The Movie That Ruined Patton Oswalt's Theater Obsession

For years, Patton Oswalt struggled with an addiction to seeing movies. His world would revolve around his obsession with seeing movies in the theater--that is, until he saw Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Say what you will about Phantom Menace, but it was Oswalt’s viewing of that film proved to be the catalyst to Oswalt overcoming his movie addiction.

A movie addiction may sound strange, or even a bit of a flippant use of the word "addiction". However, in an interview with NPR recently, Oswalt explained that his struggle with movies was very real.

If you're looking at the definition of addiction, it controls your schedule, it controls your life, it affects your relationships, it affects your job, it affects your career. My compulsion to go see every single movie that I possibly could operated exactly the way that an addiction does.

He goes on to explain that he saw over 250 movies in theaters, and that doesn’t include movies he watched on television. However, after he saw--and utterly hated--The Phantom Menace, everything started to change for Oswalt.

Sure, The Phantom Menace-- and, arguably, the entire prequel trilogy--were all pretty awful films. However, Oswalt took a hard look at his life when he realized he was spending his life, sitting in movie theaters, critiquing them and essentially being a back seat driver to those filmmakers. Meanwhile, people like George Lucas were actually out creating and making movies. Maybe those movies weren’t great, but at least Lucas was creating something.

Yes, I thought [Phantom Menace]was a failure, but the dude took a shot at it. It hit me that I was spending days and days and nights and nights with my friends, arguing back and forth about this film but this guy made a movie. Good or bad, he made a movie. He's on a different realm than you.

Oswalt’s goal was to someday start creating himself, and not just to be the Monday Morning Quarterback to other filmmakers. He finally kicked his movie addiction when the founder of the New Beverly Cinema theater remarked, after Oswalt purchased yet another movie ticket, "I thought you’d be handing me a screenplay by now." That moment made Oswalt realize that he was going about his career in film all wrong, and the he needed to start actually creating, not just consuming.

While Oswalt still does love movies, he has certainly moved into that "different realm" he placed other filmmakers like George Lucas into. These days, Oswalt is a seasoned stand up comic, actor, and writer, and he hopes to one day to add "director" to his impressive resume. Of course, getting up the courage and support to actually direct a feature film will be a bit more of an obstacle, but he’s beginning the journey to the director’s chair.

All of this and more can be found in Oswalt’s upcoming memoir, Silver Screen Fiend, where he chronicles his journey from movie junkie to successful writer and actor. You can pre-order the book now, or you can stop by your local bookstore tomorrow when the book officially releases to pick up a copy.