Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Back in 2013, there was a raw psychological thriller titled SNAP at Austin’s beloved South by Southwest Film Festival. The film took festivalgoers on a dark and terrifyingly disturbing journey into the depths of a mind as it threatens to explode.
Now, the film has a new title, ENTER THE DANGEROUS MIND, and is finally hitting theaters and various on-demand platforms. But not to worry, it’s still just as wildly haunting and authentic.
Jake Hoffman, son of Dustin Hoffman, plays a socially awkward music savant whose inner demons surface when he develops an obsession with a young clinical social worker named Wendy (an excellent Nikki Reed). The two try to unravel the secrets of Jim’s inner torment before it spirals out of control.
Fresh Fiction had the opportunity to speak with Hoffman about entering Jim’s mind, his perception of mental illness, and doing the film’s painful scenes and putting himself in harm’s way. You may also check out our 2013 SXSW interview below with Nikki Reed, Thomas Dekker, and directors Victor Teran and Youssef Delara.
Jake Hoffman: “Hey, Preston. How’s it going, man?”
Pretty good. How are you doing?
Hoffman: “Not bad. Not bad. I got a little sinus infection. So forgive me if I sound nasally or whatever. But this is me.”
I just got over mine not too long ago.
Hoffman: “Yeah, everyone’s got it, huh?”
Yeah, it sucks. But anyways, I saw your film at South by Southwest back in 2013.
Hoffman: “That’s cool. You were at SX then?”
Yeah, man. I actually got to speak with your co-stars and directors. It was a fun time.
Hoffman: “Thanks, man. Thanks a lot. I wish I was there, but I’m glad I’m talking to you about it now.”
Me too. Your performance and portrayal of mental illness is pretty spot on.
Hoffman: “Thanks, man. So nice of you to say.”
I imagine your mind had to go to some very dark places when playing Jim. Did it not?
Hoffman: “Yeah, it was hard. It was more challenging than other roles I had done for that very reason. You know, I think there is a way to look at that as fun, because it’s fun to challenge yourself. When you’re working on something you sometimes get that high when you’re working on something that challenges you, especially when you’re working alongside actors that are as great as [Nikki] Reed and [Thomas] Dekker and them. But on the other hand, you’re like, ‘man, I got to do a romantic comedy next’ or something like that, because you do have to go to some heavy places.”
I bet. Must have been hard to shake it off.
Hoffman: “It was hard to shake it off when we we’re filming it. During my off-time it was hard to shake it off. When we finished, I was ready to shake it off. But I haven’t been trapped in Jim since then or anything like that [Laughs].”
[Laughs] So how was doing that scene where Jim gives in to the voice in his head and stabs his ear? That scene was pretty intense.
Hoffman: “Thanks, man. Yeah, I did some research on schizophrenia. Unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon for people to try and get the voice out by harming themselves, maybe not a screwdriver. When we shot it, the fake screwdriver gag was only half-working, so I wound up sticking the thing more in my ear than I wanted to. It actually kind of hurt bad. But at least you enjoyed it and felt the effect that we were going for. It wasn’t all for nothing.”
[Laughs] Damn, that’s crazy. I was going to ask how do you check the authenticity of portraying mental illness, but I guess you said you did some research. Did you meet with any psychologists, or did you leave it all in the hands of directors?
Hoffman: “Both. Both. I didn’t want to go in blind, so I did some research. We actually got to meet with some people who were in real programs to talk about their schizophrenia; I guess they were under control enough for it to be appropriate for me to be there. It was really educational. It’s definitely a mental illness that has a stigma to it. All the people I talked to— they were sweet kids and it’s not their fault. I think everyone hears voices or has an inner voice. It’s just about differentiating what’s in your mind and what’s really in front of you.”
That’s really cool. I would say all that research paid off. As a viewer, I really feel like you’re entering a dangerous mind. Is that part of the reason why the directors or whoever decided to re-title the film? It was called SNAP when I first covered it.
Hoffman: “I don’t know. I don’t know why they changed it. You would have to ask them about why they did that.”
So you pretty much just got an email one day saying it was being changed?
Hoffman: “[Laughs] Pretty much.”
I think they’re both fitting titles. Although, I think SNAP only captures a small fraction of the film, and you probably know what I am talking about.
Hoffman: “Right on. I am glad you feel that way.”
You touched on this briefly, but did being a part of this film change your perception of mental illness? I feel as though for so long we’ve swept the problems of mental illness under the rug and just hoped it would go away. It really takes something drastic, which I hate to say, for something to actually be done. I feel like most people are just are too quick with their reaction to something horrible being done by someone with a mental illness, which is instant hatred. But I feel like this movie, especially near the end, even though horrible things are happening, Jim can’t help it.
Hoffman: “Yeah, we sort of live in a world with a hyperbolic view of who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. One of the things that made me attracted to this project was that the monster, so to speak, was also the victim. Real life is like that too— monsters are generally born. I’m not saying evil doesn’t exist. When babies are born, they’re cute. You know what I mean? There are a lot of elements that go into it. I don’t want people to take away that schizophrenia is synonymous with violence. It’s quite rare.”
Absolutely. It’s one of those movies that honestly got me thinking a lot. I had a few movies last year do this for me, but it’s one of those movies where you walk in with certain ideas about life and this subject and you walk out feeling completely different. Have you ever had a movie experience like that before?
Hoffman: “Man, the movie that changed how I saw the world? That’s a good question. I’m going to have to think about that for a sec. Did you ever see ESPN’s 30 FOR 30 documentary on Allen Iverson?”
No, I sure haven’t.
Hoffman: “That’s really good. It makes you think. I don’t know if it changed my perception of him, because I was a fan of him to begin with and I was never really thinking bad things about him. But I didn’t necessarily understand the complexities of his situation and where he came from. It’s a good movie.”
Very cool. I will have to check that out. Before I get to my last question, do your friends ever call you “Steve” like Leonardo DiCaprio does in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET?
Hoffman: “[Laughs] Only once in a while.”
I was curious because every time my wife and I go to the mall and pass by a Steve Madden store, we have to say it that way.
Hoffman: “That’s funny. That’s really funny.”
And lastly, if you could teach a college course of your creation, what do you think you would teach? I asked this same question to your co-stars and directors. I think Thomas said he would do a film theory class. Victor and Youseff said they would focus on independent cinema. And Nikki felt that she wasn’t qualified to teach anything, which I didn’t agree with.
Hoffman: “[Laughs] Nikki would teach a class on modesty evidently because she’s great. What would my class be on?”
Yeah, what would you teach?
Hoffman: “That’s a great question. Do you ask that to everybody?”
Yeah. That’s my closing question. I used to write for my university, and I just haven’t retired the question yet.
Hoffman: “That’s your signature question. I don’t think you should get rid of it. What university did you go to?”
The University of North Texas.
Hoffman: “Right on. I’ve never been to Texas before.”
You should come sometime. It’s pretty nice.
Hoffman: “Yeah, I will have to do that. What class would I teach? Ah, man. That’s such a good question. I will have to think of something next time we talk. I got nothing at the moment.”
[Laughs] All right, man. Sounds good. Well, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, and good luck with the film, man.
Hoffman: “Thank you, man. Take care.”
ENTER THE DANGEROUS MIND is playing in select theaters and is also available on Video-On-Demand and iTunes.
2013 SXSW video interview with Nikki Reed, Thomas Dekker and directors Youssef Delara and Victor Teran.