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INT: Jay Hernandez

01.06.2006by: Thomas Leupp

Dreamy Jay Hernandez returns to theatres this week when he stars in Eli Rothís much anticipated follow-up to CABIN FEVER, HOSTEL. Hernandez burst on the scene four years ago in CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL, and most recently drew acclaim for his performance in FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. In HOSTEL, he plays a young American tourist whose drug-fueled Slovakian sexcapade soon goes horribly wrong. Last week he stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to talk about his foray into the horror genre. Warning Ė there are several spoilers scattered throughout.

JAY HERNANDEZ

How were you approached for this film and what made you say yes?

I was approached when Eli or somebody got the script to my agent and he sent it to me. He read it, actually Jim Toth and Kelly Tippon Ė they both read it. Jim loved it and Kelly hated it. She was like, ďDonít do this. Itís horrible, itís disgusting, itís not good for you.Ē And Jim was like, ďDude, I love this thing. You gotta do it. Itís gonna be awesome.Ē So I read it and I responded the same way Jim did. I was like, ďHe really goes for it.Ē Because I had read a couple other scripts and they were, you know, itís what you expect, you know what I mean? So we set up a meeting. I meet Eli and we talked about it. After meeting him and reading the script and seeing his excitement about it Ė he just had everything; it seemed like he had every already shot planned out and cut in his head. I knew he was very thorough and he talked about some of the locations that he scouted. I knew Quentin was involved and it just seemed like a really cool movie. Itís something exciting to do, something different; itís a nice departure from all the nice guys I have played so I was like yeah, Iím up for it. Letís do it.

As an actor of your age, what percentage of the scripts that you get are horror/slasher films?

Recently thereís been a lot of them. I donít know, as far as a percentage, 30%. (laughs) But there was a lot, though. Every studio is trying to get one out because it seems that theyíre making a lot of money.

So what set this one apart, what made it more disturbing or f*cked up than the other ones?

There was stuff that got cut out, too, stuff that would have definitely have pushed it over the rating that we got, which we didnít expect, maybe. I just thought that it was like no holds barred. And then Eli told me, heís like, ďIím sticking to it. Iím not gonna change it. Iím gonna shoot my movie. Iím not going to let them mess with me and try to take some of it out so they can broaden the audience. Iím going to make a horror film and gonna do it all the way. f*ck that, Iím doing it.Ē

What did you think about the original ending being changed?

I thought it was good. Itís just the tone of it. You set the audience up for that type of ending and when it didnít happen, it was kind of a letdown, I think, for the audience. And when we re-shot it and I saw it put together, I though, ďNah, this works; this is the right piece of the puzzle. This is what it was missing.Ē I liked it better, actually.

What was the original ending?

Well, I donít know, should I give it away? What do you think? Yeah, itís fine; itíll be on the DVD, probably. Instead of killing the guy, I go in and kidnap his daughter, the only thing in life that thatís like pure and what he loves. That was like his life, his daughter. So I get off the train and follow him into the restroom and it makes you think Iím going to do something to the guy, but I actually kidnap his daughter. Thereís a shot of me like on the train leaving with my hand over her mouth. Itís kind of ambiguous because you donít know if Iím actually going to hurt her or if Iím going to save her. So it leaves on that note, is he going to kill her or is he trying to save her from this monster, you donít really know.

And you shot that?

Yeah.

Will it be on the DVD?

Probably, yeah. Probably.

Can you talk about some of the scenes that were cut?

They were never shot. There was one scene where the guy was torturing Ė itís pretty sick Ė he was torturing and the level of excitement was such that he had a pretty good erection going on. (laughs) How do you feel about that, huh? Pretty sick, dude.

Do you think this guy will be ok in the end, like if we caught up to him ten years later?

Whoís that, Eli?

No, your character.

No, heís twisted. Heís scarred for life, you know what I mean? Heís killed a number of people. Who knows whatíll happen.

So why did you immediately think of Eli when you were asked the question?

Because heís disturbed. I figure ten years from now he may be locked up in a padded room.

What gave you that impression?

The script. Did you guys see the movie? (laughs) The hard-on under the guy torturing. Thatís pretty sick.

Did anything freak you out while you were shooting?

I would say being in that institution, that psych ward, or whatever it was. That was really creepy because that was a real place the early 1900ís. There were these underground rooms that hadnít been lived in and inhabited for 60, 70 years or something. Who knows. I keep saying this, but itís true. It really freaked me out. There was this one room, I walked off set, just trying to get some fresh air and there was this huge room that had these hooks on the wall. I was asking some of the guys what those hooks were for, and nobody could give me an answer. To this day I still donít know what those hooks were for. Something was being hung up there, was it bodies? Was it meat? I donít know.

Do you feel emotionally affected coming out of the whole experience?

After the torture scene, I was glad it was done, that I got through it. I felt like I had been tortured. Me and Derek talked about it and he felt the same way; cause itís like a couple days in that chair, handcuffed, and youíre struggling and trying to get out, and bruises develop. So with every move, you feel pain. Youíre yelling, and emotionally youíre in this place where it hurts. It was rough those couple of days. When that was over it was like a huge weight lifted off my back.

Do you have any stories about hanging out in Prague?

Yeah, Iíve got a funny story about Derek. Itís not a bad story. Iím not going to give all his personal stuff away. We were on the street and we were trying to exchange some money, and we go to the exchange place and thereís a guy standing outside. He says ďIíll give you a better rate,Ē with this cheesy Czech accent and so Derek says, ďOk, whatís the rate?Ē He looks at me and says, ďShould I take it?Ē And I say. ďI donít know, I donít care; if heís giving you more money for a $100 bill, as long as itís cool, as long as itís legit.Ē He does it and the guy gives him a $2000 bill, which neither of us had ever seen.

So heís looking at this thing, the guy walks off, but something is still bothering him about it. He says, ďIím going to try to break this,Ē and we go into the exchange place. He shows it to the lady and asks if he can have change for it and she points up to a sign on the wall that has the same bill and it says, ďThis is not Czech money. Donít accept this on the street.Ē And so he looks up there, and says, ďOh shit,Ē and so we run out of the door to try and get this guy. Basically, he gets one hundred dollars taken from him.

So a few weeks later, about three weeks later, weíre walking down the street and see that same f*ckiní dude in front of a money exchange place, and I said, ďDerek, thatís the guy.Ē So I walk up to him and he says, ďHey, do you want to exchange money?Ē And I think, what am I going to do to this guy? Iíve got to get back the money. So I just reacted and grabbed the guy by his shirt and started cussing in his face Ė ďYou better give me back that f*ckiní money,Ē and Iím shaking him. (laughs) The guy must have been kind of freaked out. The guys says, ďI didnít take your money,Ē and so I say, ďYes you did, like three weeks ago.Ē

And so he says, ďNo, no, not me; how much did I take from you?Ē I say ďIf youíve got to ask that question, than you did.Ē (laughs) So he says, ďOk, ok,Ē and reaches in his pocket and gives him this huge wad of money. And so I turn to turn to Derek and say, ďI got your money back!Ē True story.

What does your family think of this film?

Thatís funny Ė everyone asks me that. My parents were both at the screening. And I told my momÖI really didnít want them to go because of all the stuff that was in there. I just didnít know how they were going to react. I let her know what was going on and sheís like, ďYeah, I had to cover my eyes for some scenes, but I really liked it.Ē

For the violence stuff or the sex stuff?

Probably both. Iím her little boy, you know what I mean? (laughs) Itís funny, cause my dad is a straight dude, he doesnít cuss, really straight guy. I asked him after we got out of the screening, ďCome on, Pop, what did you think of the movie?Ē He looked at me and said, ďIt was weird.Ē (laughs) That was his reaction. It was classic.

If there was a Hostel sequel, would you do it?

Yeah, I wouldnít pass on that. Iíve already heard murmurs about that, so itís a possibility so weíll see.

So was Quentin on set at all?

No, he was more involved in the script, developing the script and reaping the benefits.

Can you talk about the Oliver Stone movie youíre doing?

Yeah, itís about 9/11. It follows Port Authority officers on the day of 9/11. I play a guy, Dominic Bazulo. After the first plane hit the Tower, the guys go in and try to get people out of there, try to save them. Itís a sensitive subject, cause there are still family members that are there, husbands and fathers, so itís pretty sensitive. The main person the story is about is Will Jimeno. He was a Port Authority officer. He was on set practically all the time, advising Oliver and myself and Mike (Pena) and Nicolas (Cage) and everybody else. Heís trying to make it as real and as true to life as possible.

How weird is that walking into a set looking at that?

Itís really strange; we started off in New York and we did about a month there, and then we came here. The first day that I drove up to set, thereís this huge yard and when you see those images of the skeleton of the Trade Centers and theyíre sticking up, thatís what I saw walking into work. Itís really eerie seeing that, a strange sort of feeling, but itís really good what theyíve done to reproduce that hole. Itís pretty amazing.

Was that hard going from this to that?

No, it wasnít difficult. The time that we spent in New York was invaluable. We talked to a lot of guys. I actually went down to the locker rooms of the people that passed away. The guy that I play, I went down and looked at his locker. They kinda left it untouched, and they have a picture of him there. Itís like, Hostel, at that point, Iím not thinking about. Iím like, ďDamn, this is some real serious stuff,Ē and I just want to try and honor these guys the best I can.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

Source: JoBlo.com

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