Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

Eli Roth chats with Capone about producing THE LAST EXORCISM and his (likely) next directing effort, ENDANGERED SPECIES!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. You all know Eli Roth. He's a longtime friend to the site, and I remember meeting him at some Butt Numb-a-Thon even before CABIN FEVER was released and thinking, "Who the heck is this strikingly handsome man?" Turns out it was Harry. But right next to Harry was Eli Roth, and he was a very cool dude as well. It's been three years since Roth wrote and directed HOSTEL: PART II, and in the interim he's been doing a whole lot of acting (DEATH PROOF, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, and the recent 3D release PIRANHA) and dabbling in producing other people's films as well. The first of these endeavors is THE LAST EXORCISM, a documentary-style feature from director Daniel Stamm, and my love for the film is so strong, I'm apparently being quoted in the recent TV ads (according to Roth at the end of this interview). This wasn't a particularly long interview, and about this film, I could talk for hours, especially to Eli. He's always a lot of fun to gab with about what he's got going on and his role as producer on THE LAST EXORCISM. I wish I'd had time to get into his producing duties on the upcoming THE OTHER WOMAN (from Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland, the writers of EXORCISM and the writer-directors of the upcoming THE VIRGINITY HIT), the FUNHOUSE remake (in 3D!), or THE MAN WITH THE IRON FIST (which he co-wrote with RZA, so I'm guessing there will be martial arts involved). Please enjoy Eli Roth, and be warned: there is much discussion of the controversial ending of THE LAST EXORCISM, so this whole interview could be perceived as a big-ol' spoiler
Eli Roth: Yo! Capone: Hey, what’s up, man? ER: What’s up, man? How are you? Capone: Good, good. ER: I heard you guys had an awesome screening in Chicago. Capone: That was my take on it. I’m glad [director] Daniel [Stamm] thought so, too. ER: Oh he loved it. In fact, he said you guys had such a terrific discussion, too. Capone: I’ve got to say though. I have to say, the audience was particularly vocal, and he was encouraging of even sort of dissenting opinions, especially on the ending. Without getting into it so much, have you noticed that in other places, a real divisive response to the ending? ER: Yeah, well we knew the ending was going to split people. Without… “Spoiler Alert,” but looking back, the film keeps you guessing and doesn’t take a position until the final scene, when it says “This is what's happening.” Some people don’t want it to go that way and they almost feel the film--with what happens at the end--almost betrays the rest of the movie. But in my opinion, it’s the only way it could have happened, in the way that Cotton cheats all of these people out of money by using clichés of THE EXORCIST to prey on their fears by shaking the bed, moving the picture, using the demonic voices, and all of the stereotypes associated with exorcism. This group--this cult at the end--they are very aware that Cotton is filming them, so you always get the sense that, without Cotton there, they would have done something… He would have just called the police, but because they are putting on this outlandish ceremony, he can’t help but continue filming. The whole film ultimately is to teach Cotton a lesson, that there are forces that are bigger than you and that his faith is continuously tested and he fails at every turn, because he never believes she is possessed. He always believes she has had a psychotic break. Capone: Right. ER: And that’s what I feel like the ending is about. The ceremony almost has nothing to do with Nell and has everything to do with Cotton, but it’s all to get him to the point where he’s just drawn into the fire. That’s what I loved about it, and it’s interesting, because the people who are deeply faithful and religious, they see that ending and they love it. And you know you could see Christy Lemire in her Associated Press review saying, “It all falls apart at the end.” Well it doesn’t, if you take the position that Nell was possessed from the beginning and the letter went to him, everything… even in the ceremony, the chant they are saying is “banana bread” backwards [a reference to a sermon Cotton gives at the beginning of the film]. It’s all meant to draw him in, and we like people coming out of the movie and arguing, going “What the fuck happened in the last five minutes” and the other goes “No, that’s exactly what should have happened, because Cotton was told ‘Nell’s in the fire, soon you will join her.'” He just thinks it’s a crazy girl rambling; he doesn’t take any of the warnings seriously, because he never believes in God and therefore never believes in the Devil until it’s too late, and that’s not true faith, that’s just a reaction to what you are seeing when the Devil is right in front of you. Capone: Are they really chanting that at the end? Is that really what they're saying? ER: Oh, yeah. Capone: I had no idea. ER: The whole thing… If it weren’t a ceremony with the fire and the robes, why would Cotton film it? He would call the police. Capone: Yeah, I get that, but I just didn’t realize that’s what the chant was. That’s hilarious. ER: Yeah, that’s the kind of thing where people would get the DVD and play it backwards and be like “Oh my God, this whole movie is about teaching Cotton a lesson.” He becomes the subject of his own documentary in a way he never expected. Capone: That’s kind of what I dig about the movie; it’s not in a huge rush to get to the fire-and-brimstone part, because it really is a documentary about a con man, and it’s not even a guy that we are supposed to like that much at the beginning. Or at least he has to work hard to get us to like him initially. ER: Well, we do like him, because when we meet him, he has already turned a corner in his life and is making the movie as a confessional. I think if he had said “Come watch me cheat people,” you would feel bad about it, but because he says, “We are going to cheat them, and then I’m going to show the world this video, so it never happens again,” you get the sense that ultimately the Sweetzer family would see this video and he would have to return their money. So when we laugh we are laughing at how Cotton is going to squirm later explaining all of this to people, but he actually comes from a place of wanting to do the right thing, he just goes about it all wrong. Even with Nell, he wants to help her, but he thinks she needs a psychiatrist, and Louis is the one who is so devoutly faithful. He believes she is possessed, but Louis believes anything. Louis believes that no reverend would ever lie to him. He believes that Pastor Manley would help his daughter. Louis is so devoutly faithful, it’s his unwillingness… It’s both of their unwillingness to see the other’s point of view, even to a single degree, that ultimately leads to everyone’s downfall. The person that doesn’t believe in God, never believes for a second that the Devil is real, and the person that only believes in the Bible will not see any other opinion and would think it inconceivable that a reverend would lie to him. Its just their absolute unwillingness to bend that gets everyone in trouble And the fun of the movie is that it does not take a side. The film has no agenda, or the film doesn’t have an opinion, I should say. It steps back and lets these sides argue it out until the ending, and then clearly someone edited it together, but we want people discussing “Well, who cut this film together and why? Do they want you to believe in the Devil? Do they want you to believe in God? Is this Cotton Marcus’s greatest trick?” Capone: That was my first question to Daniel in the Q&A: “Who made this movie?” ER: Harry was very funny. Harry was like “Ya’ll should have had credits from the cult members producing it.” We actually joked about that. We wanted to have like “Executive Producer, Director, Joseph Manley,” like have opening credits, but as if they didn’t quite know what order they went in or what the titles were, and went with like “Producing Supervisor Assistant Becky Flye,” like take all of the people from First Cavalry Presents. [Laugh] We had a whole thing with that, but we thought “Okay that’s becoming a gimmick; let's tell the story.” Capone: That’s funny. Daniel even threw out there, “Did the Devil make it? Did the Devil put it together?” ER: You could make that argument. We love those horror films. Like after THE THING, “Was MacReady a Thing? At what point would he have become one? Why wouldn’t he attack Childs? Are they both Things? Are they both human?” It’s so cool when a movie ends and the story is over, but it leads you to ask a whole bunch of new questions. Capone: Patrick [Fabian] in this role, he reminds us--and I think we need reminders of this every once in a while--that older actors are just as worthy of discovery as 20-something TV stars are. ER: Oh yeah, by the way, you could see that with Christoph Waltz in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Capone: Oh absolutely, yes. ER: And that’s what I said when we were casting. I said “We need to find our Christoph Waltz. We need someone that can carry the movie that hasn’t been discovered yet.” And it’s true, there are many great actors out there that have just never had the right role with the right director, and it’s to Daniel Stamm’s credit. He went through hundreds of actors before he came to Patrick and said “This is our guy.” We needed someone who not only would be able to carry the movie, but who would be likable and believable and some one you sympathize with. We wanted people to come out of this going “My God, who is that guy? He was amazing. What else have I seen him in? I can’t wait to see him again.” Same thing for Ashley Bell, I think that its really to Daniel’s credit he got such incredible performances. Capone: I had actually seen Patrick before. I remember him from "Big Love." ER: It’s either "Saved by the Bell: The College Years"or "Big Love." [Both Laugh] Capone: No, not "Saved by the Bell." It was "Big Love." Actually what it reminded me of, even though he’s not quite this old… I remember seeing Richard Jenkins in THE VISITOR and going “Who the hell is this guy?” You have those movies where you just know from that point forward you are going to remember that guy’s name, and this is that movie for Patrick. ER: I’m so excited for Patrick and Ashley, because they really are both popping from the film, as is Caleb Landry Jones, who got cast [as Banshee] in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. Capone: I had heard. That’s great. ER: Or Iris Bahr, people discovered her show "Svetlana," which is very, very funny online show. It’s hilarious, she plays a Russian whore. It’s really funny. So I think that everyone in the film comes off great and that’s to Daniel’s credit. He said, “If there’s one false note, the whole symphony falls apart.” Capone: Right. I had seen Daniel’s A NECESSARY DEATH a few years ago at SXSW, and when it was given to me, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t a documentary. So about the first three quarters of the film I thought it was a legit doc, and I really had to stop it at one point and go “This cannot be real.” ER: That's the best. Very few people can pull that off. It’s interesting, because Huck [Botko] and Andrew [Gurland], the writers did this movie MAIL ORDER WIFE that is so fucked up and exactly that movie where if you had walked in without knowing what you were watching, you would swear it was a real documentary and when we lost them [as LAST EXORCISM directors] to their movie THE VIRGINITY HIT, which is also really funny and in the same docu-style… Capone: Yeah, I have seen that trailer. ER: That movie got greenlit the exact same time we were about to start. We thought “How could we ever replace these guys?” Then we saw A NECESSARY DEATH, and now I can’t think of anyone other than Daniel directing the film. Capone: That’s such a great coincidence that he had made this completely convincing documentary-style film. ER: But it also shows the importance of taking initiative and taking control of your own career, you know what I mean? If there’s any lesson to be learned for young filmmakers out there, it’s “Do it yourself.” People are going to sit around waiting for that big Hollywood job, but Daniel got out of film school and instead of trying to get a job directing a movie and waiting around forever, he just went and shot. They made that movie for $2,000, and he spent three years doing it and he really worked on it. It’s a labor of love, and now through this people are going to go back and rediscover it, but without A NECESSARY DEATH we would have never hired him. He had three years to experiment with this format while for three years we were working on the script, so actually was just this perfect storm of events that happened, and now you can’t think of it happening any other way. Capone: Is the documentary-style feature in danger of being slightly over used at this point? ER: Think about this? The technology has gotten so good that on an iPhone you could shoot a film that’s hi-def video, so the price of shooting these movies has come down tremendously, but the distribution outlets are far and few between, but I think that with reality television and certainly with "The Office," it’s become a much more acceptable format for storytelling. Back in the day, there are two films from the '70s that stand out in this format--CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and PUNISHMENT PARK. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those. Capone: I’ve seen them both. ER: And that’s from 1971 and it’s so effective. That’s almost so effective, it wasn’t allowed to be shown in theaters, because they were worried that riots would ensue. So this style is something that filmmakers have done, but now it’s gotten much more cost effective, and the technology has caught up, so that you can do a damn good looking movie on a $10,000 camera. It’s actually made it easier, but you still have to have clever ideas and clever writing, and that’s why producers Eric Newman and Mark Abraham spent three years on the script, and then with Daniel we added new ideas, then in editing we added new ideas and reshot some things. This took a lot of work to get it to where it is from a lot of different creative people. Capone: Real quick, before I let you go--do you know what you are doing next? ER: I’m just focusing on finishing the press tour for this and then I want to finish my script ENDANGERED SPECIES. We literally sold EXORCISM to Lionsgate and they put us on August 27, so suddenly the press tour kind of came right in the middle of my writing time, but that’s something I want to jump into next. Capone: And that’s your science fiction piece, right? ER: Yes, that’s my sci-fi movie. That’s a tricky film; it’s going to be an expensive movie, so any changes I want to make, I want to make them on the page as opposed to shooting and then re-shooting or fixing them in editing. It’s not like I can just shoot and shoot and figure it out later; this thing has to be mapped out very, very carefully. Capone: Any idea when you might be shooting that? ER: Nope. When it’s ready to shoot. [Both laugh] Capone: Got it. Alright, Eli, thanks a lot. ER: Thanks for your support man and thanks for your quote. That was very helpful with getting the word out that it’s smart and psychological. Capone: I haven’t even seen it, yet. Someone told me about it, and I haven’t actually seen it. ER: It’s running. Capone: These are TV ads? ER: Yes, of course. Capone: I haven’t seen it yet. ER: You’ve got to watch more "Jersey Shore." Capone: If that’s what it takes, I’ll check it out. ER: That’s what it takes. Alright, thanks man. Capone: Take care. ER: Bye.
-- Capone Follow Me On Twitter

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus