An actor has revealed how his father once made a Facebook profile posing as a pretty girl to catfish him — and now he’s turned the unsettling experience into an award-winning film.
James Morosini, 31, was going through a particularly rough patch with his father, Claudio Lichtenthal, about a decade ago when he decided to cut him out of his life.
But Lichtenthal wasn’t willing to accept no contact with his son, and created a fake Facebook account to connect with him — using photos of a pretty girl to get his attention.
As Morosini grew romantically interested in the girl, he discovered that his father was really behind the account, leaving him feeling ‘complete rage and embarrassment.’
Amazingly, the pair have managed to patch up their relationship in the years since, and now Morosini — who has previously had roles in roles in American Horror Story: Roanoke and HBO Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls — has debuted a film based on the experience, I Love My Dad, at SXSW Film Festival.
James Morosini, 31, has revealed how his father once made a Facebook profile posing as a pretty girl to catfish him – and now he’s made a film about it
He was going through a particularly rough patch with his father, Claudio Lichtenthal, about a decade ago when he decided to cut him out of his life
In real life, Morosini was 20 and struggling with depression when his strained relationship with his dad hit a breaking point. After one bad argument, Morosini decided to cut him out completely.
‘My dad and I got into a big fight and I decided to just cut him off of social media and everything else,’ he told Deadline.
In addition to blocking him on social media, he changed the contact details for his number to ‘Do Not Answer.’
But his father, in a concerned but misguided attempt to check on his son, came up with a way around Morosini’s boundaries.
‘I got home one day. And this really pretty girl had sent me a friend request on Facebook. And she seemed awesome. She had all the same interests as me and liked all the same stuff,’ Morosini told Screen Anarchy.
He and ‘Becca’ started talking, and he grew more interested and excited about her — until he noticed that her email address was the same as his dad’s.
‘He had basically created this whole profile as a way of making sure that I was okay,’ Morosini said.
Morosini was angry and embarrassed. By then, he and his dad had also begun talking again in real life, and were working on their relationship in family therapy — which is where Morosini confronted him, taking out a printout of ‘Becca’s’ Facebook profile during a session.
He has dramatized it in the film ‘I Love My Dad,’ in which he plays the son and Patton Oswalt plays the father
I Love My Dad, which also stars Rachel Dratch and Claudia Sulewski, won the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature at SXSW
As upset as he was, Morosini admitted that even at the time, he knew the experience was an interesting story.
‘When I first discovered that it was my dad, it was like a pretty crazy emotion,’ he said.
‘Because it was complete rage and embarrassment, but I’ve always been into comedy and I’ve always had a pretty keen sense of irony, so there was this really small part of me, when I discovered it, I was secretly like, “Cool, this is so good. There is something here. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t believe that he would do this.”‘
‘I think it’s a crazy f***ing story,’ he added to the Daily Beast.
‘One of the main reasons I wrote it is because I was able to recognize that this is weird. It’s this cool blend of something really weird, but also beautiful in a bizarre way.’
But, he admitted, ‘This was the most uncomfortable thing I could write about.’
The film is based on his actual experience, though he says that he only used a ‘kernel’ of the true story and applied his imagination.
‘We explored the idea of how far that could have gone,’ he said.
In the movie, Morosini’s character, Franklin, is finishing rehab for depression when he cuts off communication by his father, Chuck, played by Patton Oswalt.
He had stopped talking to his father (pictured), who posed as a pretty girl named ‘Becca’ and friended him on Facebook. Eventually, Morosini realized the truth
The film explores ‘how far that could have gone,’ with the son character sexting with the catfish profile before realizing it is his father
Chuck, wanting to repair their relationship, gets the catfishing idea from a friend, who did it to rekindle a romance with an ex.
After meeting a waitress at a diner named Becca, played by Claudia Sulewski, he tracks her down on Facebook and uses her photos to make another account before friend requesting his son.
The movie relationship gets intense, escalating from nice conversation to sexting and full-on cyber sex before Franklin discovers the truth.
Though Morosini said he and his father now have a good relationship — and he wanted to make sure the father character was sympathetic in the film — he makes it clear in the film that what his dad did was bad.
But, he said, it’s what ultimately helped the to repair their relationship.
‘It was us hitting that rock bottom in our relationship, but it forced us to confront some of the foundational problems of our relationship and actually caused things between him and I to get a lot better over time, because we had to talk about it,’ he said.
‘It’s funny that this moment in my life with him was maybe the saving grace of our relationship, in that it caused things to really break apart.
‘There was no more pretending. We were both able to agree, like, this is very f***ed up. And now we have to talk about it. We can’t pretend things are fine between us,’ he said.
I Love My Dad, which also stars Rachel Dratch, won the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature at SXSW.