In the second installment of an exclusive MTV News column, director Eli Roth discusses returning to Prague and Iceland for the shoot of his upcoming "Hostel: Part II."
Shooting in Prague is great for a number of reasons. It's definitely cheaper than shooting in the U.S., but there are also some things that get lost in translation.
For one thing, your script gets translated into Czech, and that's what your crewmembers use to break down scenes. You have to oversee every single prop that goes in front of the camera, because sometimes they just get it wrong.
For example, in one scene a character's purse gets knocked over and a bunch of antidepressants spill out. I looked at the prescription bottles, and they all said "Antidepressants" as the name of the medication. I said to my prop master, "I asked for antidepressants. What is this?" He just pointed to the label and said, "Antidepressant. It's what you ask for, yes?" I was like, "Uh, no medication is actually called 'Antidepressant,' that's just a general description for what they are." We had to shoot it so you couldn't read the label because it was too late to change.
But things like that happen on any shoot in any language, and in general, the crews in Prague are as good as any top New York or L.A. crew I've worked with.
The last time I filmed there I gained probably 25 pounds just from eating at all the amazing restaurants in Prague, so this time we had a "producers' fit club" to see who could lose the most weight. My brother Gabe and I went running nearly every day, no matter how early we had to shoot. If our pickup was 6 a.m., we were out the door running at 5. We shared an apartment and stayed on each other about eating healthy food, and by the end of the shoot we'd each dropped about 10 pounds and were running probably 40 miles a week.
The first "Hostel" was pretty much a three-month frat party, going out every single night as late as we could last, but this time I was a monk. Except for the last two weeks. I decided that I'd behaved enough, and we started going out as many nights as possible. Our favorite spot became Harley's, a biker bar right near Old Town Square in the center of Prague, where they played lots of '80s heavy-metal music like Motörhead and AC/DC. The guys from K.N.B. Effects had gotten so friendly with the owners of Harley's that they'd walk in with their own mix CD and the bar would play our music. We had our own corner, and there was lots of dancing on tables and rocking out to Guns N' Roses. Hopefully none of the photos ever surface online because it would probably be the last time someone sends me off to Prague with a 35mm camera.
We finished shooting the bulk of the movie in Prague and then went to shoot some scenes in Iceland. I love Iceland — I've been going there since I was 19 years old. It's been my dream to shoot there, and finally I got the chance.
Being there in November was by far the most difficult time I've ever had filming, only because we had so little daylight and so much to shoot. We had shootable light from 11 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. and three days to shoot everything. I'm lucky enough to have the honor of being the first director ever to shoot at the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa that's one of the most beautiful, mysterious and visually striking places in the world. It's kind of like being at an outdoor spa on the moon. You're surrounded by lava, in the middle of nowhere, and the air is freezing, but the water is hotter than a bathtub. I'm not going to give away what happens in the film there, but I wrote the location in as a gratuitous excuse to go to Iceland, and the footage looks amazing.
We also filmed at the farm I lived on for a summer when I was 19, and I even got my horse, Bara, in there. (I keep an Icelandic horse on the farm, yet another excuse to go back.) The first two days of shooting we got really lucky with the weather, which is pretty rare for late November. Day three we got hit with freezing rain and hail. We were soaked and freezing by the end of the day, but it was all worth it because the footage looks better than I could have ever dreamed. We even got in some horseback riding the day after shooting.
We filmed at my favorite spa in Iceland, this amazing facility called Laugar. After shooting, Gabe and I were spending probably five or six hours a day there just decompressing. And of course we went out at night. Reykjavik has great nightlife, and we took full advantage of it. I mean, come on, I'd gotten all my shots, so I figured I was allowed.
Iceland's so small that everyone knew who we were everywhere we went, and for two nights I got to feel like a rock star. Much like Jerry Lewis in France or David Hasselhoff in Germany, I'm famous in Iceland. And let me tell you, there are worse places one could be famous. That place is fun. The whole Iceland crew did a great job, but there was still more to shoot, so I went back to L.A. for a week, and then back to Prague.
Check back with Movies.MTV.com next Monday for another installment of Eli Roth's exclusive "Hostel: Part II" column.
Miss Roth's first exclusive MTV News column? Read "Acting For Tarantino To Torture In Prague: Eli Roth's 'Hostel: Part II' Column."
Check out everything we've got on "Hostel: Part II," including diaries from Eli Roth, movie clips, photos and more.
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