He’s the man who killed Hitler. That’s our first thought when we chat to Eli Roth, who starred in the 2009 Oscar-winning hit Inglourious Basterds as Donny ‘The Bear Jew’ Dorowitz, but, by trade, is known as the director who contemporised horror twice with 2004’s Cabin Fever and 2006’s Hostel.
Roth isn’t a man who forgets his early days in the movie business. “I was that guy who was 28 and couldn’t get arrested and nobody cared about my script,” he tells us. “That was only ten years ago, so it’s still very close to me. I have a lot of ideas and a lot of things I want to do, and I finally feel I’m in this incredible position to do anything I want, help other people make movies and I have my own ideas I want to make.”
Following his role in Basterds and producing The Last Exorcism, Roth tells us that this is a very experimental point in his career. “I was so singularly focused on directing for so long, and it all worked out. 30-35 was intense – everything finally came together.” People know Roth’s name thanks to the success of Cabin Fever and the Hostel franchise; as a producer, he can use that name recognition as leverage to get a project off the ground. “I’m in this position now where I can get them going – obviously, I don’t want to do too much, to take away from my directing career, but while I’m in this position I want to strike while the iron’s hot. I want to be producing films for my entire life – my personality is as such that I want to get other people’s movies made, I really love it. If you’re making a film, it takes a year-and-a-half of your life, but if you’re producing you can have six or seven ideas going at once. It’s very exciting.”
Indeed, The Last Exorcism only really got off the ground because Roth got on board. “Studio Canal wanted to come in and help finance the film, and they would do so if I got involved. So Eric [Newman, producer] brought the project to me and that’s when I wanted to come on as a producer. He told me what it was – it’s this documentary of an exorcism that goes wrong. And I read the script, and I thought it was one of the best, most interesting scripts I’d ever read. What I loved about was that, it wasn’t The Exorcist. You think, how can you ever top The Exorcist? And this film isn’t trying to. It’s a psychological thriller about a girl who might be crazy or might be possessed, and every time I thought I had the movie figured out it took a new twist and a new turn. I got on board and I went with Studio Canal to all the different markets and we pre-sold the movie and put the financing together, found our director, Daniel Stamm, and we made it.”