Not too long ago, Eli Roth’s guy-next-door looks could easily be mistaken for any thirtysomething film geek, over-caffeinated mall walker, or even drummer-for-hire — a credential mix-up at the last MTV Movie Awards had him walking the red carpet largely unnoticed, wearing a nametag meant for Gnarls Barkley’s drummer. Then came “Hostel,” an icepick to the eyeball of every paying customer, which had half running for the bathroom holding their mouths and others longing for a return trip to the dankest, most damnable dungeons of Slovakia. Suddenly, no discussion on the future of horror would be complete without discussing the Boston-born governor of gore.
This past weekend, millions watched the bizarre German-language teaser trailer that Roth released as a first look at “Hostel: Part II,” one of 2007’s most anticipated releases. Now, with an April opening in place and his favorite holiday in mind, Roth checked in from the set of the sequel to give us some never-before-revealed details, the story behind the trailer and why he’s hoping that he’ll soon be mistaken once again — this time, for Scott Baio.
MTV: The “Hostel: Part II” trailer played before “Saw III” this weekend ((click here to see the teaser), and now it’s all over the Internet. So how’s the filming going?
Eli Roth: Well, this is our last week of shooting in Prague, and then we’re going to Iceland next week, and then I start editing after that. It’s been a bloody good time, I’ll tell you that. The big question that everyone is asking is: How are you going to top the first one, in terms of gore and scare? After what we’ve shot here, there’s no question that this movie will be far more disturbing than the first one.
MTV: In this movie, you’re going to have three girls sucked into the “Hostel” underground. Tell us about the actresses and their characters.
Roth: Heather Matarazzo — she was in “Welcome to the Dollhouse” and “Princess Diaries” — she plays this girl who’s a bit of a space cadet, who is in her own world, but she plays her with this wonderful manic energy that has these extreme highs and lows. You just know she’s on some kind of antidepressant. And Bijou Phillips — I think people know her more for her reputation than they do for her acting, even though she has been in “Bully” and a number of films — she’s so unbelievably funny and so sharp and so tough; it’s horrifying watching horrible things happen to her. Then there’s Lauren German, who most people don’t know by name, but they know her as the girl who blew her head off in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake. She’s actually really funny, and so sweet and so likeable and vulnerable. But then she gives a performance that is at that level, even more intense than she was for those five minutes she was in “Chainsaw” — she’s like that for 45 minutes here.
MTV: According to many published synopses, the girls get lured into the world of torture by a male model. Any truth to that?
Roth: No. IMDb is a fount of misinformation. Guys are going to be lured by hot girls anywhere, but pretty girls are not going to be lured away by some hot guy, because if you’re a pretty girl you can meet hot guys anywhere. What is actually happening is that the girls are in Rome in the beginning of the movie, and they’re getting harassed pretty badly by guys, and so they’re lured away by the allure of beautiful spas in Slovakia. It’s a safe haven from guys, and all the harassment and near-date-rape experiences that they’re having while in Italy. And let’s just say they would have been a lot better off staying at home.
MTV: You’ve also said we’re going to get a bit deeper into the torture organization. How so?
Roth: The film is also following two guys who go through this experience to kill somebody. And we know them really well, and they are very, very likeable and they’re very normal. It seems like there’s nothing psycho about them, except they are looking for some excitement in their life because they are bored. … That’s going to be a parallel story. We see it from the girl’s perspective and we see it from the client’s perspective. We inter-cut both stories until they all meet in this horrible place. So, we’re going to learn everything about the organization, all the minutiae of it.
MTV: The first “Hostel” contained an unusual mix of torture, nudity and little kids. So, tell us: What’s going on with the Bubble Gum Gang this time around?
Roth: Let me tell you, the Bubble Gum Gang are back, and they’re nastier than ever. The kids play a big part of this movie; it just gets really sick and dark with the kids. We filmed some horrible, sick stuff with the children, and I think that’s going to be the most shocking and upsetting part of the movie, but the kids are so much fun. They’re so funny and they are fluent in speaking Ali G, and I taught them all Borat. So you’d see these 5-year-old gypsy kids who only speak Czech, and they’d be going: “My sister is number-one prostitute in all Kazakhstan!” It was great.
MTV: As any horror fan knows, the number-one rule is that you can’t kill a little kid onscreen. But I’m thinking you’re the type of guy who might not follow that rule.
Roth: [He laughs.] Let’s just say I broke one of the oldest horror movie rules! The first was really inspired by all those images that you saw coming out of Iraq with torture. And this one is much more about the new fear, which I think is the killer next door, that people are terrified of the psycho killer. It’s that guy who stands next to you in church, who babysits your kids and coaches Little League, who has never done anything wrong, but has something inside them that makes them do something horrible.
MTV: Why is the trailer in German?
Roth: That came from Tim Palen, the marketing head at Lionsgate. He said, “We should do something in German or Slovak,” and he wrote the trailer and sent it to me. … It’s based on a scene from the movie. You can now go in, and we will see how a person picks the tools for their [torture] room; it’s called the checkout room. All the tools are on a wall, and you see number one, number two, number seven, number 12; that scene in the script is what sparked Tim’s idea. He was like, “I want to do a teaser trailer, a variation of that tool checkout.”
MTV: Last time, producer Quentin Tarantino helped you out with some great torture ideas. What’s his input been this time around?
Roth: Well, Quentin was actually really busy on [the “Grindhouse” movie] “Death Proof” this time. … His main comments about the script this time were, “I couldn’t put it down.”… There really wasn’t that much, gore-wise, that Quentin added this time around, but there was one instrument in particular that he suggested I use, which plays a key part in one of the torture scenes.
MTV: Jay Hernandez recently said that he hadn’t filmed any scenes yet, and that he wasn’t sure if his schedule would allow it. Will you be able to get him in?
Roth: He’s in. We’re definitely doing it. We’re wrapping in Prague now, and then we’re going to Iceland, and then I have to wait until Jay has a break — which could be Thanksgiving — and we’ll have a block of time where we can shoot the scenes where we need Jay. We’re going to shoot Jay in a chunk, probably in one week, so it’s going to be tough for him, but it’s worth it.
MTV: What are you shooting in Iceland?
Roth: We’re shooting some spa scenes — if you go to BlueLagoon.com, that’s the location. I love Iceland. I had the Icelandic character in the first one, and I just look for any excuse [to go] there and have someone else pay for it.
MTV: Halloween’s here, and nobody’s a bigger horror geek than you. Give us five scary movies to put us in the mood.
Roth: Well, for Halloween, you can’t go wrong with “The Shining”; it’s just so creepy and disturbing, and only Stanley Kubrick could make a little kid riding on a big wheel around a hallway absolutely terrifying. Number two, I’d say “Cannibal Holocaust” (1980), because it’s the movie that “The Blair Witch Project” stole everything from, and there’s a wonderful DVD that came out. To horror fans, it’s considered the nastiest, most hard-core violent film ever made.
You need “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with Leatherface — the original “Chainsaw.” I love the ’70s look, I love the grain and the zooms, and just the way Leatherface looks — that’s one of the best Halloween costumes of all time. Number four would be Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead,” the original, because it just shows you what you can do when you have a camera. He made that movie when he was 21 years old, and when you think of him making “Spider-Man” now, it’s just incredible.
Then there’s a really disturbing horror film — people have to see “Audition” (1999) if they haven’t seen it. It’s like an hour-and-20-minutes of buildup, so you have to be patient if you’re going to watch it, but the last 15 minutes are excruciating. … I screamed like a little girl when I saw that movie.
MTV: When you were a little kid, what did you dress up as for Halloween?
Roth: When I was 11, I went out as Alex from “A Clockwork Orange,” and as I got older I’d pick more obscure costumes. One year I went as Bunny Boy from the movie “Gummo.” He walks around in his underwear with a dead cat, and I marched in the Greenwich Village parade covered head-to-toe in mud with a dead cat! I remember, out of thousands and thousands of people who all went dead silent when they saw me, one person was like “Hey, ’Gummo’!” That one guy really, really got it. I’ve also gone out as Ben Stiller in “There’s Something About Mary.” … I’ll take a tissue and drip it in egg whites, and have it dripping off my left ear. There’s also been Gaear Grimsrud, Peter Stormare’s character from “Fargo.” I streaked my hair with white, and I walked around with a leg like I had just put Steve Buscemi through a wood chipper.
MTV: So, what is one of the masters of horror going as for Halloween this year?
Roth: You know, I’ve spent the last two weeks absolutely covered from head to toe in fake blood. I might just go as Scott Baio — I found the yellow Izod shirt that Scott Baio wears in “Zapped!” (1982), and I think if I do that and blow dry my hair the right way and wear white sneakers and some acid-washed jeans, I just might have a chance. To make it complete, I’d have to have a Playboy Playmate on my arm. But then again, I will be in Iceland — so there’s a good chance that I could find someone.
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