Eli Roth Exclusive

FAULT: You’re presented with a lot of scripts, what was it about The Last Exorcism that attracted you to the film?

Eli Roth: It was the producer Eric Newman who together with Marc Abraham produced Dawn of the Dead and Children of Men. Eric had spent several years developing this script and when he told me about it I was just so excited.  The whole film is Eric’s conception of an exorcism that goes horribly wrong, when he gave me the script I honestly couldn’t put it down. I think it is one of the best scripts I have ever read. It was just so compelling and so unexpected. Every time I thought I had the storyline all figured out he would put in this twist and I was like “Whoa I didn’t see that coming.” I can generally read scripts and in the first five pages I know exactly what is going to happen and know exactly where it is going. With The Last Exorcism I had absolutely no idea. It was so smart and had so many different levels to it.

At the time I read it, it was presented to me that if I liked it and came on board as a producer then the studio could help finance it, that way we would have total control, I just thought this is a great opportunity and a great first project for me to come on as a producer.

FAULT: Were you familiar with Daniel Stamm’s work?

Eli: No, actually. Well the writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland of The Last Exorcism were in line to originally direct and I knew Huck from film school in NYU, I was a big fan then. I remember his student film was so good!…Anyway they did a very good, sick, fucked up, black comedy called Mail order wife which is just so dark, awful, disturbing at the same time funny. Then they wrote this film called The Virginity hit, which got green lit round about the same time. We were suddenly without a director! So I said to myself this is my test as a producer, we have got to find someone better, someone who is going to do something totally different and even greater, which turned out to be the best thing that could of happened in production of this movie.

I think that Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland would have made a great movie but I think it would have been very different. I remember Eric and Marc called me saying “I think we have the guy” They then told me to watch Daniel’s movie A Necessary Death. So I’m sitting there in my tuxedo, in my trailer on set of Inglourious Basterds and I was just blown away. He made that movie with just $2000 and shot it over the space of three years, all unknown actors…the movie was just riveting. I thought to myself can you imagine what he could do with real resources. After he read the script we spoke on the phone and just from that conversation with Daniel he told me how he was a huge fan of the director Lars von Trier and straight away sad he wanted to approach the film not as a horror film but as a character piece and a physiological thriller. I thought that was exactly the right approach. I felt comfortable because I believed in Daniel and knew that he knew exactly what had to be done to pull this off because it’s very difficult.

FAULT: How are people responding to the movie so far?

Eli: The fun thing about it is watching and hearing people come out of the movie thinking “what the hell just happened?” I mean in America the film opened at twenty million dollars!! It’s just crazy! I think it has really caught people’s attention. At the end people are either 100% with it or are completely against it and in some way think the ending betrays the whole movie, so now we have people fighting about this movie, which personally I love and that’s the fun about making an independent movie. It’s being sold as a horror film but truly it is a thriller about a girl who might be crazy or might be possessed and it’s really about the clash of science and religion.

FAULT: What is your favourite thing about The Last Exorcism?

Eli: What I think is so great about the film is that, if you were at home, turned on your television you would swear you were watching a real documentary.

FAULT: What was your main aim with The Last Exorcism?

Eli: Lets be honest, the haunted house is never as scary the second time around and the one down side to horror movies is that they do lose their potency each year. You have to make a movie the audience want to watch again and again which becomes more enjoyable but on different levels.

FAULT: You weren’t on set for the making of the film, how was that?

Eli: It was a very intimate set and I would have had a tremendous presence on the set, you know I’m a successful director of scary movies so when they started shooting I didn’t want to turn up and spoil their world that they have created. The performers are just so good and it’s such an intimate place I couldn’t have shown up and been like “oh my god you guys I’ve just been in Cannes with Brad and Quentin” It would of just ruined the whole vibe. I was certainly there for all the casting, the ideas, the script and generally overlooking the whole production. It was really in the editing that I came in and me and Daniel started working side by side. I did with Daniel what Quentin did with me on Hostel. It was really great, we wrote and shot new scenes, I was there all the way thought the scoring and bought in my composer Nathan Barr, helped Daniel through the sounding mix and I could just be there for Daniel when he needed me.

FAULT: Are you religious?

Eli: I grew up Jewish and I was more spiritual then religious. A lot of the stuff I remember at Hebrew school was me just being a prick, I would argue with everything, like “how could they have done that?” and “How could they do that in seven days!?” Also my father is a psychiatrist so I approach everything from a psychiatric point of view. I remember I watched the Exorcist when I was six and I was like “What the fuck is this?” It traumatised me, so then my Dad said to me “oh you don’t have to worry about that, we’re Jewish, we can’t get possessed, you don’t have to believe in all that” I was like “Well I believe in it and I think I’m going to be the first Jew that gets possessed!”

FAULT: Do you get scared by horrors?

Eli: Yeah, of course. I thought The Grudge was really freaky, The Ring really creeped me out. There was this one movie that was just terrifying, in fact I almost got sick during it…I think it was called Valentines Day and it had Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner in it.

FAULT: Have you had any personal experiences?

Eli: Yeah, but nothing supernatural. I had experiences with claustrophobia and flesh eating diseases.

FAULT: What is your FAULT?

Eli: My relentless drive and forceful personality, this is a FAULT that makes me difficult to be around and at times a real pain in the ass. I will go into a room of 50 people and hammer my point down until everyone agrees with me. However I think it’s the very thing that makes me successful.

Thanks guys! that were a lot of fun, a great interview!