Directed by Skrovam, who co-wrote the screenplay with Stoller, it tells the real-life story of Stoller's relationship with Vinnie D'Angelo, an agoraphobic introvert suffering from depression and anxiety issues.
When D'Angelo leaves his native Philadelphia to visit Fred, a planned short-stay turns into a long-term residency akin to Bartleby the Scrivener.
"Fred & Vinnie" has the distinction of opening the 2011 Carmel Art & Film Festival. It screens at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Sunset Center auditorium.
Stoller and Skrovam talked with "The Beat" about the film and the real Vinnie D'Angelo. Below is a brief excerpt.
Q: I just finished watching the movie. It's so sweet. It never striks a false chord, and at the very end, it kind of hit me.
Fred: You're the first one who said they saw it, and actually saw the ending. No, that was a joke. I've talked to friends, and they said, "Oh, I loved it. I saw it." And then they say, "Does Vinnie play himself in it?" Steve: That's nice of you to say Marc. Thank You.
Q: Who was Vinnie D'Angelo?
F: What do you mean who was?
Q: Was he a friend of yours? I see at the very end, it says "For Vinnie D'Angelo."
F: I'm curious because a lot of people get confused. Were you confused if it was a true story?
Q: No, that was going to be one of my other questions — was this based on some of your guys experiences?
F: Yeah, a lot of people get confused.
Steve: Fred, just don't tell him what a lot of people do. Tell him what the answer is.
F: Yeah, do you get form the thing that it's based on a real friendship?
S: Alright, I'm gonna take this one. Yes, it is a true story. It's pretty much almost a documentary in its faithfulness to the actual relationship between Fred and Vinnie. And I think Fred, maybe, a lot of them are almost verbatim conversations he had and scenes he had with Vinnie. There are very few made up scenes. There are a few, obviously for comic effect and other dramatic purposes.
But yeah, Vinnie was this guy in Philadelphia that actually Fred and I both knew. Obviously, Fred knew him better than I did. But they had this phone relationship, and Vinnie got kicked out of his apartment and came to stay with Fred, only for a few days, and then go off and live with other people, with the ambition of becoming an extra. But what unfolded in the movie is kind of what really happened.
F: The reason I'm wondering if you're confused is because I 'm so close to the story. It's interesting when I hear other people interpret it, like, what they thought or anything. So, you watched it and then you got confused because you saw there was a real Vinnie D'angelo at the end?
Q: Yeah, because I think at the beginning of the movie, it says something to the effect of "Based on a true story, more or less."
Q: So I'm going into the movie like it's typical Hollywood fare. Maybe it's a story that you guys embellished for the screen?
F: I think we should re-edit and say it's based on a true story. I'm kidding. I'm so close to it, but yeah, pretty much, that's the story.
S: And that's what we wanted to kind of stick to. Fred originally was thinking of something more high concept.
F: At first I was going to tell the story, but he didn't die. And then years later, he died, and I go "Well, real life writes the arch." And the funny thing is, people go "Is this made up?" And if we were making something up, yeah, it would be more whacky. It's such a low concept. It's not like there was an ending where we have a (big) hockey match.
I'm thinking if we're going to make something up, we're going to make something up. But the hockey thing does sound good.
S: Yeah. I think that's the next one we do.
F: That's like "Little Men," where there's the big football game at the end and everyone cheers (laughs).
Q: Talk about the actor who portrays Vinnie, Angelo Tsarouchas.
F: Steve and I have answered these questions a lot, but the thing is, when he auditioned, first of all, the way his audition piece went had three pieces to it. One of them was the phone call. He's on every syllable of every thing I say. And I really felt like I was telling the story, and Vinnie was eating it up like in real life, with every baited breath, with every syllable, every detail was a gem and he was loving it and he embellished and went off the page.
And the funny thing is, another part of the audition was the thing where he goes "I'm leaving, I don't need this crap" And Angelo, in the audition, was like crying. Not like pretend, like crying. Which we didn't use in the movie.
What I'm trying to say is even though he made the quote-unquote wrong choice, it didn't matter, because he was the guy. You know what I'm saying Steve? It's a lesson for actors auditioning, even though you could say his choice was quote-unquote wrong, it didn't matter, because, yes, that's who Angelo is.
I don't mean he's an agorophobic. He's the opposite. He's traveled the world. But... People ask him "How long have you and Fred been friends?" And I tell them I met him at the audition. People immediately think we've been friends for 20 years.
S: That was the key to the auditions. We saw a lot of very good actors who did a lot of very good performances. But Angelo was the first and only person who Fred said "I could see this guy really being my friend." It was that kind of rapport. Even though Angelo was not as an experienced actor as some of the people we saw, or wasn't as famous — we saw a couple of well known people — the relationship, the rapport that they had was really what carried the day.
F: Yeah, and he had that love of life, which was the contradiction. Vinnie was an agoraphobic, but still he loved life in his own way, even though he didn't do things that people do, like go on vacations and go outside. He still had a passion which Angelo exuded.