INT: Eli Roth

The Arrow interviews Eli Roth

I was a huge fan of Eli Roth's debut CABIN FEVER and have been anticipating his next move for what feels like ages. Lots of Roth related projects were announced since, so I was surprised when HOSTEL, a totally left field title wound up being "the one". With that said the film does look mucho promising and I'm looking forward to it! Roth dropped by the Arrow Pub to talk about his latest baby and here's what went down.

All Photos are C. 2005 Sony Screen Gems, taken by Rico Torres

What was the spark that ignited the HOSTEL storyline in your twisted noggin?

It started with a conversation I had with Harry Knowles about 3 years ago.  We were talking about the sickest thing you could find on the internet.  He found a horrible, horrible site and sent me the link, and it scared me so bad I couldn’t sleep thinking about it.  (The link has since expired…) A few months later, producer Mike Fleiss, fresh off the “Chainsaw” remake he produced with Michael Bay, pitched me an idea about backpackers that he and his partner Chris Briggs had come up with. 

They had the title, “Hostel,” and the idea to set it in the world of backpacking, but no story or idea of what kind of horror movie it was.  I loved the title, and have done a lot of traveling and backpacking, so I was immediately into it, but wasn’t quite sure what it was about. Then suddenly, one day about a year later, I thought about that web site Harry Knowles found and I saw the entire story. 

When, where did you write this particular screenplay and what was your process?

Once I  saw the idea, I just started writing. It was right after the Red Sox won the world series, and since I’m a lifelong member of Red Sox Nation, when they finally won I guess some space in my brain freed up.  I had been getting sent scripts for movies to direct – movies that have come and gone in theaters already – and I just kept turning them down because I didn’t think the ideas were scary at all.  I know your 2nd film can make or break you, because you’re either a bona fide director or a one hit wonder.  I

 felt like I had been taking so many meetings about things, and developing projects, and I just needed to sit down and write.  I told Quentin Tarantino the story, and he said “You have to write this.  Fuck all these other projects – you have to write this idea now!!!!”  So I unplugged my phone, cleared my schedule, and banged the draft out in three weeks.  It just started pouring out of me.  It was a great feeling.  I am very lucky to have good people around me to bounce ideas off of.  They bring out the best in you.

"I guess somebody won't be having kids anytime soon..."

The flick was shot in the Czech Republic; what kind of barriers did you encounter in terms of shooting in a foreign country?

Well, the language barrier obviously, because there’s a large portion of the Czech Republic that speaks nominal English at best.  But otherwise, it’s much, much easier to shoot in the Czech Republic than in the U.S.  I would shoot in the Czech Republic over the States any day.  There’s no unions here, so the dollar goes a lot farther.  You can film with kids without the same kind of strict regulations and hassles you get in the U.S. 

I shot one scene where a gang of little kids go crazy with lead pipes, and we just set up three cameras and let them go nuts.  Their parents were right there, watching at the monitor, totally cool with it.  It was awesome.   The most difficult part about shooting in Prague is the nightlife.  The clubs are open every night, all night, and then there are after hours clubs that open at 6:30.  The girls are so beautiful there, if you’re not careful you’ll kill yourself by going out every night.  I had strep throat five times in a 7 week shoot because I never slept.

Visit any strip clubs down there, if so, how are they? I heard good things!

Nope.  I was going to film in a brothel, so the closest I got to a strip club was on our location scout.  I never had time.  And truthfully, in Prague it’s kind of a last resort thing to do. You usually go to a strip club when you strike out everywhere else, and in the Czech Republic the girls outnumber the guys.

You’ve been fairly secretive about the “what” within Hostel. So I’ll ask: “what” evil do these back packers encounter on their journey? Are we talking supernatural here?

“Hostel” is about the kind of evil that terrifies me the most.  You can go to aintitcoolnews and read reviews that will spoil the entire movie blow by blow, but that would ruin all the scares and fun when you saw it.  Try to avoid reading those if you can, and keep it a mystery.  It’s much more fun that way, trust me.


From what I’ve read, Hostel looks like it will be a brutal affair. Will its violence be implied, graphic or a little bit of both?

The violence is very realistic in the film.  Some scenes are extremely graphic, and others are done off camera.  It’s a delicate balance to know when to show it and when to just use sound, because if it’s overdone it becomes all about the gore you run the risk of no longer being terrifying.

Is there any female nudity in the picture? I ask because, yes, WE CARE!

I’m in Europe with a movie camera.  You think I’m not going to film any naked chicks?  I held a casting session where we saw 66 strippers and porn stars in 2 days, and it wasn’t just for one role…

Any lesbian fun stuff in the film? I ask because I CARE!

No lesbo action.  This ain’t Skinemax, sorry…

"Did I just see the Kaufbird flying about?"

I heard that the film is more serious in tone than Cabin Fever, taking into account your wild sense of humor, did you have to hold yourself back at times from slapping in some humor?

I made a very conscious decision to make a film that was more serious in tone than “Cabin Fever.”  It starts out fun, but once the fun stops, the humor dies along with it, and it’s just straightforward scary.  There are moments of sick humor where people may laugh, but it doesn’t get goofy the way “Cabin Fever” did.  I feel like I’ve done that already, and I know that as much as people liked it, the mixed tone of “Cabin Fever” was the number one complaint about the film.  “Hostel” is a very different story, so it requires a different tone.  It’s a much darker scary movie.

The great Takashi Miike has a small role in the film. Please tell me that he performs at least one act of violence!

Miike’s the coolest.  I was so honored he did that cameo for me.  He’s great in the movie.

Hostel has already garnered some hype online (a fake poster already surfaced). Being that you also went through the hype ringer with Cabin Fever, I’d be curious to know your standpoint on it. Good? Bad? Scary?

Hype can be the best thing in the world, but too much of it can kill you.  There’s this weird balance between getting people excited to see the film, and not wanting to overhype it to the point where they can’t enjoy it because they’ve been told it’s so great.  “Cabin Fever” was definitely a victim of that, and people got really angry if it didn’t live up to their expectations that they read on the internet.  The truth is, with movies like “Hostel” and “Cabin Fever,” the internet’s our only shot.  They don’t have the big stars like “War of the Worlds,” and they don’t have the advertising dollars that these films do.  Studios can spend $30-$40 million marketing a movie.  How do you compete with that?  You have to find a way to get fans to support your movie, and the internet’s the only way to reach them directly without a huge budget. 

However, the danger is that if you catch that hype wave and people are excited, you have crazy expectations to live up to.  People’s enjoyment of a movie is directly related to what their expectations of that movie are.  If they heard “Cabin Fever” was some weirdo low budget scary/funny indie movie that got a distribution deal at a festival, they tended to like it much more than people who heard it was the second coming.  (Not that it was, I’m just using this to illustrate a point.)  The other danger is that people get sick of you – fast, and I know people out there are tired of reading about me.   Believe me, I’m flattered the reviews up on the internet are so good, but in a way it’s scary because some people are already saying “Here we go again, another overhyped piece of shit from that self-promoting hack Eli Roth…” 

People know I’m friends with Harry Knowles, so they think the reviews are fake.  People wrote those in after a test screening, and Harry would put them up if they were good or bad.  What can I do?  You just have to make the best film you can, do the appropriate amount of press, and hope people like it.  But overall I definitely think it helps more than it hurts, especially with the type of films that I make.

Any ideas as to what’s next up for you? Are Scavenger Hunt, The Bad Seed and The Box still on the hit list or did they fall on the wayside. 

They are all in very active development, believe me.  I just can’t think of anything beyond “Hostel” until the film’s finished.  I’ve been working nonstop 7 days a week on this movie since last November, so once it’s done I’ll take short a vacation and decide what’s next.

What was the first drink that you consumed at the HOSTEL wrap party?

I don’t really remember much about the HOSTEL wrap party.  But I still have the bite marks to prove I was there.

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