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INT: Jay Hernandez

01.06.2006

Dreamy Jay Hernandez returns to theatres this week when he stars in Eli Roth’s 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 – 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 – they both read it. Jim loved it and Kelly hated it. She was like, “Don’t do this. It’s horrible, it’s disgusting, it’s not good for you.” And Jim was like, “Dude, I love this thing. You gotta do it. It’s gonna be awesome.” So I read it and I responded the same way Jim did. I was like, “He really goes for it.” Because I had read a couple other scripts and they were, you know, it’s 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 – 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. It’s something exciting to do, something different; it’s a nice departure from all the nice guys I have played so I was like yeah, I’m up for it. Let’s do it.

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

Recently there’s been a lot of them. I don’t 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 they’re 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 didn’t expect, maybe. I just thought that it was like no holds barred. And then Eli told me, he’s like, “I’m sticking to it. I’m not gonna change it. I’m gonna shoot my movie. I’m not going to let them mess with me and try to take some of it out so they can broaden the audience. I’m going to make a horror film and gonna do it all the way. f*ck that, I’m doing it.”

What did you think about the original ending being changed?

I thought it was good. It’s just the tone of it. You set the audience up for that type of ending and when it didn’t 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, “Nah, this works; this is the right piece of the puzzle. This is what it was missing.” I liked it better, actually.

What was the original ending?

Well, I don’t know, should I give it away? What do you think? Yeah, it’s fine; it’ll be on the DVD, probably. Instead of killing the guy, I go in and kidnap his daughter, the only thing in life that that’s 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 I’m going to do something to the guy, but I actually kidnap his daughter. There’s a shot of me like on the train leaving with my hand over her mouth. It’s kind of ambiguous because you don’t know if I’m actually going to hurt her or if I’m 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 don’t 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 – it’s pretty sick – 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?

Who’s that, Eli?

No, your character.

No, he’s twisted. He’s scarred for life, you know what I mean? He’s killed a number of people. Who knows what’ll happen.

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

Because he’s 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. That’s 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 1900’s. There were these underground rooms that hadn’t been lived in and inhabited for 60, 70 years or something. Who knows. I keep saying this, but it’s 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 don’t know what those hooks were for. Something was being hung up there, was it bodies? Was it meat? I don’t 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 it’s like a couple days in that chair, handcuffed, and you’re struggling and trying to get out, and bruises develop. So with every move, you feel pain. You’re yelling, and emotionally you’re 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, I’ve got a funny story about Derek. It’s not a bad story. I’m 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 there’s a guy standing outside. He says “I’ll give you a better rate,” with this cheesy Czech accent and so Derek says, “Ok, what’s the rate?” He looks at me and says, “Should I take it?” And I say. “I don’t know, I don’t care; if he’s giving you more money for a $100 bill, as long as it’s cool, as long as it’s legit.” He does it and the guy gives him a $2000 bill, which neither of us had ever seen.

So he’s looking at this thing, the guy walks off, but something is still bothering him about it. He says, “I’m going to try to break this,” 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, “This is not Czech money. Don’t accept this on the street.” And so he looks up there, and says, “Oh shit,” 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, we’re walking down the street and see that same f*ckin’ dude in front of a money exchange place, and I said, “Derek, that’s the guy.” So I walk up to him and he says, “Hey, do you want to exchange money?” And I think, what am I going to do to this guy? I’ve got to get back the money. So I just reacted and grabbed the guy by his shirt and started cussing in his face – “You better give me back that f*ckin’ money,” and I’m shaking him. (laughs) The guy must have been kind of freaked out. The guys says, “I didn’t take your money,” and so I say, “Yes you did, like three weeks ago.”

And so he says, “No, no, not me; how much did I take from you?” I say “If you’ve got to ask that question, than you did.” (laughs) So he says, “Ok, ok,” and reaches in his pocket and gives him this huge wad of money. And so I turn to turn to Derek and say, “I got your money back!” True story.

What does your family think of this film?

That’s funny – everyone asks me that. My parents were both at the screening. And I told my mom…I really didn’t want them to go because of all the stuff that was in there. I just didn’t know how they were going to react. I let her know what was going on and she’s like, “Yeah, I had to cover my eyes for some scenes, but I really liked it.”

For the violence stuff or the sex stuff?

Probably both. I’m her little boy, you know what I mean? (laughs) It’s funny, cause my dad is a straight dude, he doesn’t cuss, really straight guy. I asked him after we got out of the screening, “Come on, Pop, what did you think of the movie?” He looked at me and said, “It was weird.” (laughs) That was his reaction. It was classic.

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

Yeah, I wouldn’t pass on that. I’ve already heard murmurs about that, so it’s a possibility so we’ll 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 you’re doing?

Yeah, it’s 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. It’s a sensitive subject, cause there are still family members that are there, husbands and fathers, so it’s 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. He’s trying to make it as real and as true to life as possible.

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

It’s 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, there’s this huge yard and when you see those images of the skeleton of the Trade Centers and they’re sticking up, that’s what I saw walking into work. It’s really eerie seeing that, a strange sort of feeling, but it’s really good what they’ve done to reproduce that hole. It’s pretty amazing.

Was that hard going from this to that?

No, it wasn’t 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. It’s like, Hostel, at that point, I’m not thinking about. I’m like, “Damn, this is some real serious stuff,” 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.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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