David Dastmalchian Talks about his New Thriller, ‘Teacher’

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Cinedigm has announced it will release the psychological thriller Teacher on digital, DVD, and VOD on August 13, 2019, following a limited theatrical engagement.

Written and directed by Adam Dick, the film stars David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man, upcoming Dune and The Suicide Squad) and Kevin Pollak (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” The Usual Suspects) and was produced by Matthew Helderman (Buffalo 8 and BondIt Media Capital) and Zachary Kamen. Teacher opens August 2 in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Glendale, with an additional one-night-only screening in Chicago at the Logan Theater on August 3 (Q&A with director and cast to follow).

Adam Dick’s narrative debut as a director, Teacher is an unflinching portrayal of trauma as a contagion passed between people and generations, all set within the prism of modern suburbia. The film follows the downward spiral of a high school English teacher (Dastmalchian) as he goes to disturbing lengths to protect his favorite students from bullies and challenge the power of a wealthy patron (Pollak) within the community.

We spoke with David Dastmalchian about his character in the film and here is what he had to say:

FanboyNation (FBN): You’ve been in The Dark Knight and Ant-Man. Dune‘s coming up, Suicide Squad‘s coming up, but right now we’re talking about Teacher with you and Kevin Pollak. It’s going to hit the Laemmle in Glendale on August 2, and then on demand August 13. You’re a character actor and you’re actually quite funny. Pollak is a comedian we’ve known him mostly for for his work in comedy to be doing a thriller with two very funny and intelligent people?

David Dastmalchian (DD): You know, Kevin (Pollak) has been an acting hero of mine for a very long time, throughout the span of his work, so when we got on set together I was so excited and nervous. Our scenes together are incredibly tense, the animosity between us grows throughout the film until it finally boils over and explodes. What was really kind of wonderful was being on set with someone as talented as Kevin, so when we were doing the scene it was really intense, really scare, really feared and then in between takes and set ups, I would be rolling on the floor laughing because he has one of the best sense of humor in Hollywood.

FanboyNation (FBN): And his Alan Arkin imitation is so spot on that it’s hard to pass up.

David Dastmalchian (DD): Yeah, he does so many, he was he was throwing a little Colombo around while hanging out but does them all. He does Falk all the way his famous Walken, then his Arkin and I don’t know maybe he’s got a David Dastmalchian impression we’ll have to find out some day.

(FBN): That would be that would be crazy to hear. The movie’s going to open up in Glendale and your last name indicates that you have an Armenian background which there’s a large Armenian population in Glendale. What is that like opening up for a crowd that’s primarily of the same ethnic background?

(DD): I’m actually not Armenian, I’m Persian. It’s Iranian. It’s funny, people immediately assume that because of the I-A-N, and I would say 90% of the time that I dropped my credit card in-and-around the Glendale area, people started talking to me in Armenian, and I have to politely explain that I’m not.

(FBN): Well, luckily have of Glendale speaks Farsi, so you’re okay.

(DD): (chuckles) I didn’t know that. There’s a really big Persian presence in Westwood for sure, and I don’t speak Farsi, but I do love Persian food, and so when we go out for Persian, we absolutely head over to Westwood. There’s a whole world of restaurants that are just, ah that good.

(FBN): Nice, I’m an ethnic Assyrian but my dad was born in Iran, so everyone thinks our last name is Greek even though it’s Middle Eastern.

(DD): It’s funny, too. I think there’s something about the way my name is spelled, although I haven’t figured it out, a lot of people think I’m German. When I’m in LA, people think that I’m Armenian, and when I elsewhere for a film, people say that it’s a German last name. And when I say it’s Farsi, I’ve actually had people disagree with me, I’m like, no, it’s actually the word that in Farsi I, I believe, and don’t quote me on this but means, ‘a seller of handkerchiefs.’ I think that my like, ancestors were like, craftsmen and sellers of linens and fabrics. There is such a great tradition of the arts in Persian culture.

(FBN): I wanted to touch upon with Teacher, you and Kevin obviously get along, you’re making each other laugh, you’re having a great time on set, how do you switch between that intensity of your two characters being the absolute antithesis of each other, in hating each other with that passion to instantly just cracking jokes? How do you turn it on and off so quickly?

(DD): Sometimes, I think, to be honest, I feel it’s like, tire pressure, and it’s built up, it’s built up and sometimes a really positive or, you know, if there’s some humor in between scenes can help and maintain for 12-hour shooting a day. You kind of find a balance and preserve your energy in a way. For me that works. Now, of course, you could be doing a scene with someone who has no interest in cracking jokes or finding lightness in between scenes. And then I would of course, respect that as well. The way I like to work is as a director call to action, I like to be able to turn it on and then when he or she yells cut, keep a really calm, light presence. I really like working with Adam (Dick), our director. He has a really sweet, gentle, personality.

(FBN): Now Adam also wrote the movie. So they see somebody that can go that dark and twisted with the writing and still be jovial on set. That could also be scary in its own right.

(DD): I think Adam has a young man had some cruelty he had to deal with and confront, I really admire the fact that was so brave and willing to put that all into the page. I think, you know, now he’s a grown adult who has come to understand who he is. I think bullying is in our culture. I mean, our quote-end quote, ‘Leader of the Free World’ is the biggest bully in our country and it’s a scary time in our culture. I think Adam is willing to go there and it says a lot about who Adam is, a guy with a big, warm, generous heart and he’s willing to tell this dark, personal story.

(FBN): With this film as heavy as it is, is it easier to work with a director who is also the writer because he or she has a single vision in mind because they’re a straight line from the page to the camera to work on a film like this? Or is it a little more difficult?

(DD): You know, it’s different. Every process has been different for me. So I can’t say yet that I, I could formulate a cogent opinion on that question, but I will say that this particular journey, one of the benefits with having affected with Adam as the writer directly and the theme was that type of a wonderful resource having in there because like it did so many of these emotional twists. Obviously, the plot is the complete organization, but emotional, serious, especially about the character Preston and what goes on. And not speaking for Adam, but in general, after somebody that had been bullied to this extent, as some of the students in the film, or just in general, do you think that at the end of the day, if they’ve come out on the survived on the other end date, those people tend to be nicer because they know what it’s like to have been on the receiving end?

(FBN): David, thank you so much for your time, Teacher comes out on August 2 at the Laemmle in Glendale and on VOD on the 13th. It was a great pleasure chatting with you.

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