Yes, yes... I know, but I have one more chunk from HOSTEL 2 to share... Quint's interview with Eli Roth!
Published at: June 6, 2007, 1:08 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I know this happens sometimes. Sometimes a film will be completely overcovered on this site. It does happen, but it’s not as sinister as some make it out to be. For FIRST SNOW, Capone and I ended up arranging interviews at the same time and not even knowing it. The result was we had four or five interviews that went up with the cast and filmmakers that week.
Here with HOSTEL, PART TWO the same thing happened. It didn’t help that there were two screenings of the film in AICN territory (Chicago for Capone and Austin for Harry, myself and the Austin gang).
I thought for a few minutes about just repeating Capone’s questions, word for word. I wanted to see how long I could get away with it. That would have been pretty funny, but in the end I just wanted to talk up a few key points with Mr. Roth, mostly concerning the MPAA and current state and possible future of horror movies.
And here’s our chat! (PS... The very first image is NSFW... don't say I didn't warn ya')
[That shot comes from a NYMag story, not my private folder]
Eli Roth: Well it was fine, at first it was like they were joking and the lady was whipping me and you’re going “Haha, this is fun,” and then the girl comes out with cookie tray and she started whacking me. I’m like, “Hey, you’re going to break my tail bone. I have to sit on airplanes tomorrow…” [He laughs]
Then it was like “Oww, I’m not kidding.” She just kept whacking and whacking harder… then the other girl with the whip started going, so then the two of them kind of did this sort of windmill. They really turned it on. I mean… it turned me on in the process. Yeah, they were really hitting me hard at the end.
[Kraken, photographer extraordinaire, points out a suspicious and familiar tattoo on Eli’s arm. Intern Muldoon, also in the room, chimes in asking if it’s real.]
Eli Roth: My tattoo? No no no. I wouldn’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery if it was real.
[Kraken then said it would be cool to include the temporary tattoos with the DVD]
Eli Roth: They did! HOSTEL ONE, and then they misprinted them and they came out this big [Eli holds up his hands to show the size – almost the size of a regular sheet of paper].
Quint: So it’s more like a chest tattoo?
Eli Roth: Yeah, it’s like it’d literally have to go all the way across your back. They were going to come out with the first one. That’s what I said; I wanted temporary tattoos for the DVDS… for the kids, so… It’s no big deal; hopefully they will do them the correct size this time.
Quint: So did you like the reaction last night?
Eli Roth: I was… yeah, I was thrilled.
Quint: Did it live up to the [Alamo] Drafthouse Standard?
Eli Roth: Oh yeah, I mean. You know it’s weird at the Drafthouse, they can be the best crowd in the world, but they can be tough critics too. You can either get people that are on your side or the bitter fanboys that are cracking jokes and hate everything, but the crowd last night was amazing and you know, the whole movie is a build up to that ending. You know, where as the last one there was more violence spread out, this is much more targeted strikes, but with more intensity.
The reaction at the end, when people are just going fucking crazy, was awesome. It brought the house down, I was really happy. I mean it’s tough, everyone’s… there were very high expectations and you’ve got to meet those expectations and it’s tough to do kind of “new…” it’s like how do you give people what they want but also do something completely original? It’s really a difficult challenge to do, so I thought the reaction last night was terrific.
Quint: When I first heard the story described to me, to me I was hoping it wasn’t going to be the interesting story in the background, with the businessmen, and the foreground was a repeat of the first one, but with the girls. I was really happy to see last night, that it was a completely different structure. It wasn’t the same structure and same pacing…
Eli Roth: It’s a completely different structure and it’s a completely different point of view. This one, we are genuinely telling parallel stories and we leave our main (characters). We now have the luxury that we can leave our main characters essentially, for ten minutes at a time, and get involved in the lives of these business men and watch them, and then the girls and watch everyone slowly and slowly come together.
I thought, you know, it’s going to be a big risk obviously leaving your main characters to introduce other main characters, who you’re supposed to empathize with and you’re supposed to like, even though they’re sick… they’re funny as hell and entertaining and enjoyable to watch. I thought if I could really make these guys likeable and really humanize them, then at the end when everyone is together I figured it would make the whole third act so much more tense when everyone is in this horrible place.
Now that everyone knows what’s going on, we can get right into it. It’s not about the setup anymore. We dive in much quicker.
Quint: It’s also interesting who you choose to give the big character turnarounds to. I expected it with the girls, but not with the killers…
Eli Roth: Right and I don’t want to give away what happens, but everybody goes through some sort of character arc and the girls go through it in very different ways than the guys do, but you know, you can really see it most with Bijou [Phillips]. Where she’s like tough, sassy, cool, and confident and flirty, putting on some bubbly voice for the Italian guy, and by the end she’s just a scared screaming little girl. And Lauren [German] is kind of shy and sweet and really has to assert herself.
With the guys, it was great… actors love to go nuts, so you take every actor in the film, all of them have that moment where they’re kind of losing their mind. Those are the moments that they live for and I thought they did such a great job. I thought they were all terrific in those moments. Richard [Burgi] and Roger [Bart] are just so God damn funny.
I think Richard Burgi… I think he can do anything and I’ll just be entertained, even when he’s golfing and checking his (cell phone) and…“ that’s what I’m talking about!” Everything the guy does, I find so unbelievably amusing. And Roger, I think, has a good sympathetic quality. You’re really rooting for these guys to do the right thing by the time they get there.
Quint: I’d like to talk about the MPAA, because I was surprised to hear last night that they were okay to deal with. Maybe not pleasant, but…
Eli Roth: It is pleasant. I called the MPAA and… first the film comes back and they have comments. They’re like “OK, well we think in this version the film would be NC-17, but these are the areas why we think it pushes it into that particular rating. Do you wish to accept that rating?” And you don’t appeal right then, you say “OK, well what are the areas of concern?” and after you submit, that’s when I kind of start talking to them.
You know, I had spoken to them on GRINDHOUSE and THANKSGIVING… or Quentin [Tarantino] or Robert [Rodriquez] had talked to them and I wrote a letter with telling them all the changes I did. And they saw that, you know?
I had a great experience with them. They are very easy to work with, so when we talk about stuff I really listen to what they have to say and I really try to address it. You know, if you can really make an effort to address what their areas of concern are, they in turn make an effort to protect what you are trying to do. I think that when you take a combative approach with them, nobody wins. I think a lot of filmmakers instantly do that and I think the MPAA… they’re not out to ruin your movie or make it worse – they have a job to do. They are the referee essentially for the parents of America and you know, we had an interesting discussion.
They said “You know, we got a lot of complaints from HOSTEL” and I said “Well… what other movie are they going to complain about? I mean if there is a film to complain about, it’s HOSTEL. People aren’t going to complain about HAPPY FEET,” and they go “Actually we got a lot of complaints about HAPPY FEET,” and I go, “That just goes to show that people will complain about anything and I’m sure there will be complaints about HOSTEL PART 2, but at least now people know what they’re in for.”
I said, “Look, my fans that are going to see this are going back for more of what they specifically liked about the first one and a lot of them… they loved the violence in the first one, they love it. They love the gore.” I was like “That’s my stars guys. That’s all I have. I have to compete with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Johnny Depp… you know… Toby Maguire and how am I going to compete with that? Well the way to compete with that is you have the great kill.” I was like, “I need that ending. I need it! That’s my movie star, it’s that.”
And they said “You know what, we get it, we understand.” They know that I approached it intelligently when I was filming it. They know there was thought behind it and I had a great experience whereas in other countries… nobody sees it from my point of view, but from the filmmaker’s point of view, making a movie that is violent in Europe. A lot of the European territories, even with an 18 rating, they still won’t show the movie. I had no idea it was like that. I didn’t experience that at all with CABIN FEVER, because CABIN FEVER isn’t nearly as rough, but on HOSTEL 1, it was like “Your film might not play in Germany,” and luckily we got through, but now with HOSTEL 2, the German censors are upset about it and HOSTEL 1 never even came out in theaters in Japan, even with Tarantino’s name on it. It was that offensive to them. They think that HOSTEL 2 will be fine, but it was just having a Japanese girl with her face burned off…
So there are weird things that other cultures react really strongly to that you can’t really predict, but the MPAA is the only system where you can actually have a discussion about it.
Quint: Is this a change in the MPAA since the shake up or whatever? Since they’ve come out and have decided to be more “filmmaker friendly?”
Eli Roth: Yeah, I think that Jack Valenti had a very particular… I think he set the whole system up, but he had a particular style and that style was keeping the anonymity, you know, keeping the people anonymous and keeping the filmmakers and the ratings board (separate, so) you didn’t know who these people were. The truth is, you talk to them on the phone and you know them. Like the person I talk to at the ratings board, I’ve known for years, so when I call the ratings board, it’s not like I call the MPAA. I talk to the same guy I talk to every time and he was really helpful in HOSTEL 1. I talked to him on HOSTEL, THANKSGIVING, and HOSTEL PART 2.
It’s like, with Quentin, he deals with the same people, and so keeping them secret isn’t really… it’s not going to influence them. The fear was that you have influence over them, which you don’t. I think there are a lot of people there that want it as well, they want to talk to the filmmakers, because they really are a part of the film community, but it’s like they’re this part of the film community and they’re not allowed to have contact with anyone and I think that it frustrated a lot of people over there as much as it frustrated the filmmakers.
With Valenti, that’s the way he wanted it. You know, it’s sort of like when communism… when there was glass roofs, there’s openness. That was the new policy under Gorbachev and that’s sort of what it’s like now. It’s a much more open place. You can’t just show up there, but still, I know a number of the raters over there they know me and they know that we can have a discussion where I’ll listen to what they say.
Quint: What do you think the future of horror is? I mean, this kind of horror always comes in waves and I don’t think torture horror’s going to last much longer. Obviously your next project (Stephen King’s CELL) is not going to be the same thing. Where do you think horror is going now?
Eli Roth: Well, I think that right now, there has been a kind of wave of films in the wake of HOSTEL and SAW, that are gruesome, really violent movies and I think that if you keep making great movies, people will come to see them, but I think there’s been a lot of crap out there. There have been a number of really bad horror films that just went out of their way to be extra gruesome and that was all they were selling the movie on.
We had some great ones… I thought 28 WEEKS LATER was terrific. The market’s pretty flooded right now and it just depends on what the public appetite is.
Honestly, it’s up to the public. If HOSTEL PART 2 does well, then you’ll get more films like it. If it doesn’t do well, then people are looking for an excuse to turn on horror… to go back to PG-13, non offensive safe horror movies. It’s all up to the public. I guarantee you there are a whole bunch of movies going into production like KNOCKED UP.
Eli Roth: But, people think “Oh, everybody wants to see romantic comedies,” and it’s like well actually Judd Apatow is a genius and everybody loves Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd is awesome. You know it’s Judd Apatow, but people will look at it and go “No, well everybody wants a funny romantic comedy about relationships” and they just want to copy the trend of something.
That’s why we have PIRATES 3 and SPIDER-MAN 3 and SHREK 3… they’re not making them, because they think they’re better movies. They make them, because that’s what’s going to make money. I think that if the public appetite is still there and they come out and support HOSTEL PART 2, then it’ll keep the R rated horror going. HOSTEL PART 2 is very high profile, so if people don’t see it and support it, then it’ll be the excuse, the very reason why people won’t make the movies. They’ll be like “Ah, look at HOSTEL PART 2.” That’s another reason why I keep my costs so low, so the film’s guaranteed to make a profit. That speaks volumes to them. That makes a difference.
Quint: Now we have talked a little bit about the possible impact that Virginia Tech will have on not just this movie but horror in general, because I’m thinking back to the most violent-horrific shit that came out of the studio systems in terms of horror… Look back at THE EXORCIST or even the independent system, when we saw TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE hit in the ‘70s, we were coming out of a horrible war…
Eli Roth: It was all a reaction to Vietnam.
Eli Roth: I think… I genuinely think that the two issues are so separate. One has nothing to do with the other. I mean, Cho very clearly stated that the reason he did it was because of the Columbine kids… the year he moved to America, that was when Columbine was all over television, so you could much more easily blame the media. He called them martyrs and hero… it had nothing to do with movies…
Quint: I’m just saying in terms of reaction of the movie going audiences. Horror movies have generally been more successful in war-time.
Eli Roth: We’ll see. I think that with the public, it’s completely separate. I mean look at DISTURBIA, it was number 1 at the box office, even though it’s a much tamer film, it’s still called DISTURBIA and it’s a thriller and people still went to see it because they heard it was good. I believe if you make a great movie, people will come see it and I think that it helps.
But like in the interview with Capone, with the soldiers in Iraq writing and telling me how popular HOSTEL is… I’m like “Why would you watch it after what you see?” and they love it. It allows them to scream. It’s the only time they’re allowed to be scared and show fear and I think that when people go to the movies on a Friday night that is the farthest thing on their mind.
Quint: Current events?
Eli Roth: Yeah, current events. They’re going to the movie specifically to tune that stuff out and have a fun time and I think that the key is to give them a great date movie, I mean, that’s the goal. That’s what I think HOSTEL PART 2 will be in the same way that I do think KNOCKED UP will be, it’s a different type of date movie, it’s not the sweet romantic type, but it’s the kind where you’re going to be grabbing your date’s hand and squeezing their arm and you know, you’re going to have your arms all over each other. It’s that kind of a date movie, it’s like a rollercoaster ride.
Quint: Cool, well yeah I guess the only other issue that I’d like to cover is the jump that you’re making as a filmmaker with your next project. CELL is your next movie, it’ll be the first movie that you’re dealing with someone else’s intellectual property. Is there any different way that you’re going to approach that?
Eli Roth: Well sure. I’ve read a lot of other interviews with other directors over the years… I know in that Stanley Kubrick book he talks about it a lot, why he adapted books and preferred to do it that way.
I think the key is to personalize it. You’re not filming the book, you’re adapting the book. That’s the key, in the adaptation, take the elements of the book that really interest you and spark your creativity and imagination and expand on that and use that as a basis for the story.
But I love Stephen King and thought it was a really cool idea. It’s one of those ideas where you go “That’s a really cool idea that would be an awesome movie.” Edgar Wright says “There are movies you love and movies you wish you had made” and if someone else did it I’d be like “Man, I wish I had done that movie, that would have been really cool.”
Look, I’ve done 3 movies now which I’ve written… the first one I co-wrote, but these last two written and directed by and I’m very proud of them and I’ll continue to do that, but it’s also the first time I’m now in a position where I could adapt a Stephen King book. I love Stephen King, so it’s just one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do… one of those childhood dreams, to adapt a Stephen King story.
It’s a much bigger film, it’s a much longer process, and it wouldn’t go nearly as fast as HOSTEL PART 2 did, but you know, I’ll need to get some sleep before (I start it). I don’t know, we’ll see how it is. I’ll let you know at the end of it.
I talked to Quentin about it. Quentin didn’t like it with JACKIE BROWN. I think that there was a part of him… I think he loves JACKIE BROWN, but you know, you can see KILL BILL… he created his own universe and his own characters and I think he did it once and I don’t think he’ll adapt ever again, so you can only know… I mean I might do it and maybe have the best experience of my life doing it, so I’ll never know until I try.
And that’s our chat.
I’m also going to use this as an excuse to give my basic thoughts on the movie. I’m uncomfortable writing a full review due to my closeness to the production. From my history with Eli and my set visit, etc. But if you want to know what I thought, I’ll say that Roger Bart and Heather Matarazzo steal the movie. Richard Bergi is great and so is Lauren German. The cast and how they work together is what makes this movie work for me.
The gore is there. If you like gore, you’ll get it. But the characters, especially those of the businessmen, are real successes of this movie. I love Bart’s arc.
It really is a companion piece to the first movie, not a rehash. I also must say I got a kick out of the Friday the 13th sequel beginning. Eighties slasher fans will know what I’m talking about.
Alright, guys. Looks like a busy couple weeks for me. We have a ton of “final month of the Alamo” events and on top of that I’m interviewing half a dozen different people next week. Then I’m off to London for 5 days to interview the young cast of a particularly popular fantasy series and back again. I’ll have some free time in London, so London AICNers feel free to drop me an email… add on to all that the quickly approaching Comic-Con in July and my head’s already spinning.