Maker of 'The Last Exorcism', Eli Roth, talks budget movies and selling sex

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

He first made his name as director of low-budget horror flicks ‘Cabin Fever’ and the enormously successful ‘Hostel’ franchise, now the big influence of Eli Roth is behind other non-mainstream projects such as ‘The Last Exorcism’ – getting it straight to the top of the US charts

 

Having made 'The Last Exorcism' for under two million dollars, those behind the new horror flick were stunned at how well it was received in the States.

“We were able to pay for it before we even started shooting. And our marketing budget was only 20 million dollars, so if the movie had made 20 million in total that would have been a home run. To do that opening weekend was shocking, genuinely shocking," said producer Eli Roth.

"We always thought there was a wide audience for this, but to have a movie open really with a first time director [Daniel Stamm] with no track record and unknown stars is kind of unheard of. Especially when Tom Cruise’s last movie with Cameron Diaz didn’t even open at 20 million dollars - it’s crazy. So we are ecstatic and pleasantly surprised.”

The success of the film so far is undoubtedly in large part due to having Roth as a producer, who has taken a steep uphill journey to join the elite of the horror industry, as only eight years ago he was relatively unknown in the business.

Last weekend he made a guest appearance at FrightFest, with the film closing at the Empire Cinema in London and a final Q&A with the film’s charismatic protagonist Patrick Fabian.

“Someone asked if he could do the 'Banana Bread' sermon [from the film] and he did it! The place went crazy - he brought the house down. It was this wonderful, beautiful, inspired moment that made a great audience participation, ended the night in applause, it was really special.”

The film, 'The Last Exorcism' follows Cotton Marcus (Fabian), a fourth generation minister who’s lost his faith in God after hearing of the accidental suffocation of a child during an exorcism. He agrees to make a documentary to expose exorcism and the fraudulent business behind it.

“We made a very conscious choice to make this a documentary, not found footage. With ‘Cloverfield’ you feel like someone found the tape, they popped it in and that’s what we’re watching. This is edited and scored like it was ‘Grey Gardens’ or ‘The King of Kong’, there’s titles, there’s music. Somebody put this together. So I like the discussion of who put this together and what was their agenda?”

The film has been criticised for its ambiguous ending, but Roth is adamant it was the right choice:

“One of the nice things about making a movie low budget is that you can make it however you want. You can make bold choices. We knew the ending was going to split people. People either think it’s the greatest ending, or they actually feel it betrays the film and completely ruins their enjoyment of it. So it’s interesting to see the discussion that had emerged from it. To me I feel it makes complete sense, I think it’s absolutely the right ending.”

“A lot of audiences are used to being spoon-fed endings, where everything wraps up. I love movies that really make you think, and those that you want to watch it from a totally different point of view afterwards. Obviously, the film has very big issues here with God and the Devil and is this girl crazy...it is really about faith and testing Cotton's faith and he just continually failed at every turn."

"That’s the fun of making a movie at this budget level, that we don’t need anyone’s approval. We can make a bold choice and go with it.”

With big questions raised in about faith and religion in ‘The Last Exorcism’, the makers were concerned about the response from strictly religious types in the south:

“We watched it in the south with a deeply religious group and they loved it because the film really is a confessional. It’s Cotton starting from the point of wanting to confess for his sins and the purpose of the movie is to stop this from happening because he feels he’s doing the right thing. People really, really embraced it and that’s the fun. When you go to Louisiana you truly do feel you’re in another culture and it often feels like you’re in another country.”

The film culminates with a shocking scene that fans might’ve been expecting after the extreme violence shown in 'Hostel,' but this is more of a psychological thriller than an overt gore-fest. It’s interesting to find out whether an avid fan and dedicated director of horror believes there is a line to be drawn at the controversy that can be shown in film.

“I think that every story has its appropriate level of what to show. I think that in a film like ‘Blair Witch Project’ it’s all about what’s not seen and in ‘Hostel’ it’s very much what is seen. It’s like, can you take it? You’re in that chair, it’s an endurance test. It’s really up to the director’s judgement and I thought that Daniel Stamm did such a brilliant job of knowing exactly what to just capture."

"He didn’t want to make it too convenient for the camera. It had to maintain the authenticity that it was a documentary. The best stories are when you feel you’re in the hands of an unstable narrator and anyone can get killed at any minute.”

There have been rumours that Roth is to be involved in the third instalment of 'Hostel' but he reassures that these are strictly untrue:

“I have zero involvement with ‘Hostel 3’, believe nothing you read there. It’s an internet rumour. I left after ‘Hostel 2’ and thought there wouldn’t be anymore. I only found out they were making it. I have no idea what it’s about.”

The ‘Hostel’ films were criticised for their portrayal of severe brutality, but Roth defends a film’s right to depict violence. Films such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’, ‘Faces of Death’, ‘I Spit on your Grave’ and ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ have all been banned in the UK at various points. But surely banning films is just pointless, because it exacerbates the intrigue?

“It’s absurd. No politician is ever going to take a stand and defend a horror because it looks like they’re endorsing the violence in the film. There is no violence in movies, only a representation of violence. I mean, how come there was murder before movies? Why don’t you go back to the witch trials where over a period of 250 years, 300,000 people were killed in Europe, tortured to death because the Bible said 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.'"

"Look how many people are killed today because of religion. Why don’t we just ban religion? Banning movies makes about as much sense as that. Why don’t you ban paintings and then ban books, then nobody would do anything wrong. I mean the Holocaust, was that because of a movie? It’s absurd.”

Roth has spoken in the past about horror as genre having a cathartic quality that is hard to find elsewhere:

“We all have fears in our lives that we bury. Am I gonna die alone? Is my partner who we think they are? Am I gonna find love? Am I gonna lose my job? Am I getting fat, am I getting old, am I gonna get hit by a car, am I getting sick? There’s no place we are allowed to be afraid in our society. You can’t be afraid at work, you can’t be afraid at home. Only during horror movies. It’s the only place in modern society that it’s culturally accepted and encouraged to be terrified. So it’s a great release to let all of these feelings out without feeling like a coward or without feeling shame.”

“And they’re the best date movie... because you look up at George Clooney and Brad Pitt and then they’re thinking that you're not them... In a horror movie they’re looking at the killer and grabbing onto you for dear life.”

Having started making films during his childhood, Roth went on to pay for his student films by working as an online sex operator for Penthouse magazine. Subscribers paid hourly to have web-based sex with Roth and his N.Y.U. friends, thinking they were Penthouse models…until they revealed themselves:

“My persona was this girl Tammy who was a slut in East Village who got gangbanged by ‘Guns ‘n’ Roses’ and ‘Poison’ and we went on and said 'We are men. We have penises and we’ve been fucking with you all along.' Their response was 'Shut up Tammy, tell me about your tits.' We couldn’t convince them - they refused to believe it. Men will believe anything.”

With awards for his acting role in ‘Inglorious Basterds’, a cameo as a wet T-Shirt competition judge in 'Piranha 3D,' and upcoming projects ‘Endangered Species’ and ‘Man with the Iron Fist’ - which see him venturing into new genres Sci-Fi and King-Fu, - it’s evident that Roth’s persistence to get his break has paid off. His passion for film drives his career and he’s worked undeniably hard to get into the industry, and as a result is willing to help other unknown talents break in. His penchant for horror seems to be unparalleled by many in the industry, and his success so far hasn’t driven him to exclusively stick to the big blockbusters that are all too common in Hollywood.

Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
film
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?