Exclusive Interview With Eli Roth

Exclusive Interview With Eli Roth
The writer/director of Hostel addresses some hostile reviews and dishes on the DVD.
Updated: 04-15-2006


[photo: Enzo Giobbé /Starlens.com – Eli Roth and Staci Wilson, April 2006]




Staci Layne Wilson / HORROR.COM: You have some really amusing commentaries on the Hostel DVD. Can you talk about how having so many of them came about?


Eli: Yeah, there's four. You know, I wanted to put the dvd... You know, I don't like dvds that are bare bones. I think that I have a lot to say as a filmmaker and as a horror movie fan. I think that it's really not enough just for one commentary. The truth of the matter is, I think people listen to commentaries for different things. I think that some people just want to kind of hear fun stories from the cast and crew.


Other people, you know like me, are filmmakers, and other people are film students. They want to hear how did I get into the position that I'm in, and what happened after Cabin Fever, and how did Hostel get made? Other people want to hear the technical problems of actually making it. I like to have different commentaries, you know. I like to have something for everybody.


If you're a film student you can learn sort of how I went, and made the jump from fan to filmmaker. It's more of an educational track. That's my directors track. Then if you're a fan of Tarantino's movies, you can listen to me and Quentin and Boaz Yakin and Scott Spiegel. Those guys directed a lot of movies, so between all of them it's like fifteen or sixteen movies. A lot of experience. Just hearing them all kind of tell stories and make jokes, it's a much looser commentary track. You can listen to that one.


I don't think that any one would ever buy the dvd and listen to all four of them in a row. That's not the idea. The idea is that it's a dvd that you have on your shelf and in five years you can always go back to it and find something new.


Q: So, how do you select your commentators? For instance you've got Harry Knowles on there. How do you decide who gets to yak on the track?


Eli: I think that anybody who had a contribution to the project is somebody I want to have on the track. Harry is the one who showed me the original website where you could pay to kill people. So I wanted to have Harry on there. He was part of the genesis, the original genesis of the project. Harry is very funny and he's very smart and he has a lot to say so I put Harry on there.


I also wanted people to hear stories from my editor George Folsey. This guy was John Landis' partner for many years, and he produced American Werewolf in London and Trading Places, edited Animal House, The Blues Brothers. I mean, he's an incredible filmmaker. A veteran and very funny guy and he really has a lot to say.


Then, really, whatever cast members were around. I like to get them involved. I like to have as many people involved from the production as possible. Sometimes they're not on for the entire track, may be on for just twenty minutes or for a section but I still want them to be a part of it.


Q: Which one is your personal favorite?


Eli: Well, you know, I like them all equally. I like them for different things you know. It was really fun to talk with the actors, talk with Barbra, who plays Natalya , to talk with Eythor, who's my friend from Iceland. It was great to talk with Harry but it was also really fun to talk with Quentin… for me they're all equally as fun.


Q: Yeah, and they're all different...


Eli: Some are more serious in tone than others but that really just depends on what people are looking for when they listen to it. I always warn people at the beginning of the commentary, "This is what this commentary is..." or "We're talking about this..." so you don't have to listen to it for an hour before they realize "Are they ever going to talk about..."


Q: That's pretty smart! You have a really extensive making of featurette of the dvd which I also enjoyed and watched all the way through. I'm wondering, why was there not a featurette or was there any talk about a featurette on real-life murder for a fee, or hostels where crimes have taken place — Was there any thought about doing something along those lines?


Eli: Yeah, but I didn't want some informational news piece about murder and this really happening. I mean that ... like there's only so much space you can put on it. There's only so much you can put on a dvd. There's only so much bit space. We maxed out the dvd space. There are other little things that have been done and other stuff that we just couldn't fit it on there. We had to prioritize.


I want people to see the making of Hostel. That's what the special is about. That's why it's there. I want people to watch the movie, and then I thought my brother really did a fantastic companion piece documentary that went with it where you could watch it and really know what it felt like to be there on set with us. You know kind of a very like nobody... It's not like everybody is made up, sitting in a chair, giving set interviews. It's me looking all disgusting, at like, two in the morning. I'm exhausted and I haven't slept in weeks and it's just showing what it really is like. Kind of demystifying the process. Because it's my brother, he had access that no like, regular camera crew would ever had access to. Like, I think he got me in the shower on the last morning of shooting. Which is a pretty good example of that.


I felt that was the most important thing. I wanted to put that in the multi-angle and in the commentaries. After that there's really not a lot of space. The truth of the matter is like "It's not the History channel". I'm not interested in seeing that. I want to see what it was like making Hostel on a Hostel dvd.


Q: Gotcha. Now a couple of questions just about the movie in general. When I went back and read some of the reviews of the theatrical release, a lot of people say (whether they liked it or not) that it's homophobic, misogynistic, and so on. What is your take on that?


Eli: I completely disagree. I mean, I think it's so easy to point at the movie and go... I think that these people are clearly out of touch. What I'm making is what I see. The way young people talk is, if something is stupid they say it's gay. That's just a word that people use. If you think that people don't use that word, than your totally out of touch with youth culture. Like if somebody says "Oh, the movie is homophobic." What's homophobic about this movie? I mean the whole movie... the whole thing about it is that it's ridiculous. [people say]"Hey, quit being a fag!" or "Oh, that's so gay!". They're not saying it in any kind of homophobic or sexual context, that's just how they talk. That's a word people use. So like am I not allowed to put that in movies?


You know another thing is, by the way, it's a fucking horror movie! So are you not offended by someone's face getting cut, burned off with a blow torch and their eye getting cut out. Like getting cut up with a chainsaw, or being cut up with a drill. That's fine? As far as the movie being misogynistic, that's just totally absurd. I purposely made these guys dicks at the beginning, because they get tortured for behaving that way.


The whole movie was about how people exploit each other. How you could buy and sell another human being, and where does that lead to? That's why these guys in Amsterdam are making fun of these girls in the window like they're just objects. Then they themselves become the objects in the window. So it's just ridiculous. I've heard that before. You know the New York Times ran this whole thing about it's homophobic, disturbing and this and that. It's just ridiculous.


Q: I agree. On a more light note… you're directing quite a few non-actors in small but pivotal roles. What's the difference between directing someone like that, who's never had experience in front of the camera, as opposed to some of your actors who have had years of experience?


Eli: That's an excellent question. Ah, I think that with a non-actor, the whole key is to... First thing is that you have to make then feel comfortable. You have to give them something to do that's clearly within their range. Something that's very close to their personality. Like the guy who is the desk clerk in the movie. At the hostel, was a press assistant. Like our office PA. We're like "Milda, where are those video tapes? We're supposed to get dv tapes, we've got to film this thing." He's like "I don't know man." I'm like "Milda, what the fuck is going on?" He's like "Chill out man!" Like he has this kind of stoner way about him that... He had this like this lisp and just like the way his whole personality was that we had an actor cast that roll and they dropped out the day before and we asked Milda to do it. So when he's like "Chill out man! You're on vacation!" like that's the kind of stuff he would say to us when we get mad at him about things. So you know that was something that was very much within his range.


Eythor, who plays Oli, has never acted before, but I know his personality. I've been around him. I knew... You know that scene in the bathroom with the phone, with the girls and showing his ass like he'd really... That's his sense of humor. He will do stuff like that. He's not like that all the time, but I knew that that was in his range.


The difference is, that it actually takes a lot more time with non-actors. There are certain technical things that they wouldn't know, like stepping on peoples lines or just they'll look off camera and go "Did I do that right?" instead of sort of staying in the moment. You know it takes a little while for them to get up to speed. So it's actually dangerous. You're kind of playing with fire when you do that cause if it backfires, it's a catastrophe. Luckily, you know, everybody, it worked out.


With the desk clerk, Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson are really really superb and they really... We sat down and rehearsed the build up, while they were setting up the shot. We rehearsed with him for like an hour. Just the three of us sitting and reading the scene over and over and over and over. They were like "Hey Milda, when you do it like maybe just you know you can look me in the eye, that's ok, and like it's all right to get mad. He's like, No, no, no... We sort of worked it so that Milda, all three of us were making him feel very comfortable. Everybody liked him and wanted it to work out. Then once he got it and got his confidence, then we went in for his close up he was fantastic. Then after I showed the movie, Tarantino's like "That desk clerk was amazing!" You know, the audience won't know the difference but it does take a lot more time and then actually when you go back to filming with an actor who's trained, it's kind of a relief.


Q: Well, I think that yeah, you did an amazing job of directing everyone, even those little kids.


Eli: That was difficult. Directing the kids.


Q: I can imagine! It's gotta be ike herding cats.


Eli: You know, the kids were so funny and they had so much energy. It was just a matter of you know like, channeling their energy the right way. They loved looking mean. Like you'd have to get them and say "Ok, like, don't make any face. Don't make any face, like, don't make a mean face, it looks like your trying to act mean. Don't do that. Just like stare straight ahead." Just like, to get them to stare straight ahead with a blank expression on their face was kind of the most difficult thing. You'd have to let the camera roll for a while until they kind of got tired and just had a moment where they were just staring straight ahead. That's the moment you edited for the movie.


Q: I love it. It's a great DVD. Anything you'd like to add?


Eli: Thanks. I'd love to say you know, thank you to the horror fans because the fact that Hostel opened at number one and beat Narnia at the box office really shook things up in Hollywood. There were meetings on Monday morning and everybody said, "What the hell are we doing wrong?" Why are we spending you know, a hundred million dollars making some movie that nobody is going to see? This person just made a four million dollar chainsaw splatter movie and it made twenty-million dollars. The fact that everybody came out and supported, you know, Saw 2 and Hostel and Hills Have Eyes, has gotten so many other horror movies going and it's made it easier for anyone who wants to make horror movies. So it's really a great time right now.


I just want to say thank you so much to the fans for that support and that you know we just have to keep... Hollywood has a very short memory. So we just have to keep continually sending that message to Hollywood. Support these movies at the theater and on dvd and you'll get more.


If people want to find me I put up a page on MySpace. It's where I've been blogging. It's My Space under the name Eli Roth. I went on there and there were like four different people pretending to be me. It really freaked me out. I contacted MySpace, and they had them turned into fan pages. I've been blogging and if people sort of want the latest scoop on what I'm about to do, they can just click onto MySpace page.


Q: Oh that's great! I'll do the same, being a fairly recent MySpace convert too.


Eli: Ok, great! Always a pleasure talking to you.


Q: Ok, thanks! Take care.




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