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INT: Eli Roth

03.01.2007by: Jenny Karakaya
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There is no doubt that writer-director Eli Roth is on fire! He is extremely entertaining, animated, passionate, driven and handsome to boot. Chasing his childhood dreams all the way to Hollywood via NYU film school, Roth’s impressive perseverance paid off when his first low-budget horror flick CABIN FEVER, got picked up by Lionsgate and hit the big screen in 2003. Newfound success and great acclaim led the way to the powerful and influential Tarantino who went on to executive produce Roth’s 2005-twisted thriller, HOSTEL.

It would be easy to dismiss or overlook Roth’s contagious enthusiasm for horror as pure consumption with unfathomable perversion. However, in his elaboration on making the sequel HOSTEL: PART II, he justified his spine-chilling thought process while presenting a good argument for all the delirium culminating in a desirable, dreadful, outrageous, entertaining horror movie in an attempt to outshine, if not do justice to part I. Going a mile a minute, Roth was an adrenaline boost as he sat with us last week at the NY Comic Con, to divulge some horrifying tidbits about the upcoming sequel HOSTEL: PART II, working with Tarantino, what makes him tick (or rather give him a boner) and much more. Check out what Roth had to say.

Eli Roth

Does Hostel: Part II pick up from where the last one left off?

Yes, Hostel: Part II picks up literally the next cut, where the first one left off. I think Friday the 13th part 2 did that, I believe Porky’s 2: The Next Day may have done something similar although Porky’s 2 is a bit of a comeback. Porky’s Forever is a film I’d love to one-day tackle but I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Yeah, I love movies to pick up literally the next cut that you could actually chop out the credits from Hostel 1 and watch 1 and 2 back to back.

How different is the structure of Hostel: Part II?

There won’t be as much slosh buckling as there was [in part 1]. There’s some gallivanting. Structurally in the first movie, the fun of it was using the structure as almost a sex comedy; taking the first half of the movie and then just completely pulling the rug out from under everyone. It starts off safe and colorful and then once Josh gets killed, suddenly your main character is gone, the color is drained away, the lenses get tighter, more handheld.

Then you actually see later that it’s more parallel; kind of mirror image of each other. The guy’s making fun of the hookers and they become the hookers. So the fun of Hostel 1 was taking people on that ride and doing the tonal switch but you can’t do that again. You can’t sort of reset and then have Hostel: Part II start off like a fun, safe comedy and then switch. So what I decided was that tonally I wanted the movie to pick up exactly where the last one left off.

I watched the movie with audiences around the world and I tried to watch what stuff I thought worked and what didn’t work and what I could’ve done better and there’s a lot of stuff. There were certain things like the kids I thought were great but generally my favorite section of the movie was when he was in the pub with the girls and the girls were all f**ked up and then all sort of leading up into the factory into the scene with the American business man where he’s in the locker room with Rick Hoffman.

More often than any other scene, audiences around the world tell me that that was the scene that disturbed them the most. I realize that you can have the gore and the eyes getting cut out but this dialogue scene with these two people in the locker room, with just the look on his face talking about killing; that was the tone that I wanted. So I really tried to make a movie that was much more…even Cabin Fever and Hostel are inconsistent in a weird way which I liked but Hostel: Part II, I really tried to make it starting off in that creepy place and staying there.

In the first one we’re really with the characters having fun; we’re kind of with them in Amsterdam and with them in the Brothel. But in this one, when you see the girls that are studying in Italy and you’re seeing these guys in America that are paid to kill them, everyone who’s heading towards this thing; you just feel horrible. I just wanted this sense of dread throughout this whole thing.

Are you interested at all in partaking in the remake of Wes Craven’s Shocker?

He should remake Shocker because it deserves it. But I remember Shocker was the movie that Wes Craven said the ratings killed him on. So I think that maybe he should just go back and do a director’s cut of the original movie and show us what he originally intended. It’s different though. I think the term Shocker just has a different social context now. In 1980’s it was a Shocker but now what’s the tagline going to say? “Two in the pink, on in the stink?” How can I get so vulgar at two in the afternoon? I mean, it’s three questions and I’m already making…how does that happen? I apologize. I’m so sorry. You seem like decent people…thwart your point, leave it to me.

How extreme is this movie going to be?

Here’s the thing. I think that I just really honestly want to tell a good story and make it scary and interesting. I want everything to be about the next level. We’ll see the next level of the organization. The movie is about the next level of depravity; if sex doesn’t get you off, the violence is a substitute for that. There are certainly scenes where you have to be the next level of shocking in the serving but at a certain point it’s like, I don’t want the whole movie to just become about that. I just want to tell a really good scary story but if you’re just trying to make it the most shocking serving…it’s been done before and it’s been done better. I love Cannibal Holocaust, I love movies like that and you’re never going to be more shocking in the serving than those films. I just want to tell a good scary story from start to finish.

I was looking at the sequels that I love like [Mad Max 2: The] Road Warrior, Aliens, [Star Wars: Episode V-The] Empire Strikes Back and Devil’s Rejects and you came out of those movies thinking that was actually better than the first one. I thought [in] Aliens, they showed you the Queen Mother and you went so much deeper into the world and [Mad Max 2: The] Road Warrior just took the best parts of Mad Max and it was like that adrenaline rush for 90 minutes. That’s what I was really going for.

Let’s take the things that I thought worked best for Hostel. I really dove on that for the story on the sequel but it was a really difficult challenge because in the first one you don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s scary learning about everything as it unfolds and what these kids have gotten into. So the challenge was, how do you make it scary and have surprises and twists when everybody kind of knows what’s going to happen? And if you don’t have that happen, then people will feel they got ripped off…but I feel great about it. I’m really, really excited about the film.

Do you ever get tired of it?

Yeah, I’m exhausted. I’m sick of it, you kidding me? No, I‘m tired. I went from Hostel 1 to Hostel: Part II without a break. I literally have been doing just press for the film. The DVD came out on April 18th and the 19th, I was writing the sequel. In June I was scouting and September I was shooting. So my head has been in that torture house for about two and a half years.

I spent two days shooting the trailer for Grindhouse; this fake trailer for a Tarantino and Rodriguez film and it was so much fun. It was two days of just money shots. Every shot was just gore, nudity, no continuity, bad acting. Who cares if there’s a light in the shot? It’s Grindhouse. So it was so freeing to do something so much fun and I thought I really have to do something like this next. I have to do something that’s going to be nuts and insane and fun. Almost like an old Woody Allen movie just to kind of switch it up a little bit.

What about a Hostel III?

I don’t know. Sure the answer is it depends on how Hostel: Part II does. For right now, I don’t want to make a bad Hostel III and I don’t want to force it. I feel like the story ends in Hostel: Part II and let’s just leave it at that right now.

There’s a dark ending to Hostel where Paxton goes and gets the daughter and kills her. Is that the kind of dark headspace he’s in when we begin Hostel: Part II?

Yeah, I mean the original ending in the script is that when Paxton sees the business man with his daughter, you think he’s going to kill the business man and he slits the daughter’s throat and throws her in the dumpster (imitates a cartoon sound effect like bada bump badump bump BUMP!). Even Tarantino said to me “Eli, this is REALLY sick. I know you’re going for sick but this is like we’ve-just-been-kicked-in-the-balls kind of sick. We want to have our asses kicked but we don’t want to get kicked in the balls.

There’s a difference.” So I thought all right; so we shot an ending where he kidnaps the girl because I thought that’s got to be worse than killing this guy which is to have his daughter taken. Then we showed it to an audience and the first hand went up and some guy yelled, “He should have slit that bitches throat!” Then someone else goes “No, no, no, no, no, no…because that’s worse than death. I have a question, how’s he going to speak Dutch?” So I’m like f**k! Then others were saying, “Yeah, I want to see that guy get killed.”

So we went back and reshot an ending and the audience went crazy. They loved it. Somebody else came up to me and said, “What disturbed me is that I was so shocked and upset by the violence but at the end I was cheering for violence.” It made me really think how I had the capacity to want to see that happen to someone else and that’s what scared me more and I opened up a whole other door of things I can bullshit about and make it seem like it was the original ending. Then in Part II, I said that Jay [Hernandez] is going to start off in that headspace. You’re not going to recover quickly from an incident like that. He’s a little messed up. He’s not happy.

Did you meet you with Stephen King yet?

No, not yet. He’s pretty swamped but we’re trying to link up. There is a plan for us to meet in the future if not today.

Did you hear about the movie The Signal at Sundance, which is very similar to Cell?

I heard about it and I haven’t seen The Signal but … (At this point, actress Heather Matarazzo briefly stops by the table to say hello and then Roth turns to us and says: 'People don't realize how sexy she is. They're like, 'You had Heather naked in your movie.' And, I was, like, 'Hell yeah!'") Going back to The Signal, I know it has a similar premise to the Cell but it’s also like…what are you going to do? I think that where I’m going with Cell is so far different that what they’ve done in The Signal. In Hostel and Saw, there were similar things but there’s just nothing you can do about it. What can you do? You just go out and make the best film you can. If they are films that are similar territory; as long as they’re both good films, people will go out and see them.

I’m not thinking anything else but Hostel: Part II right now… and if I’m working on Cell, I’d probably would see the film at some point. Like with the Saw guys, we check in with each other. They call me and [tell me about a scene they are shooting] so that we don’t repeat the same gags but there’s just [so much you can do to avoid these things]. I noticed there was this same plastic sheeting in Saw 3 that there is in Hostel: Part II, but we didn’t know. So it’s like ok, Jigsaw and our factory all go through the same torture people. We call each other and check in after each kill. There’s a real good Splat Pack line of communication.

Splat Pack?

Yeah it’s hilarious. It’s good for now but it’ll be over in about ten minutes.

Will you be mentoring other filmmakers?

Oh yeah. [There are short films that I’ve helped new filmmakers with: with their scripts and films]. I helped with 2001 Maniacs…I think that I’m still kind of finding my own style and finding my own voice and planting my flag in the film world. And I‘m going to spend the next few years doing that but honestly I always thought what I would do is make a bunch of movies and stop and teach for a while. I would love to do that and then just teach at a film school.

I was a camp counselor for three years at a day camp and I love kids. Honestly, that was better experience for directing that film school. The three years I was a camp counselor and all my babysitting skills have come into play so much more. That is 98% directing. The whole job is [saying things like] “Look, I know he’s in your chair, and I know it says your name on that piece of paper on it, but I’m going to make you sit on my chair.”

Or “I know he got three cookies but I promise you I’m going to get you a special cookie but it’s got to be our secret and you can’t tell them but if you’re going to do that then you have to go do this scene and NO F**KING ARGUING ABOUT IT!” It’s all about controlling your temper. I feel like I have a lot of knowledge coming from no film background and a kid growing up in Boston, and going to NYU film school, then a PA at Central Park West in Tompkin’s Square Park.

I feel like there’s just a lot of crazy stories that I have, having done that as a young filmmaker so I’m probably going to write a book just really targeted at film students…telling them how I went from fan to filmmaker; sort of knowing that Robert Rodriguez read that book. I just feel that there’s a lot of knowledge I have that they don’t teach you in school that filmmakers should know.

How did you end up directing the trailer Thanksgiving for Grindhouse for Tarantino?

Well he comes to me and says (in Tarantino’s voice) “Man, we need this f**king thing alright. It’s going to be so cool right and it’s going to be f**king Grindhouse. We’re going to have big f**king fake trailers all right. F**king Robert [Rodriguez] already shot it. You’re shooting the lobby card alright.” I’m like Robert? It’s like they talked about it but Robert literally went and shot it while they were on the phone. They needed f**king lobby cards and I was like this guy is unbelievable. How did he do this? Literally the lobby cards are what got everybody talking: they were so funny and I thought all right I got to do one of these.

I thought about a slasher movie my friend Jeff and I had been dreaming about growing up in Massachusetts. Thanksgiving is the biggest f*king deal…and every year there was a new slasher movie about every given holiday…My Bloody Valentine, April Fool’s Day, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Silent Night, Deadly Night…but how could they have not done Thanksgiving yet? I mean, what are they encircling Passover Massacre (laughter). So then I said we got to do Thanksgiving and we had all the gags worked out. So Tarantino asked when I was going to do a trailer and I said Thanksgiving. It’s my 1981 slasher movie; I’ve been dying to do it for years. So first he put me in Grindhouse, which was a whole other weird experience, and then I went from Hostel: Part II to writing the trailer and then just added on two days after. We recycled everything we had and threw it into this trailer. It was fun. Had a great time doing it.

You’re in Death Proof?

Yes, that was really fun. During pre-production Quentin Tarantino’s Assistant called me who I’m friends with to say (in professional voice) ‘Mr. Tarantino would like you to audition for Death Proof.’ She’s like he really wants me to read for this role and I’m like “Is he aware I’m not an actor?” I did this one little thing in Cabin Fever kind of as a joke and Quentin thought it was funny and so I thought fine, I’ll do it. So I go to the audition and on the sign in sheet, the person ahead of me is Derek Richardson from Hostel who played Josh. He sees me and he’s like “What the hell are you doing here?” I was like (in an ashamed voice) “I’m auditioning for Quentin’s movie.” He’s like “Aren’t you a big director now?” I’m like “Shut up.” I was actually casting for Hostel: Part II at the time and had to leave my own auditions to audition for Quentin’s movie.

Then his assistant calls and says I have a call back. Then I have to go to his house and it’s so weird because I’ve been to his house a million times to hang out and watch movies, and then I have to read for Quentin and act for him which was so weird. Here’s what’s even weirder. After the audition he goes: ‘Great I got 35mm print of Sergio Martino’s sex comedy, Sex With A Smile sex tape. Do you want to come over and watch it later?’ Sure. So I had to leave his house at 4:15, then go back there about 8 and it was just the two of us sitting there watching a movie. But, I couldn’t mention anything that happened that afternoon because it would have been too weird.

Then they call me and say Quentin really wants you to do it. We’re both shooting at the same time. How am I going to be in Prague prepping a movie when he’s shooting the same time in Texas? Quentin said it was a bar scene so I gave him a week. I told everyone I would be leaving during pre-production for one week to go to Texas and be in Quentin’s movie. So I get there and find out I have to do two parts now. They tell me that one of the actors dropped out and they merged two parts. Now I’m thinking aww Jesus, now I have to really study lines but the part was a dorky Jewish guy at a bar trying to pick up Jordan Ladd and failing miserably. So I thought all right, that is something I have practiced for like five years, so I can handle it. I was trying to be cool and humiliate myself over and over; just being a total idiot so it was perfect. It was great.

It was like a master class. It was taking an intensive master class in directing right before I went to shoot my film: watching Quentin and how he worked. So now I could tell my crew, “well this is how Quentin does it guys.” I pulled that card out. I was like “look I know you do it this way but now we do things Quentin’s way.” It was great.

What about casting Roger Bart? Is there a singing role for him?

Don’t think that Roger Bart didn’t have Hostel: Part II the musical already [thought out]. He actually had a full musical version of every one of his scenes. He and the actors performed it for me and it was f**king weird.

Roger Bart is so funny. He was in the Producers and Desperate Housewives and I was so happy when he came do audition. The other audition I was so happy about was Richard Burgi. They were both on Desperate Housewives but they had never worked together. They had separate storylines and I had so much fun working with those guys. I felt so lucky with the cast I got. In fact, what was so great is that the studio read the script and thought that no one would ever [want those roles]. They thought it was so sick that no one would ever want to be in this movie. They dared me. They thought I would get no girls to be in this movie because it was too sick. The first person to respond was Heather Matarazzo and Bijou Phillips. So then the studio thought that maybe it was all right.

How does your My Space account and the Internet help you?

The Internet has been particularly helpful to me because with Cabin Fever, nobody would have known about the film if it weren’t for the Internet and the website. I think the fans on the website know me. It’s really changed in that filmmakers and filmmaking used to be so separated from them and it was this whole other world but I think that with me I try to give as much information as possible. I do way more commentaries than anyone would listen too. What I try to do is the fifteen-year-old version of myself for some guy who wants to make horror movies but has no connections and no way of doing it. The Internet is also a great way to bring you closer and in touch with the fans. The truth is that now with Lionsgate I have the best marketing people in the world. The poster with Bijou, no matter what I do on the Internet, they get the movies and know how to sell them and go for it.

Talk about Guillermo del Toro’s advice that he gave you last year.

Yes, whatever gives you the biggest boner. 100% correct and I’ve talked about that to other directors too. Guillermo del Toro, when I was asking about Cabin Fever if I should do a big budget movie or low budget movie, he just goes (in Toro’s voice): ‘Whatever gives you the biggest boner man. You have to wake up with a f**king rager. If you don’t have a boner, you can’t work.’ And I thought, 'He's right.' You have to be that excited about the project you're doing ... and that was Hostel II.

I was so excited to do it, and I thought about that even with the Grindhouse trailer. I mean, I know people who are doing movies, and they are getting paid big paychecks to do them, and they are miserable. They have to think about this stuff. They don’t want to do it and no matter how much money they get paid, they're still unhappy people. On Hostel, I think my salary was $10,000, and I didn't care. I was just going to do it and have fun. The Thanksgiving for Grindhouse trailer I did for free and it was still the most fun I've ever had shooting anything. The truth is, if you do what you love; the money, none of that matters."

Hostel: Part II hits theaters on June 5.

Source: JoBlo.comAITH

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9:17AM on 03/01/2007

Sweet interview

Nice interview, I cant wait for Hostel II. Now I reallly wanna see the cut ending for Pt. 1. Sounds sick. June 5th is gonna kick ass!
Nice interview, I cant wait for Hostel II. Now I reallly wanna see the cut ending for Pt. 1. Sounds sick. June 5th is gonna kick ass!
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