Eli Roth Dishes on His ‘Basterds’ Nazi Mini-Movie: ‘What Have I Done?’

Forget about real-life movies. Sometimes, the best flicks are the mini movies-within-movies that audiences only get a tantalizingly short peek at. From the Bruce Willis/Julia Roberts thriller “Habeus Corpus” glimpsed in Robert Altman’s “The Player” to the serious-minded dramatization at the end of “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” to the “Bowfinger” blockbuster “Chubby Rain,” I know I’d gladly fork over ten bucks if Hollywood ever got around to making them. And soon we’ll have a new one to enjoy, courtesy of Eli Roth and the “Inglourious Basterds.”

“There is this Nazi propaganda movie that is like a film-within-a-film,” explained the “Hostel” filmmaker when we spoke with him recently about the eagerly-anticipated Quentin Tarantino flick that will be premiering at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. “And it’s like a whole other movie.”

Tarantino’s “Basterds” is about a posse of Jewish soldiers wreaking havoc on the Nazi troops during WWII – and Roth not only stars in it, but was asked by Quentin to direct the mini-movie “Stolz der Nation (The Nation’s Pride)” that was written into the script. Naturally, the Jewish filmmaker relished the chance to spoof such real-life, Hitler-approved works as Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will.”

“Quentin had two shots that were very specific that he wanted to do – but he was like, “For the rest of it, I need footage of people shooting. It’s a guy in a bell-tower shooting 260 Americans. I need footage of people shooting!’ So I said okay,” Roth remembered. “We got a second camera, and in 2 days we did like 130 shots and Quentin was so happy he gave me a third day. We shot with the actor Daniel Bruhl, and put together this Nazi propaganda film…[as we shot] I was thinking ‘God, I didn’t think I could be more offensive after ‘Hostel 2,’ but how can I upset people more than that?’”

Remembering his direction techniques, Roth laughed. “I was going, ‘More swastikas! More swastikas!’
But as ironically over-the-top as the whole experience may have been, Roth has been wondering lately if he did too good a job on the mini-movie. “The first time we showed it to an audience [the actors] were in character, but the Germans were screaming ‘Heil Hitler!’ and ‘Kill the Jews!’ and it was terrifying,” he remembered. “We watched it over and over, and we were all friends and joking around by the end of it. But there was still something very powerful about that. I looked at Quentin and said, ‘What have I done?’”

When “Basterds” hits theaters August 21st, Roth hopes “The Nation’s Pride” goes down in history as a memorable mini-movie alongside “Habeus Corpus,” “Chubby Rain” and the rest. But he also hopes that the wrong people don’t come to enjoy it.

“I’m going to, like, resurrect the Nazi party,” Roth explained. “They are going to make me their Sarah Palin. They will be like, ‘We love his movie. But he’s a Jew! But it’s such a good movie. But a Jew made it!”

“It’s going to really throw off all the neo-Nazi’s,” he grinned. “I can’t wait.”

What is your favorite movie-within-a-movie of all-time?