Eli Roth Jay Hernandez Interview

Take a ride into the tortuous world of Eli Roth's latest horror flick

If I've ever had to say I was freaked out at a movie, I can safely admit I was freaked out at Hostel! Even the premise of the film takes you to the edge – people paying money to torture other people. It kind of scares the ‘you-know-what' out of me!

And if you've seen any of the commercial TV spots, you know I'm not kidding. Those producers they're talking about, you know, the one's who are warning you about this movie – Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino. That's right, from the mind of one of the freakiest people in the world, comes this!

Hostel stars Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson as two American college kids on a vacation in Europe looking for a good time – sex, drugs, and more sex and drugs. They start out in Amsterdam, but their journey takes them to Bratislava, Slovakia. That's where the real fun begins.

I recently had the chance to sit down with the cast of the film, as well as Eli. Sorry, Quentin didn't come to our room. But, it was a conversation Eli had with Quentin that the movie was born:

Eli Roth: It was one of those things, after Cabin Fever was all totally built through internet and word of mouth. We made it for 1 million and a half bucks, and it wound up doing over 100 million dollars. After that, I had all this opportunity and I didn't know what I was going to do next and I started writing this project here. I was talking to Quentin, and Quentin loved Cabin Fever. I said to him ‘You know, I kind of just don't know what to do now. I'm at this weird place where I am being offered to direct studio movies, I have my own stuff that I'm sort of developing.' And he's like ‘Well, what ideas are you working on?' I told him ‘this and this and this and well, then there's this other thing' and I told him the idea for Hostel. And he was like ‘Are you f*cking kidding me? That's the sickest f*cking idea I have ever heard; Eli, you've got to do that. This could be like your Takashi Miike film. This could be a classic American horror movie.' I drove home that day and I unplugged my phone and I just burned out the draft. I showed it to Quentin, and he was like ‘This is f*cking awesome; lets go through it.' And we went through the script; he's like ‘You know what? We're gonna do a Bullsh*t pass. I'm gonna call bullsh*t where it feels like this could only happen in a movie. If this is movie convenience or it's not something that you and I would do, then I am calling bullsh*t.' But honestly, it was his enthusiasm and his spark; it just felt like the right next movie.

Jay really didn't have to be convinced to join the cast, even though he did have to go over the script with his agents. The name Quentin Tarantino attached to it didn't hurt either:

Jay Hernandez: I was approached when the script got to my agent and he sent it to me; my agent read it, Jim Toth and Kelly Tippon. They both read it; Jim loved it and Kelly hated it. She said ‘don't do it, it's horrible, it's disgusting, it's not good for you.' Jim was like ‘dude, you got to do this thing, you gotta do it, it's going to be awesome.' So I read it and I responded the same way Jim did. I was like ‘he really goes for it.' I've read a few other scripts, and it's what you expect. So we set up a meeting with Eli and after meeting him and reading the script and seeing his excitement and everything; it seemed like he already had every shot planned out and cut in his head. I knew he was very thorough and he talked about some of the locations he scouted and I knew Quentin was involved and it just seemed like a really cool movie. It's something exciting to do, something different; it's a nice departure from all the nice guys I have played so I was like ‘yeah, I'm up for it, let's do it.'

Being on this set in Prague was pretty freaky for the cast and crew; in fact, Jay was a little afraid just to walk into the building:

Jay Hernandez: I think being in that institution, psych ward, or whatever that thing was; that was a real place from back in the 1900's. There were these underground rooms that hadn't been lived in and inhabited in almost 60, 70 years. There was this one room, I walked off set, just trying to get some fresh air and there was this huge room that had these hooks on the wall. I was asking some of the guys what those hooks were for, and nobody could give me an answer. I still, to this day don't know what those hooks were for; something was being hung up there, was it bodies? Was it meat? I don't know.

Derek was a bit more restrained, but a few scenes still haunt him:

Derek Richardson: The eye ball; I had read the script so I knew it was all coming but the eye ball really killed me; the achilles in any movie always kills me right from the first time I saw it in Pet Sematary. I'll never - I can't put my legs over the bed. But yeah, the scene that killed me was when Kana really sees her face and then realized she can't live and jumps in front of the train; that just kills me.

Don't worry, you'll know which scene he's talking about once you see it – and it'll probably freak you out as well.

Eli got a lot of his inspiration for film making from Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike, but didn't want to steal that technique. He talked about what that meant for developing this movie:

Eli Roth: I was really looking at the story I was telling, and who I was telling it for. I think that Miike makes the greatest Miike movies ever, and there's one Miike and there's no need to try to be Miike. I just want to be the best me, not the best Miike. If you're really, really looking at it, obviously it's heavily influenced by Audition and The Vanishing. I didn't want to imitate shots like in Cabin Fever; it's time for me to stand on my own. I can be influenced by these movies, but I am not going to watch movies and take shots. I wanted people to come out and say ‘that was sick and f*cked up', but it still has to be an R-rated film. I kind of wanted to make something that felt influenced by that but was still an American movie.

The film was shot in Prague; Jay and Derek found out quickly that some people in Prague know how to take advantage of Americans. Check out this crazy story:

Jay Hernandez: We were on the streets and we were trying to exchange some money, and we go to the exchange place and there's a guy standing outside. He says ‘I'll give you a better rate' with this cheesy Czech accent and so Derek says ‘Ok, what's the rate?' He looks at me and says ‘Should I take it?' And I say ‘I don't know, I don't care; if he's giving you more money for a $100 bill, as long as it's cool, as long as it's legit.' He does it and the guy gives him a $2000 bill, which neither of us had ever seen. So he's looking at this thing, the guy walks off, but something is still bothering him about it. He says ‘I'm going to try to break this' and we go into the exchange rate. He shows it to the lady and asks if he can have change for it; she points up to a sign on the wall that has the same bill and it says ‘This is not Czech money, don't accept this on the street.' And so he looks up there, and says ‘oh sh*t' and so we run out of the door to try and get this guy; basically, he gets one hundred dollars taken from him. So a few weeks later, about three weeks later, we're walking down the street and see that same f*ckin' dude in front of a money exchange place, and I said ‘Derek, that's the guy.' So I walk up to him and he says ‘Hey, do you want to exchange money?' And I think what am I going to do to this guy? I've got to get back the money. So I just reacted and grabbed the guy by his shirt and started cussing in his face – ‘You better give me back that f*ckin' money' and I'm shaking him (laughing); the guy must have been kind of freaked out. The guys says ‘I didn't take your money' and so I say ‘Yes you did, like three weeks ago.' And so he says ‘No, no, not me; how much did I take from you?' I say ‘If you've got to ask that question, than you did.' (lots of laughter) So he says ‘Ok, ok' and reaches in his pocket and give him this huge wad of money. And so I turn to turn to Derek and say ‘I got your money back!' True story.

Derek Richardson: I still have that bill; I brought it back just as a reminder, like yeah, I got screwed in Prague. But, it was so funny. And we were like - the first week, we're such tourists. That can happen anywhere. I'm surprised that didn't happen in the movie.

With a story like this, it can't be real – can it? Well, Eli found something like this on the internet. And you know, everything you read on the net is true (ok, sorry about that last statement):

Eli Roth: It started with a conversation about sick stuff on the internet. I'd seen this site that this guy in Texas set up where you could control a gun and hunt, like lions and wild game and rare animals on the internet. The FBI had shut this guy down; I think he claimed his legal defense was that he was making it so handicapped people could hunt, too. I thought ‘Why wouldn't they just put a human being in a room?' Well, actually I found something like that; there's a link to a site where you could go to Thailand and for ten thousand dollars, walk into a room and shoot somebody in the head. The site claimed that the person you were killing had signed up for it, that part of the money would go to their family; they wanted to be killed for this purpose, and that it gives you the thrill of taking another human life. It looked real, but whether this place exists or not is not important; the point is that somebody built a website about it. Somebody else thought up, realized, and conceptualized, that there's some guy out there, that's so bored with money and drugs, they're looking for that next level of thrill. I saw parallels between guys I knew who would go to get hookers and do drugs. It's kind of this American thing of going abroad and doing all these things you're not supposed to do; that's why I made Amsterdam purposefully look like an x-rated Disneyland - the hookers, they're a ride. The brothel in Amsterdam is kind of like this weird mirror image of the slaughterhouse - a horrible, hell-version of that brothel. Josh walks up and down the hall; Jay gets dragged down the hall. I just saw parallels in exploitation and the value of life in other parts of the world and putting a price on someone else's life.

This is one bad-ass film! Hostel is in theaters now; it's barely rated R, barely!