Writer/Director Eli Roth made a surprise appearance at the Grindhouse junket this past weekend. Quentin Tarantino had to cut out early and Roth was called. The Cabin Fever director came running directly from the Hostel: Part II editing room. The resulting 20 minute roundtable interview is intense. Roth talks about his trailer Thanksgiving which is included in Grindhouse, getting cast in Tarantino’s Death Proof, acting opposite Kurt Russell, Masters of Horror, Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz, and the director reveals some details about Hostel: Part II and the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s Cell. You can listen to the interview below (highly reccomended) or read the transcript below (If you’ve ever heard Eli Roth speak, you know this option is far less fun).
Question: How did you get cast in Death Proof?
Eli Roth: I got a call from his assistant who I’m friends with and she was like “Mr. Tarantino would like you to audition for a role in Death Proof.” And I was like, that’s really weird because you know, I’m not an actor. But the role was kinda a dorky Jewish guy trying to have sex with Jordan Ladd and failing miserably. And that’s what I’ve been doing for five years. [Laughs] It’s pretty in my zone. So I was actually casting Hostel 2 when I had to drive down to Venice, there was like an hour of traffic and there were actors waiting a Quentin’s casting office. And of course, Quentin isn’t there. There’s a video camera, and I’m like Oh God. And I look at the sign in sheet and the person ahead of me was Derick Richardson, from Hostel and he was like “What are you doing here? Aren’t you like a big director now?” I was like “Don’t Ask, don’t ask.” And I sat there and I read, and I could not have been worse. I mean, I did everything that I was conscious of what I don’t want to see in an audition, and I did that. There was an air conditioning going and Mary, the woman there, said “Is there air conditioner distracting you?” And I was like “Yeah, it’s the air conditioner and the fact that I’m picturing Quentin watching the video tape later watching the video tape laughing his ass off.” So we turned the air off and we did it again and that was it. Then I got another call from Pollar, “Mr. Tarantino would like you to audition again.” I got a call back. So I was like, oh no, this is getting serious. I was like “The jokes over.” So now I have to go to his house, which is fine because I go to his house a lot. But I sit there and there he is in his screening room with Mary and we come in and we read. And it seemed to go well but I’m having this out of body experience because he’s right there in front of me and he’s acting out the scene with me. [Laughs] And he gets really into it. And I was like this is so weird. It went really well and he was like “Hey, do you want to come over later? I just got a new 35mm print of Sergio Martino’s Sex with a Smile with Edwige Fenech, Marty Feldman, and Barbara Bouchet. And he was like “Come over and watch it.” And I was like “sure.” So literally at like 4:00, I left his house, for like four hours and came back at 8:00 and it was just the two of us, watching this movie. But it was like I couldn’t mention anything that happened that afternoon. It was like we couldn’t talk about it. It was so weird. And then I got the call where she was like “I have really bad news: Quentin really wants you to be in the movie.” And what happened was his shoot got pushed back. And I was like “I’m leaving tomorrow for Prague.” I was like, “Look, I really wanted to do this but I’m prepping Hostel 2, and we’re seven weeks out from shooting.” And he was like “No, it will be cool. We have this big scene in a bar and you’ll just come down and we’ll figure it out. You know, it’s Grindhouse, so you could just disappear.” And that’s what happened. So I said, alright. I told everyone in preproduction that during one week, I’m going to evaporate, and I’m going to go to Texas and be in Quentin’s movie. And it was actually great because the production companies, you know, the offices synched up so I could be there doing a take, and than like a P.A. would come up to me with a bunch of designs I’d have to approve. But it was exhausting. And afterwards I cam back and I was like “Guys, well this is how Quentin does it on setâ€¦” It was like I got this last minute master crash course in directing. And I had so much fun and Quentin really just let me go. There’s this scene at the bar, and he was like “Just make up some stuff about Kurt Russell.” I never met Kurt Russell and I was so excited to meet him and be in a scene with him. And there I was just rattling off insults, just going off on him and after the first take, Quentin goes “Cut!” and the whole crew breaks out laughing and Kurt just threw a whole bowl of Nachos hit me, and he was like “You dick!” And I was like “Sorry, I’m sorry! You’re my hero! I’m so sorry! Quentin told me to! It’s his fault!” But it was great, and then I remember, for the close-up of that big monologue, we just did one take and Quentin’s like “Great! Lets go to lunch!” And I was like “Woah, woah woah! You can’t just go to lunch dude, it’s my Quentin Tarantino monologue in close-up. I get more than one take!?” Because Quentin and I are friends, he goes “Well, we’re going to go into a meal penalty so don’t fuck it up and, Action!” I’m not kidding you, right before a take. The steadicam shot where everyone’s doing drinks. He comes to me and says “Alright, we’re running late and we might go into overtime and just, uh, don’t fuck it up. Ready, go!” [Laughs] He would do that shit.
Question: Are you more sympathetic towards actors now?
Eli Roth: I’ve always been sympathetic towards actors as is evidenced by Hostel. No but it was kind of great to do that to get in their mindset. I felt bad because I kind of saw the stuff that goes on in the trailers, and the stuff they talk about the director.
Question: How much footage did the MPAA make you cut from the Thanksgiving Day trailer? The controversial Cheerleader shotâ€¦
Eli: Yeah, it’s kind of hilarious that it was that. Honestly, when I shot that trailer for Thanksgiving, I really thought there was no problem with anything. It shows you how generally out of touch I am. A full frontal labia shot of a girl landing on a knife seemed like no problem to me. It’s an exploitation movie, it’s my job to exploit. If I don’t exploit this girl, I have failed as a Grindhouse director. I mean, these guys are expecting a lot from me. We showed it to the ratings board and it’s funny that my trailer ended up getting more comments than Death Proof or Planet Terror combined. And the ratings board is great. I said, what if we scratch the film, kind of like a scratch ticket and literally take out the full frontal nudity. Using scratching and clever editing, it isn’t there and they were great about it. And they even let me keep the Turkey sex. He’s having sex with a turkey, it’s a cooked turkey, but it’s actually not a full turkey. I mean, if someone were having sex with a live turkey, that would be gratuitous. Someone having sex with a cooked turkey with a decapitated head on top of it, so it’s more of a turkey/human hybrid really.
Question: Are you going to shoot Thanksgiving?
Eli: Here’s part of the problem, I had so much fun shooting that trailer that it’s kind of all I want to do now. Because the whole trailer is just money shots. It’s one money shot after money shot. It’s killing, nudity. Normally you have to write the kill, than write the story, the subtext, and make excuses for it but this is just pure unadulterated gratuitous sex and violence. And I felt like I was 13 years old and I had a video camera with my friends. “Are they really letting us do this?” I heard that Stanley Kubrick did a lot of takes on Eyes Wide Shut, but it was nothing compared to the amount of takes that we did when we had that cheerleading bouncing around naked. I was like Great, she got it on the first take but we just did take after TAKE after TAKE. And we finished early, we had like three hours. We were like “How much film do we have? Alright, lets just do it again.” And she just had a smile on her face the whole time, it was great.
Question: Can you give everyone here an exclusive on Hostel 2â€¦ What I’m really curious about is Jay. Why is he coming back? What is he doing in the movie?
Eli Roth: Well, there’s a lot of different storylines that I wanted to continue and think about. I was trying to think of what I would want to see if I was watching the sequel. And if you took out the credits of the first one, Boom, what happened next? And there are other storylines that I wanted to introduce. And I wanted to see things from the killer’s point of view. I wanted to see girls getting lured there. And I really wanted to make the movie feel like that sequence where he’s in the locker room with the business man going “How did you do it? How did you kill?” That scene, and the scene in the pub with the girls where he’s trying to ask them questions, but really can’t get answers and he’s not sure if they are answering him or if it’s lost in translation. That kind of uncertain, uncomfortable, really awkward, creepy tone â€“ that’s what I wanted the whole movie to feel like. But I literally wanted the movie to pick up at the next cut of Jay Hernandez and the train if you took out that end credits, what happens next?
Question: Do you know why the movies are being released separately overseas?
Eli: I think that overseas, the concept of a double feature â€“ there is some non-English language countries that have never had a double feature before. So to say, “Come see a double feature” I think it’s so much conceptually for them to get around that it’s just easier for them to sell it as separate. That’s what I’ve heard anyways.
Question: What’s going on with Cell?
Eli: Cell, the writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski are writing it. They wrote 1408, Ed Wood, and The People vs. Larry Flint. And now that I’m getting closer to locking picture on Hostel 2, I’ve been meeting with them more regularly. They’re working on the draft.
Question: I’m from Massachusetts too, and they go to my home town â€“ so keep that in there.
Eli: It’s interesting because looking at my favorite scene, um, the first question was can I deviate from the book or am I going to piss off Stephen King? Like he was mad at Stanley Kubrick, I don’t want him mad at me. Apparently Stephen King was like “Do whatever you want.” My feeling is I’ll always do what’s best for the film. There are certain elements that make the book great but I think first and foremost, you owe it to the movie. I’m looking at Stephen King adaptations like Carrie and Creepshow â€“ Creepshow is dead on and The Shining deviates, and it’s still a great film. The keyword is it’s an adaptation of the book not a replication of the book.
Question: It has a great opening scene, which sort of defines the book. Are you going to preserve that?
Eli: I love it. Yeah. I love the opening but I also want to keep that not necessarily that insane chaotic tone, but I want to keep the tension of the opening 40 pages of the book and I want to introduce other elements because I think that book, for me where it loses tension, is where suddenly you don’t feel like the phone crazies are trying to kill them. You feel like theyâ€¦ and I find that there should be other ways that you still feel the tension that any second they could get killed.
Question: Is it going to be set in Boston?
Eli: Yes, Boston, Definitely.
Question: Back to Hostel 2 for a second, what is your running time? Have you gone before the ratings board?
Eli: Well, right now the running time of the movie is about 93 minutes with front end credits. I wanted the movie, it’s pretty tight. I don’t think it needs to be longer than that, and I don’t want it shorter than that. But we’re going before the ratings board now. I was waiting for Grindhouse was over. I was like, I can’t do this to these people, you know? [Laughs] I can’t hit them with both the Thanksgiving trailer and Hostel 2 in the same week. I mean, that’s just not right. I was waiting until Grindhouse was cleared up and we got our R-rating on that and we’re getting our date to submit to them.
Question: Getting to the stuff you might have to cut from Hostel 2, do you have a lot of stuff for the DVD? Are you already thinking about that?
Eli: Actually, literally today I was over at the editing room editing some deleted scenes and other stuff for the DVD. I got a call and they were like, “Hey, we’re doing the press junket â€“ come over.” Cool. But yeah, there’s always extra stuff for the DVD but most of the deleted stuff on the DVD is stuff I cut for time. It depends on how it goes with the ratings board. The goal is to make a better scarier movie. I think that you can easily make a more violent movie. I think that you can easily just show body parts getting chopped up, and there â€“ your movie is more violent. But that wasn’t my intention with Hostel 2. I really wanted people to come out of the movie and go “That was better than the first movie and it was scarier.” And yeah, it’s got the violence that you expect from Hostel. And it’s gruesome but I really just wanted to make a better, smarter, scarier film.
Question: I know there was talk a little while back that maybe yourself and James Wann would do some Masters of Horror stuff?
Eli: The Masters of Horror stuff, it would be really fun to do one but I just haven’t had time. It’s something where I enjoy the show and I’d love to do it, and Mick Garris gave me an open invitation to do one. But it’s really just been synching up my schedule and figuring out when I could actually do it. And Grindhouse and Hostel 2 at the same time was a bit exhausting, and I just want to rest up and then probably jump into the cell.
Question: What is Jay’s character doing in Hostel 2?
Eli: You guys will find out when you see it. But it’s literally going to pick up where the last one left off.
Question: Speaking of gratuitous, did you have a hand in the Hostel 2 poster? And what is that?
Eli: I wish I could take any credit for the Hostel 2 poster. That is boar meat, wild boar meat. That is the marketing at Lionsgate that did that. And I thought it was brilliant because the genius of that poster is if that was hanging at the supermarket, you would go “oh, let’s have steak tonight.” But you put it in a movie theater with the words “Hostel 2″ and they go “That’s the sickest thing I’ve ever seen.” And it’s all the power of suggestion. And I think that there is obviously comparisons to mostâ€¦ it’s aware that any time people see women in a horror film all these girls are pieces of meat, and literally in Hostel: Part II, that’s all they are. They are the bait. They are the meat. They are the grist for the mill. I thought it was actually a really smart poster. And it’s really really disgusting. I love it.
Question: Have you heard about M Night’s Green Effect? There are certain similarities with Cell?
Eli: There are a few. I’ve heard about M Night’s movie. I’ve heard about The Signal. You know, I’m not really concerned about those films. And from what I’ve heard about M Nights, although I have not read it, but I heard it was different enough. But I think end of the world, apocalypse is on everyone’s mind these days unfortunately. I feel it comes in waves. Remember 1984, the day after came out and the nuclear war. I think we’re kind of in this apocalyptic phase in culture right now.
Question: So no Romantic Comedies for you right now?
Eli: I think that Thanksgiving is aâ€¦ [Laughs] I have a very romantic scene in there with Jordan Ladd. And I think it’s comedic. I honestly think all movies should look andâ€¦ that’s my romantic comedy. Truthfuly. “Thanksgiving” The thing has a lot of romance.
Question: What’s your favorite holiday horror?
Eli: Ah, there are so many good ones. Well this is the thing, growing up in Massachusetts, every year in the 1980′s there was a new holidayâ€¦ First there was Halloween, Black Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night, then there is April Fools Day, Friday the 13thâ€¦ But when is New Years Evil? And when is the Thanksgiving one coming? It’s so freaking obvious because we have two fucking fulltime working pilgrim plantations in Massachusetts. You have Sturbridge Village and Plymouth Plantation. And you go out there and you’re like “Do you have television?” And they’re like “We know not of this television?!” And you’re like “yeah, did you see that Celtics game last night?” “Yeah, how did DG miss that free throw!” And you just try to bust the pilgrims and they’re like “I churn butter.” And you’re like “Dude, how did you get here? What’s that in the parking lot? I don’t see horses.” But that was me. That was a big deal, Pilgrims in Massachusetts. I’ve been dying for that. I love My Bloody Valentine but the style and look of this one or what we were going for. On the DVD there is a German and Italian trailer for Maniac. My DP and I watch The Prowler and Maniac, Silent Night Dealy Night and Mothers Day. You know what, Mothers Day, hands down, is my altime favorite. I wasn’t friends with enough girls, shockingly, to have a dance at my bar mitzvah so we had arcade machines. We had Qubert, Frogger, Ms. Pacman, and we watched Mothers Day. And that’s what we did. And literally it was 40 little fat jews in the basement cheering on decapitations. And look what happened. This is what happened when you watch violent movies growing up.
Question: There are so many remakes now-a-days and now they are doing Pirana and Prom Night and allâ€¦
Eli: Yeah, I know. Because I get offered all of them first. I don’t mean before those guys. I’m on the short listâ€¦ There is always like a few guys that they go to right away as soon as they get the rights to a remake. I didn’t mean to say that as disparaging the other guys. It’s like everyone gets them at the same time. But my feeling is, I love original ideas and I think you have to support original ideas but without remakes, we wouldn’t have John Carpenter’s The Thing. We wouldn’t have Chuck Russell’s The Blob. We wouldn’t have Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. We wouldn’t have the hammer horror of the 60′s. So I think that you just can’t blanketly ignore remakes. You can’t just go “Why are they doing all these remakes?!” You can on one level, but c’mon if Zack Snyder had not directed Dawn of the Dead we wouldn’t have the 300. So everyone needs to keep that in mind. As long as it’s a good movie, I’m all for it. Conceptually doing a remake? Yeah, I wish there were more original ideas. But if someone does a remake and does a great job with it, how is that a bad thing?
Question: Did you attend and of Quentin’s marathon movie sessions?
Eli: Oh yeah, all the stuff grew out of that. I remember Edgar Wright, when he came to town, we went over to Quentin’s house and Quentin did an all night horrorthon. We watched Blood Splatter Bride and Zombie in a Torso. It’s great. There are a lot of these movies. And the great thing about Quentin, and Robert too, but Quentin really loves, that guy can really open up your eyes to a whole part of cinema that you may have never seen before. Sort of what he did with the crime films of the 70′s, exploitation, karate films, kung-fu movies. I mean, people look at movies like this differently after Quentin says “Hey, you know what, I know you’re all making fun of the dubbing but look at how good this action is. This is actually a great fight scene.” And it really gets you over making fun of and saying “okay, I get it â€“ they didn’t have much money. They didn’t have big name actors. But there is actually a lot of great stuff in here.” And there are a lot of films that Quentin has that you just can’t find on video, or maybe there is an old VHS but you can’t find them on DVD. God, the first time was after a screening of Cabin Fever at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the next night Quentin invited me to go over to his house and I couldn’t believe it. We watched Howard Burger’s print of The War of the Gargantuas. And we’re all sitting in the theater and there is this horrible musical interlude in the middle of this film before the Gargantua eats her and everyone starting singing it. I hadn’t watched it since I was a kid and it was such a fun bonding moment. Experiences like that, there are these movies from childhood that I’ve always wanted to see that I’ve never seen before and Quentin would run them on movie night. And he always has good popcorn, and there are always fun people there. Sometimes I go over there and expect a huge crowd and it’s just me and him. And I’m like “oh wow, he’s got a projectionist just for me and we’ll sit and watch three of four movies in a row with trailers and just talk about movies.”
Question: Do you have the acting bug now? Are you going to pop up in more movies?
Eli: I think that three times I’ve been in movies. And all three times I’ve been trying to have sex on camera with Jordan Ladd and then getting ripped in half, decapitated, or you think I’m going to get killed, and if they had followed my storyline, Kurt Russell would have run me over because I’m such a dick in the movie. So I think as long as I continue to attempt to have sex with Jordan Ladd, I’ll continue to be killed on camera, definitely. But I’ll only do it for my friends.
Question: Can you give your reaction to Egar’s Hot Fuzz?
Eli: Well, Hot Fuzz is a masterpiece. We had a screening of Hot Fuzz at Quentin’s house and it was so loud our ears were bleeding by the end of it, but I was in awe. It was so well done and so funny. He made it look like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, in the best possible way. I could not believe he genuinelyâ€¦ Edgar, Simon and Nick â€“ their writing is so, there is just nobody like those guys. The writing, the directing, the action, it’s just so sharp and so tight. I’ve been a fan of them since the series Spaced. And it’s just incredible to watch. It’s just like finally you feel like the geeks are starting to get power and the people who should be getting money to make movies, like Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie and Zack Snyder â€“ it’s great to see these guys starting to get budgets and getting the freedom to do what they do well. It’s a great time.
Question: Will you work with Edgar?
Eli: We’ll do something together, we’ll be involved in some way in something. We’re going to have a birthday party together. Right now, it’s in April, we have the same birthday.
Question: Are you going to let Stephen King cameo in Cell?
Eli: If he’d like to, sure. There is always room. That’s the good thing about Cell, because it’s like crazy people running around trying â€“ everyone who wants to get killed, you’ll all die in Cell. Everyone who wants to be killed in Cell, there’s room and there is plenty of blood for everybody.
Question: Will you shoot in Boston?
Eli: I’d love to shoot in Boston, we’ll see.
Question: Is it your next project?
Eli: Definitely the next project is sleep. I’d love to tackle that next, but we’re going to have to wait to see when the script comes in. And then if there is actionâ€¦ There are just a number of factors. I’d like to make it my next project, yeah. I’d love to.
Grindhouse hits theaters on April 6th 2007.