It’s been called “the goriest, sickest, bloodiest movie you’ll ever, ever see” (Daily Mirror), and while it might not quite be exactly that (as anyone who has seen Cannibal Holocaust, Ichi The Killer or Guinea Pig can testify), we’re still excited about the DVD release of Eli Roth’s Hostel on August 7th.
Roth’s second film, following his earlier triumph with Cabin Fever, was a huge hit when it opened earlier this year, and with the EMB-approved DVD, we can now get to see lots more juicy cuts with extra unseen footage, four commentaries with Eli Roth and various guests, an hour-long ‘behind the scenes’ (where you can learn more about the brilliant cult of ‘Jedi’ Milda and drunk taxi drivers), and other assorted trailers and titbits (literally).
So, we took time recently to bunk off work for half an hour, sit down on a bench in the blazing London summer sun, and speak to America’s leading horror wunderkid to find out more about the making of this gory, sick, bloody movie.
Read on to learn more about the joys of shooting in Prague, kids who love Ali G, the hardships of taking photos of three naked girls and how Eli Roth came to be known as an Italian ladyboy monkey on set.
EMB: Hey there Mr Roth. Congratulations for another huge hit with Hostel. You reached number 1 in America in the DVD charts…
Eli Roth: Yeah, it was amazing. It knocked off Narnia from the top spot. Which is a good thing – it shows how big the appetite for gore is at the moment.
EMB: Especially a good thing considering Hostel was for Raw Nerve, your new production company.
ER: Yeah it was. Well actually it was a co-production with another company called Next Entertainment. But I wanted to do something with Scott Spiegel and Boaz Yakin (Exec-producers) for a long time and it really worked out well.
EMB: Tarantino gave you an impetus to push forward with this film. Did he give you any other help on the shoot, or was he just “get out there and film it”.
ER: Well, yeah that was it. I mean I told Quentin I was waiting to do this remake of The Bad Seed and some other movies and Quentin was like “Fuck that! What original ideas do you have?”
And I told him the idea for Hostel, and he was like, “That’s the best fucking idea I’ve heard for a horror film. You’ve gotta do that. You’ve gotta do it. Are you crazy? Don’t do it big budget, do it for 3 million bucks. That way you can make it as a violent as you want. Make it fucking sick. Make it like it Takeshi Miike film!”
And with Quentin’s encouragement I thought ‘you know you’re right. I should…’ I had had such a bad experience with Cabin Fever, working on a low budget, that I thought I actually wanted to make a film with some money. But then I said “Fuck it, here’s a movie that I can actually do really well for under $4 million”. Which we did.
Quentin was more like giving encouragement and support during the shoot, as he was shooting his C.S.I. episode. Then afterwards I showed him the cut in the editing room, and he had some great suggestions. And you know he read the script, and we went through the script together and punched some things up. He’s just like an amazing supporter, kept me on the right path, encouraging me to do it. It’s only my second film.
EMB: Was the budget part of your decision to shoot in Europe?
ER: Absolutely. And that’s one of the genius things about shooting in Prague is that it’s so much cheaper here, and that’s why I wrote it to be set there. And I could use local actors and an all-Czech crew. I didn’t fly anyone in or put anyone up.
EMB: Did you enjoy shooting in Prague?
ER: You know, I had the best time of my life shooting in Prague. It was amazing. I really did. I loved the crew, I loved the people. You know the most dangerous thing about Prague is that you can have so much fucking fun, you could actually get into trouble for having too much fun.
But that’s my biggest reason for doing the second one is that I just had such an incredible experience shooting Hostel that I can’t wait to get back there and shoot again. I went back there to score. I attended the Czech premiere – any excuse to get back to Prague.
EMB: And I heard you got most of the crew an appearance in the film itself.
ER: Everybody. Oh yeah. Because we had a look around the crewmembers, and we had some pretty scary guys. We were like “You guys are fucking scary-looking!” And they were better than the extras and the other actors!
Then I started giving them bigger and bigger parts, like major speaking roles. The desk clerk (Milda Jedi Havlas)! Quentin watched the movie and was like “The desk clerk was awesome!” That guy was our office PA!
He was like “Chill out man” like he was always stoned. And then we had an actor that we had cast for that role fell out at the last minute and we were like “Hey Milda. You wanna be a movie star”, and he was like “Yeah man, that’s cool”. He put on this crazy lisp, and now he’s got web pages about him.
EMB: And Eythor Gudjonsson, the Iceland guy, you wrote that part especially for him?
ER: Yeah, Eythor is a friend of mine. That’s the whole joke with Eythor is that he wasn’t an actor, but I had to lie to the studio and tell them he was the Jim Carrey of Iceland.
Eythor is genuinely one of the funniest, most charismatic characters I’ve ever met in my life. He walks into a room, and he lights it up. I’ve never seen anyone with women like him. Ever. He can walk into a room, see a girl he doesn’t know, pick her up over his shoulder and bite her ass, and she’s giggling. Anyone else does that, they get slapped, arrested or thrown in jail, but Eythor just has this way with women. He has the magic touch.
And I was like “I’ve got to put you in a movie”, so we worked this character together, and we’ll have you do this, this, this, and after the first screenings in America they did a survey of people’s favourite characters and the name that kept coming up was ‘The Iceland guy’.
We both have pages on myspace. I had him do a page on myspace.com, and he’s got fans writing him from all over the world. He loves it. Go to myspace.com and look up my name (www.myspace.com/eliroth), and Eythor is right there on my top 8 (Eythor's Myspace page).
EMB: Did you use real streets kids for The Bubble Gum Gang?
ER: Yeah, some of them were local street kids that we used. And that was the concern, were they going to turn up three days in a row? But they loved it. They had a great time, and they were very funny smashing the car. It was so funny because the first day they were all very nice and polite, but by day three, as soon as I yelled “Cut!”, they would run over, jump in all the Director and Producer chairs and be like “Playback!” They turned into movie stars in two days.
And let me tell you. Those kids – they fucking knew Ali G! I swear to God. I was talking to someone else on the crew and these kids couldn’t speak English, and I said “Booyakasha!” and all these kids said “Booyakasha! Bitchin’! Poonani!” I was like “You know fucking Ali G!”
On the DVD in the behind-the-scenes you have me talking to them Ali G. And I would have to speak to them as Ali G. They loved it, and they would do anything I said. And they would all come up to me on the street – 15 little Czech-Ali G gypsy kids, it was very strange.
EMB: How did you get Takeshi Miike to make a cameo in the film?
ER: Well, I met him when he was in Los Angeles. He came to do press for a movie he’d directed called Gozu, and we were introduced through a friend. And someone asked if they could interview us meeting, and we were like “Ok!” And I called down Guillermo del Toro and he came down to join us and we did this impromptu thing. He knew I was a fan, and I just asked him to do it and he said yes. Incredible.
EMB: Is it true that Jan Vlasák, The Dutch Businessman, can’t speak English and had to learn his words phonetically?
ER: It was so funny, because you talk to him and he nods, yes, yes, and then he’d look at the translator – he really couldn’t speak English. And you forget it because when he wrote it phonetically, he understood what the words meant. The guy is one of the best actors, he’s known as the best theatre actor in the Czech Republic. Like English, very theatre-literate, educated culture, and all the crew knew him and they’d all seen him in many plays, and he was just such a wonderful actor.
He spoke no English when he auditioned, but his face was just yelling he could do it. This guy has done hundreds of plays, and rarely does movies. He’s very selective of what movies he does. He was incredible and he was so good that you forgot he could only speak English through a translator. And he could change the inflection of words so subtly, it was really amazing.
EMB: What was your nickname on set?
ER: Gorilka was my nickname. You know the first day we were shooting this scene where we were taking the photographs on the camera with the three naked girls. And we were in an apartment that was really hot, and I took my shirt off and one of the girls saw my chest hair. And she was talking and said “Gorilka!” and the whole Czech crew starts laughing. So I asked what does 'Gorilka' mean and they told me it meant gorilla. And from that moment I went from being ‘Mr Hollywood Director’ to a fucking gorilla.
We went to a Thai massage. In Prague they have these amazing Thai massage places where you can get bent around like pretzels. And they put you in a room with four people, so there was me and the cast and the producer all getting twisted around, and one of the girls saw my chest hair and was like “Wooarghhh! Italy!” And I said “No, I’m not Italian”, and she went “Italy, Italy” and then she grabs my chest and says “Monkey!” This is right in front of the cast, and obviously the next day it’s all over the set, everyone’s laughing.
And then she starts touching my eyelashes and she’s like “Ooh, like lady” because they’re long. And then she starts going “Ladyboy monkey. Italy ladyboy monkey”. So at the beginning of the shoot I was the director of a horror film, I was Mr Horror Director, by the end of the shoot I was a transsexual Italian primate. I thought gorilka was bad, but I was actually reduced to a transsexual monkey by the end of the film.
EMB: So, how was it taking all the photos of the three naked girls?
ER: Well, I had to, I had to. I had to make sure they were done right. I have a very artistic eye for that sort of thing. I’ve spent years training looking at different photographs, so I had a good idea of what I wanted (laughs).
EMB: What else have you got coming up? I know you’ve got a few projects, Hostel 2 obviously…
ER:Hostel 2 I’m doing, and after that I’m going to do The Cell. Everything else is subject to change.
EMB: I heard you were also doing a trailer for Grindhouse along with Edgar Wright, is that right?
ER: Oh yeah. I forgot about that. Somehow between Hostel 2 and The Cell, probably right after I shoot Hostel 2, I’m going to shoot the Grindhouse trailer. Edgar and I are going to shoot one each, and it’s going to be really fun.