Being one of the first directors to start the “Splat Pack” era, a man Quentin Tarantino jokingly referred to as the “Frank Sinatra of the Splat Pack,” Eli Roth’s popularity among the horror genre has only risen. Though his only featured directing gigs to date are Cabin Fever, Hostel, and Hostel II, Roth has been busy producing and acting in a slew of different films, his most recent being Nicolás López’s Aftershock. Centered around an earthquake which is followed by warnings of an approaching tsunami, Roth plays an American vacationer named Gringo who gets stuck in the chaos and fights for survival.
Running the press circuit today in New York City to promote the release of Aftershock, I was invited to participate in a roundtable interview with producer/actor Eli Roth, and of course said “f#ck yes” in a heartbeat. Have you read any of my other work on this site? No? Well horror is kind of my thing, and right now Eli Roth is one of the biggest presences in the genre. Sure, Eli is still on my dream 1:1 interview list, because what horror fan wouldn’t want to pick his brain about various genre topics, but for now you can read on to hear Mr. Roth talk about why he likes dying on camera, what it was like shooting horror with usual comedy director Nicolás López, and his experiences filming his upcoming directorial effort The Green Inferno.
Starting things off, I asked Eli why other directors love killing him on camera, as all of his characters have the reputation of dying grisly deaths (Piranha, Inglourious Basterds, Southland Tales):
Eli Roth: One thing I found from a lot of actors is they are fascinated with their own death. People have come up to me for years and said “I have no interest in being an actor, but I’d love to get killed in one of your movies.” It’s the one thing we’ll never see. Even our birth, now, if you really wanted to, I think most people could get a video of it, and I don’t know why you’d want to see that, but it’s only natural to wonder how we’re going to die. A tsunami is coming for us all, whether we like it or not. Life is a series of horrible things that happen to you, and you do everything you can to avoid them, until you ultimately lose and you’re dead. The fascination is a very human thing to wonder, what we’re going to look like after we’re dead, and that’s why it’s so fun to kill people on film.
It was funny for Nicolás López, who is used to making romantic comedies. We’re shooting a scene where someone is dying a grisly death, and he’s just used to the guy breaking up with the girl, the girl dumping the guy, the guy crying, but then someone’s hand is cut off, there’s screaming, there’s blood – and he’s laughing. He’s like “Why is it so funny! I don’t get it!” and I just said “Isn’t it the best?” It’s just so fucking fun to brutally kill characters, it’s just great.
Getting back to his roots, someone asked what attracts Eli to the horror genre:
Eli Roth: I love horror movies because you can break all the rules. You can break the rules structurally, you can get away with things you never could in a mainstream movie. We made what you can call an “independent mainstream movie.” We shot in Chile in the English language for the entire world.
Part of the fun of shooting in Chile is that if we shot Aftershock in America, it would have cost $25 million because we did everything practically. There’s 99% practical and 1% CG in the movie. We’re really, really smashing things, and we got to film in locations that hadn’t been fixed or cleaned up since the earthquake. Like the cemetery – I’m pinned under this giant piece of concrete, and I looked over and I saw all the tombs stacked up like filing cabinets. I saw skeletons, bones, tombs broken open, all that kind of stuff, and I said to López “Man, art department did a great job.” He just says “Ah, Gringo, art department. Dude, we got in here like an hour ago, this has been shut down since the earthquake.” There were areas just closed up, like maybe one day they would fix it and one day won’t.
I’ve always been attracted to stories like that, I don’t know why. As a kid I loved fairy tales and ghost stories, and they’re the fun ones to tell. There are no rules – you can do anything, to anyone, at any moment, and we take full advantage of that. You don’t have to please everybody.
I also think that horror movies are the ones that matter ultimately. If you think about what movies won best picture 30-35 years ago, no one knows. Was that Chariots of Fire? I don’t know, I guess. Then you see Evil Dead being remade, and Re-Animator the musical, and these are the movies that really hit a chord with pop culture. Sometimes it takes years, but they are never forgotten. Even if it’s a moment in time during the 80s or 70s, if it’s a great horror movie people will watch it, it’s terrific.
We then asked Eli what was the movie that effected him most:
Eli Roth: The movie that was the most shocking experience was The Exorcist, which I saw when I was six. I thought that was real, I thought I was going to be possessed by the Devil, and my mom was like “Don’t worry, we’re Jewish, we don’t believe in the Devil.” I was like yeah but I’d be the Jew, we have dybbuks, but I’m not afraid of that, what the fuck is a dybbuk? I was like “I’ll be the Jew that the Devil makes an example out of just to show he can also get you too.” But that movie freaked me the fuck out, and I threw up after I saw it I was so traumatized. I used to have a problem with barfing every time I saw a scary movie, and that’s probably why I make them now, to pay it forward and have a generation of people vomit when they see my films with a standing ovation.
Continue reading on the next page…