves and continues. Granted, there are no terrible haircuts and nobody is getting killed but it seemed to me like a story about the revolving nature of life and this is what life has given you and this is how you deal with it. Is that kind of the vibe you had gotten?
Patrick Fabian: Oh yeah, absolutely! Henry Barrial, the writer and director, him and I have been friends for years. We’re all on the wrong side of fifty so there’s a certain value, humor, and certain situations that you want to point out. There is that sense of, “look you can bitch, moan, and try and turn back the clock and say it shouldn’t be like this” but in the end, they’re going to be playing “Slippery When Wet” in the milk section of the supermarket and it’s not 1983 anymore. The Starbucks barista is calling you “sir” and you think maybe you can date, but you can’t because you’re a much older man.
What do you do when life doesn’t work out? Then it gets difficult. Now you’ve got to work. What, I got to make my mortgage? Oh my god… it’s hard. It weighs on you. The movie addresses a lot of that stagnation and this sense that, and as you said, no matter what the bills are coming. No matter what it’s going to keep rolling. No matter what I’ve got to hold and got to make this work.
KC: Yeah, I completely got that vibe. I’m watching it and I think the most interesting moment for me was he picks up that one guy who recognizes him from the record store. This guy starts talking about Leonard as the type of guy who would give out records based on people’s personalities. It seems that within the confines of the store he was a genuine people person. When you transition him to the cab he’s not. He’s kind of shut down and maybe partially defeated. Is it defeat or is it this new aspect of life that he doesn’t know how to conduct?
PF: I think it’s exactly that. When we meet him at the beginning of the movie he has no idea where he’s going. That’s a favorite scene of mine as well because it’s two guys not bathing in nostalgia but both of them recognizing that the record store… that’s gone. Only a certain generation will know what that feels like. The fact that he even touches on it is great then I end that scene talking about all my wishes and dreams to past that down are dead because it’s all on a disc. It’s all on a file. You can’t touch or feel that.
Then consequently, by the end of the movie, there’s this sense of “this may not be forever but this is what I’m doing now.” Now I can keep living in the past but I’m not going to be frozen in fear about the future. Right now I’m being the best DriverX I can be. And you know Tom, my favorite client, even says as much. You’re the best driver there ever was, and it’s kind of a silly moment but profound. Leonard takes a point of pride in it. It certainly is the first time you see him do so. It’s a small sign of you don’t know what lies ahead but it’s going to be okay. Whatever that okay looks like. It may not be cash and prizes, you know what I mean?
KC: Absolutely! It was interesting, now, I don’t want to spoil the ending of the movie but there was definitely a shift in personality from the Leonard we saw at the beginning of the film to the end. It was subtle though.
His relationship with his wife throughout the whole film was very rocky. He has that moment where he’s reading the girls the story and the two share a moment together. Coming off the E binge, is that him kind of coming to terms with marriages are supposed to be rocky but he genuinely wants to be married to this woman?
PF: I think so. Now, this is debatable, and I’m curious to see how it’s viewed, in my mind he doesn’t cross a line. He doesn’t kiss anybody. He doesn’t have sex with anybody. Now, should he have taken drugs and danced with pretty girls in a rock band? Probably not but is that sort of his outlet? Is that sense of exploration? Yeah probably, but did it involve going to Vegas and a whorehouse? No. Or something going on in the back of his car? No. Consequently when the band goes off and he gets those text messages from his wife who is concerned and worried. She’s like “where are you, I haven’t seen you”, and there is a bit of reckoning like “what am I doing”. My kids are important. My wife is important.
It’s very interesting, when we screened this with audiences the people who have been married, around five or ten years, they all go like “yeah, I get that”. The younger couples are aghast that we would yell at one another like that, you know what I mean? I forget what scene but we laughter from both ends, and the fifty-something crowd and the twenty-something crowd, but they were laughing for completely different reasons!
It’s funny, the women in the audience that we’ve talked to, over thirty-five/forty and who are married, they’re the ones who got it. They were like, yeah, none of that behavior surprises us. It was an accurate portrayal of marriage which doesn’t make people happy all of the time when they see that type of thing. It’s not roses, it’s tough. It’s work. I don’t want to not have a job. Who wants to have that conversation when you’re out of money. Out of money?! Doesn’t that happen to other people? No, actually it’s happening to us. We’re the other people.
KC: I found the Members Only jacket to be interesting. It seems when he’s putting it on it’s almost like he’s putting on a different persona? It seemed like more than just a work uniform.
PF: Yeah, he’s kind of restless and can’t sleep and he finds it in the closet. It’s been dry cleaned and it’s been sitting in the closet for a long time. Anyone who has ever had a Members Only jacket knows that that’s good 80’s gear.
KC: I had one when I was in like seventh grade when I was going through weird clothing choices. My dad picked it out for me. It did not work at the time.
PF: I don’t know if it worked at the time when they first came out but we all wore them so it didn’t matter. It is emblematic though to a time where maybe he was in control, (sighs) when he was in neutral. A time where he knew what was on the radio. A time where he knew how to drive. There’s a little bit of that. It does become sort of like his armor that he gets to wear.
KC: For a man who is built his whole life around music, when he drives, not once does he have music playing unless it’s given to him. Is that his choice or was that a director’s choice?
PF: You know, this is the first time I had that question asked, I think… my own thought is, once you start getting mired in the music it becomes a much larger component to a film like this. On a more practical level, you can’t even touch any of the songs you want to touch. They’re just so incredibly expensive. A decision is made to instead decide to really get into his headspace. By not playing songs that we know will take people back when hearing it, we allow ourselves to be in the zone.
The question becomes, are we making a music video? No. I think we want the scenes to hang there. Music takes us to places but we want to stay in the car with Leonard.
KC: I also think it works because he has such a clear phobia of technology. Putting those records on digital bothers him. I can relate to that because there is nothing physical about digital music. There are no liner notes. There’s nothing you can touch, and part of the sense I got was he has his music on a digital library but transferring it there kind of took it away from him.
PF: Absolutely, one of my favorite scenes in Almost Famous is he discovers his sister’s albums under her bed. It’s The Who. And it’s Yes. And I was like oooooooh this is powerful. My kids don’t know that though. They know Spotify. I think music will win out in the end but they don’t know that sweet spot in holding that record.
KC: Do you remember what your first record was?
PF: I got The Beatles second album because my aunts, my aunts god bless ‘em, they were like ten in 1964. They bought every Beatle album. They had the DJay single of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and all of them were in pristine condition except they would circle the Beatle they loved the best or songs they loved the best. Which is really sweet.
About in 1970, they discovered Bog Seger and The Beatles were no longer cool and they gave me their records. So that was the first bunch that I got, but they didn’t have The Beatles second album so the first one I bought was The Beatles second record. I read all the liner notes. And I listened to it, I listened to it, I listened to it, just so amazed. I just spun all those records and that was a journey. I was like what is this sound? What is this energy? What is this stuff?!
But the first single I ever bought was Carl Douglas’s “Kung Fu Fighting”.
KC: (laughing) I love the dynamic between the two.
PF: I’m getting into side two of Abbey Road buuuut let’s do a little “Kung Fu Fighting”.
KC: How much say did you have into Leonard’s wardrobe? His rock t-shirts were pretty fantastic.
PF: They were all mine.
KC: All yours?!
KC: Awesome! It’s funny, as I was watching there’s a small montage where Leonard goes through like five different clients and it kind of gave me that Taxi Cab Confession type vibe. That old HBO show. Did you do any driving to practice for this?
PF: No, no, the whole point is that he gave me a gift, I never drove before. There was no point in me going to talk to people because I was going to learn. I was going to learn on the job. So that’s what I did. I did all the driving. It is me driving the entire time. We had rigs on the side of the car. We had China balls on top of the car. We had a permit to do bridge shooting but for the other, no. But no one stopped us. Not once. We’re driving down with these rigs hanging out the car, cameras, and the cops just looking at you. No problems.
As for the montage, we wanted to try and avoid doing Taxi Cab Confessions. We wanted to focus on the other storylines that were going on. At one point we had shot, we had shot heavy, we weren’t sure how the scenes were going to come out. Some of the scenes are absolute gangbusters while others didn’t translate as well. Then there were others that were ugh, kind of a waste. Then all of a sudden you’ve got something going on and that’s why you shoot everything and you can use anything in your decisions.
KC: Did you guys improvise a lot of those scenes?
PF: Yeah, Henry was very generous in allowing me to incorporate the stuff I wanted to. I’m in every scene so it’s a lot on me. If you don’t like a little bit of Patrick Fabian then you’re going to love this. We would rap these scenes to hammer out the dialogue, and get in the car and start doing more and then do it again. Henry would be listening, he’d be looking at a monitor so it would be impossible to tell, but he would be listening. There were certain lines in the scene he absolutely wanted to be said, and if you think as a writer I totally get that, other than that he was generous with the slip and slide stuff. Especially when it came to adding or subtracting stuff. Sometimes it’s four in the morning and you think you know the words but then you catch a good energy and some magic.
KC: I really enjoy it because as the movie goes on, I don’t want to say he gets better with the banter, but he’s more accepting of it in a way. He understands that people are going to talk in the back seat.
I’ve got one more for you before I let you go. I’ve seen a bunch of your stuff. I’ve seen Better Call Saul. I saw you in The Last Exorcist and now DriverX. It always seems like you play a character that kind of that presents themselves in a certain way but also has something going on behind the curtain. Is there something that draws you to characters like that? Or do they happen to find you?
PF: I’m not a character guy, right? Let’s face that. I play the bully, I play the jerk, I play the teacher. So consequently there are a lot of roles that are two-faced. In Act One we can’t believe someone was murdered in this building and you find out later I was selling their children for drugs. My mother, my mother, has been so trained in the twenty-five plus years acting where she’s like “are you the killer again?”
Someone wrote a review on me once that said “oh, there’s Patrick Fabian in act one. You know he did something wrong.” Someone called me James. Spader. Like. And I took that as the highest compliment I’d ever gotten.
KC: (laughs) It’s not a bad one.
PF: It’s not a bad one at all.
With all three of those roles, you talked about, yeah, sense of someone who has it together. Marcus has it together, he’s doing fine. Howard Hamlin is doing fine. Leonard is doing fine… until they’re not. It’s all very interesting in how they deal with adversity, and what are they going to do when they’re affected like most people are affected by the world. And that’s fun to play. It’s fun to play somebody who thinks they still have their shit together as it comes unraveling around them. I think that’s always interesting to watch.
KC: I appreciate you taking the time tonight to chat. I’m really excited for DriverX, November 30th, I think it’s going to get really good reviews.
PF: I hope so. It’s a low budget labor of love. I’m thrilled to see what happens as well.
We at Fan Fest News would like to thank Patrick Fabian again for taking the time to discuss DriverX with us. Be sure to check out the film in theaters or on demand services.