ROTH and BARBARA NEDELJAKOVA talk HOSTEL
Eli Roth is quickly becoming a
force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, particularly when it comes to horror
films. His last movie, CABIN FEVER, was a huge success, especially
considering it's tiny budget and modest cast. Now he's teamed with
Quentin Tarantino to bring a shocking new horror film to American audiences.
There's no doubt about it, HOSTEL is going to leave an impression on filmgoers
everywhere. The story deals with some young guys backpacking in
Amsterdam, and ending up victims or a cruel torture house. It's sick.
It's disturbing. It's also brilliantly original. I had the
pleasure of sitting down with Eli and one of the film's stars Barbara Nedeljakova, who plays the manipulative Natalya in the film.
MARK: This is really cool.
I loved CABIN FEVER, and I thought this was great. I think you're
kind of on a roll here.
MARK: I know it's been
talked about a lot already, but tell us a little something about how this idea
came about. You had said you stumbled across a website?
Yeah. like three years ago when I was doing CABIN FEVER I was talking to Harry
Knowles, cause we were shut down, we had no money and the movie was
unfinished. We knew Harry from AIN'T IT COOL NEWS. Somehow we
talked about what is the sickest thing you could find on the internet.
And Harry said "I found a site that's the most disturbing thing I've ever
seen." And I said you've got to send it to me, so he sends me this
thing, and it's a site where in Thailand you can pay $10,000 to walk into a
room and shoot someone in the head. And you do it just for the feeling
to know what it's like to put a bullet in someone's brain. It would
almost feel like somewhat of a sexual act. And it was so disturbing
because they said the people you were killing... they almost made it sound
like they had volunteered for it, and that the money would go to their
families, part of it. These are like dirt poor people that have not made
it, or are gonna kill themselves, or are sick. It was basically like a
life insurance policy where you are executed, so to speak And we talked
about is this real? How could someone sign up for this? And you
know, whether it's real or not, somebody conceptualized it. Somebody
actually though of this and went to the trouble of doing this, of setting up
this site. It just seemed too real, so after CABIN FEVER came out
I met with Mike Fleiss and his friend Chris Briggs, the guys who did THE TEXAS
CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake. And we found that we liked each other, and each
other's movies, and thought we should partner on something. Briggs had
this idea, he said "I want to make a movie called HOSTEL about backpackers,
but I have no idea what it's about." We started thinking and I was like
Jesus, that's such a great title, and I love that universe of backpacking and
traveling all over Europe. For a long time I thought about it, and then
it suddenly hit me, I thought oh my God the hostel is just the neck, it's
about this thing entirely. And so I thought about it and just saw the
whole movie, it just clicked. You know I wanted to see a movie like
AUDITION or SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, or even like THE VANISHING, the Dutch
version. So I was actually talking with Quentin Tarantino and saying I'm
not exactly sure what to do with my next movie. After CABIN FEVER I'd
been offered a lot of studio movies, comedies and horror films, and I'd just
turn them down. They just didn't excite me, there wasn't anything
interesting. You know I'd get like 30 or 40 million dollars to shoot a
film, and for what, to what end? So I just kept turning stuff down, and I
was developing other projects, but the scripts weren't ready. I thought
Jesus, I've got to shoot something! I kind of didn't want to follow
CABIN FEVER up with another low-budget horror movie, and then I saw SAW, and I
said why the fuck not?! I mean I know how to do this. I know how
to make a movie with a low-budget and make it look like it's a 15 or 20
million dollar movie. I know how to do that, so why did I shut myself
off to thinking that way? I told Quentin this idea, and he was like (Eli
does a near-perfect Quentin Tarantino impression) "Are you kidding me?!
You've got to fuckin' do this! This is the sickest fuckin' idea I've
ever heard, you've gotta fuckin' do this right now! If you do this
right, it could be a classic America horror film." So I was out the
door, drove to my house, unplugged the phone and just started writing.
Banged out the script. This was like not even a year ago. I
finished the script in the middle of November, next week I was on a plane to
Prague to go location scouting, in January I tied up the financing, February I
was prepping, and in March, April, May I was shooting. It was so fast.
So it all happened in a year, or a year and two weeks. Crazy.
Yeah. But that's how it happened, it was really quick. And it
kicked me in the ass to get it done.
Jay Hernandez is not having a
very good time in this scene from HOSTEL.
MARK: So Barbara, how
did you get cast in this film?
I went to a casting session, and got to do the scene where Natalya takes Jay
to go see....
MARK: The "art" show.
Yeah, the "art" show.
MARK: Where you get
real mean all of a sudden?
Yeah, where she shows him who she is.
MARK: Was it hard for
you to play a very mean girl like that? Sometimes actors have a hard
time if they're a very nice person naturally. It's like "How do I be a
It wasn't that hard to be mean and be weird. And I sort of enjoyed that.
I like it about her that she had two different places. That she's so
mysterious, and then she showed that she's a bitch and she's cruel. She's
cold. And also what really helped me is the makeup, when she looked
Like 400 girls came to audition, and no one even came close to Barbara.
There were some interesting choices, but Barbara came in, and she was it.
She was just coming in to read for Vala, and I was like "No, you have to read
for Natalya." And she read it, and just understood it. We talked
about the script. I read an article in the New York Times about these
girls that were taken from Odessa, and sponsored out to be a cocktail waitress
in Televiv and would wind up in these brothels. It was all run by the
Russian mafia, and they talked about how they were trafficked through Slovakia.
I think it came out in '98, this article, but I though about these girls.
I wondered what is that like? They must just become numb, and a lot of
them kill themselves after. And we talked about how I wanted her to go
through a horrible phase, and she was able to find that darkness. But
she just got it right away. I wanted someone that was beautiful and
seductive, but could really just turn cold. And this horrible person
comes out, and you don't know if she's really that horrible, or if she's just
fucking with you. She's just fucking with Jay Hernandez the whole time.
With Barbara, she just had something about her that was like this young Monica
Bellucci, Maria Schneider, or Angelina Jolie quality that you're both
fascinated by and is mysterious. But if you get too close, you get
burned. She was really able to get that. The whole film is really
about exploitation, and that's why at the beginning they're in Amsterdam
talking to these hookers the way they're talking to them. They just look
at these girls like they're just a ride. And yet they're the ones who
kind of wind up like the hookers in the window.
MARK: It's like a mouse
Exactly. It's sick. The way Babs looked in the spa, that's how she
naturally looks. It took about four hours of makeup, and I was like
"More track marks, more pimples, more track marks..." And then in that
scene in the pub where they just look so fucked up, it's almost like you're
seeing Oz behind the curtain. You're not supposed to walk in that room
and see them that way, and they're still trying to do their "Hey, come over
and have a drink." And they're so fucked up. It's weird when that
happens, when sometimes you see someone and you know someone, and you kind of
see this other side of them. They kind of let their guard down and you
see who they really are, and it's terrifying.
MARK: That's an
interesting scene too where you get that moment. Svetlana says "I've
already seen this show" and she doesn't want to go. So it's almost like
she's maybe not into it, but Natalya is into it, to a certain extent.
Because Natalya is all smiles and like "Oh yeah, come on I'll show you the art
show." It kind of makes you wonder. Like you said before, these
girls that get put into this, and one of these girls is doing it but doesn't
want to do it.
MARK: I thought that
was interesting how you threw that in there, instead of having them both go.
Well there's that. Thank you, I'm glad you liked that. There's
also that feeling of like when you're with a friend, and you and that friend
have hooked up with a girl and her friend, but then something happens and
you're stuck. Somehow you need help, but it's not from the one who was
your girlfriend but the one who was with your friend, who you sort of know but
don't know. And now you're kind of dependent on them but you don't have
that same connection. It almost makes you feel more vulnerable, or less
comfortable. Less safe, you know?
MARK: Well it's also
more horrifying because Natalya takes him to see his friend, who she was with.
It's this big reveal of "There's your friend."
Yeah, we talked about that scene, about how if he had said "Where are my
friends?" and she had said "Come on, I'll take you", he never would've gone.
He's got this feeling. And that's what I loved about THE VANISHING,
where the guy just has to know what happened to the girl that disappeared.
He can't let it go, and it's ultimately his downfall. The compulsion to
know what happened. He's almost trying to be like a hero in a movie, and
she just laughs at him, and is just mocking him. And he feels totally
emasculated. That's why I had them be like "Come on, have a drink."
MARK: (to Barbara) I
think with all the deaths in the movie, in many ways you have the most
spectacular one. You think maybe she's going to make it, then BOOM she's
not. Such a great moment. I heard in the screening everybody went
nuts for that particular moment. You get the coolest death in the movie.
Yeah, that was my favorite bit.
What did you think the first time you saw that? You saw it in Toronto,
Yeah, good audience.
What did you think when you saw it with an audience? Did you cheer?
I was applauding with them. I was happy when I heard that. It's so
great that they loved it, even when I die.
But it means you did a really good job of getting them to hate you.
MARK: I'm sure you're a
very nice person. You were probably going up to people saying "I'm
really a nice person!"
It's a complement that they really hated me.
MARK: This will
probably lead into some pretty big roles for you I would think. It seems
like this is a really nice nice part.
Yeah the people from Screen Gems and Lions Gate were saying stuff like "She's
gonna be the next Monica Bellucci" or "She's gonna be a Bond girl or
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE"... those type of roles. Screen Gems and Lions
Gate said they already have movies they want to put her in.
I hope it works out. That's very cool. Some of the other things I
was going to ask you about were with the MPAA. Being that you're doing
these films on a lower budget, do you ever have trouble from the MPAA with
things like gore effects and stuff like that?
No, it's one of the weird things about doing this. We did HOSTEL
as a negative pick-up, which means I basically go to the bank, they sign off
on the scripts, and the studio pays me back once the movie is done. But
as far as running the production, I had total control of it. I got
spoiled doing two movies independent from studios, and now it makes me want to
do more movies this way. I can get my vision out there with as little
interference as possible. With horror movies, everyone is afraid of
offending people. That's the problem. And that's why SAW II
is so successful, because they said we don't give a fuck. They're saying
"Oh yes, there will be blood" on the poster, and people are going crazy for
it. The studios always want to play it safe, they always want to water
it down, and that's why the movies suck. Getting back to your question
about the ratings board. The ratings board has been great.
Honestly. With CABIN FEVER I sailed through with an R with
nothing. With HOSTEL I expected they would have, so I threw in
lots of extra gore, and they really didn't have a problem with anything.
I think they were too shocked at the end, in the train station with the
fingers. I took some frames out, but that's it. It's really
literally like four frames on each shot. I was worried about the eye...
no problem. The thing that was great about the ratings board, having it
say Quentin Tarantino presents at the beginning, I could say to them if the
movie has Quentin's name and my name on it, nobody is going to accidentally
walk into this film and be surprised by what it is. No parent is going
to bring their child to this movie and be shocked that there's blood.
With Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth, people know that means gore, and there's
certain expectations that have to be met. Whether that's true or not,
that's what I said to them. They'd seen KILL BILL and KILL
BILL 2, and they were cool with it.
MARK: I'm glad that
horror movies are starting to see a bit of a comeback. There for a while
it seemed like everything was pretty mundane, and had been done to death.
It looks like it's on it's way back up.
Well look at SAW. I mean the budget was like $900,000. The
budget of SAW II was like 4 million. It's great, you know
HOSTEL we did for like 5 million. The lower budget movies are the
ones that are pushing it more.
MARK: Cool, I
appreciate it. Great meeting you.
Thanks man, great meeting you!
Find out more about HOSTEL from Lions Gate Films
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