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By James Whittington, Thursday 23rd December 2010
Eli Roth is one of the most talented people working in the movie industry today. He was behind the genre breaking movies Cabin Fever and Hostel, starred in Quentin Tarantnio’s Inglourious Basterds and produced the most talked about horror movie of 2010, The Last Exorcism. We had a quick chat with this very busy guy about his work on that move and what drew him to the project.
HC: Have you always been a horror movie fan and do you have a favourite movie from when you were growing up?
ER: Oh yeah, I saw The Exorcist when I was 6 and it changed my life and all I really wanted to do was make horror movies.
HC: Is it true you thought The Last Exorcism was one of the scariest scripts you’d ever read?
ER: Yeah! It kept me guessing the whole way through, I just didn’t know where the story was going. What I liked about it was that it didn’t take a position. Its not really a possession story, it’s the story of a girl who might be crazy or might be possessed and the Reverend that thinks she crazy, its the others that thinks she’s possessed, it’s really about the clash of absolute belief in science and absolute devout faith and who is to say who’s right. And I thought I had the movie figured out several times but when I turned the page I thought, “Oh my God! I didn’t see that coming” and I just thought it was one of the best and smartest and creepiest scripts I had ever read.
HC: Is it true that some of the scenes were improvised on set?
ER: Yeah, Daniel Stamm the director did a really great job and really wanted everything to feel natural so there were certain dialogue lines that were key and written but there were others where he just let the actors go, and go and go, and those are the moments that were used. There were certain things like when Ashley Bell does all these backbends by herself, there’s no CG or anything, it was her the night before shooting she said, “Hey I can do this backbend, do you want to see it?” and it was so haunting and creepy that we had to use it, it become the image on the poster. We had an insurance issue, she was barefoot in the script but insurance wouldn’t let her run around barefoot they came up with the scene where Iris gives her Doc Martins. Now she’s wearing Doc Martins and a nightgown and you can’t think of the movie any other way.
HC: Do you think that’s why then, apart from the script, is so effective because it looks so real.
ER: Daniel the director didn’t say he’d set out to make a horror film he said was making a drama and it’s a disturbing story. He wasn’t trying to make it spooky or creepy he was trying to make everything feel real. When you’re watching it your going “These people are either real or the best actors I’ve seen in a horror film” and I’m really happy they’re getting nominations now.
HC: Do you think it works so well because Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell (who play the lead roles) aren’t that well known at the moment?
ER: For sure, we talked about that, we knew the whole movie was going to be dependant, we were going to need someone to carry the movie but how would we get an actors that good, wouldn’t they have been known by now? It just goes to show there’s some great people out there.
HC: The atmosphere of the film is very real, what was it like on set?
ER: Everything that you see was there. Daniel had the task of being in a 360 degrees environment where everything is real, every piece of furniture, every lamp that these people have to live with were in this house. And they did. During a lot of the shooting I stayed away I didn’t want to be like, “Hey! I just got back from Cannes with Inglourious Basterds!” I was there for one night’s shooting that they did in Los Angeles, it was for pick up shots. There was no make up, they were really sweating, it was 100 in Louisiana in the summertime and they were in this house with no air conditioning and they were living there, and sleeping there, there was no make up it was like he wanted it to be as real as possible.
HC: Was it good to be on a film that was real and not as extreme as other films that you’ve been involved with?
ER: What’s great about it is that it’s a different style of film making, obviously the films that I do with heightened realism and its shot on film and it’s lit and its gory. You know what was fun was kind of stripping away all that, making a film that was very, very bare but still have the same amount of care and detail go into it as goes into a traditional narrative. But Daniel has done it so well and we knew he’d pull it off.
HC: Would you like to work with Daniel again in the future?
ER: Yeah, absolutely he is a great talent and I’m really happy for him at the moment. He’s doing the next Night Chronicles movie and he’s going to do a remake of Martyrs, you know I couldn’t be happier for the guy he really is a terrific talent.
HC: Would you like to work on a remake of any classic horror or foreign movie?
ER: I’m producing a remake of Funhouse, but for me to remake one of my favourite movies it would be really strange unless it felt like it was like a story that I could tell in a very different way that deserves to be updated. I probably wouldn’t touch on the original ideas. I’m not saying I’m against remakes in the future because I have nothing against remakes if they’re well done but it’s got to be the right one.
HC: Eli Roth, thank you very much.
To try an win a copy of The Last Exorcism on DVD click here.
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