Every young filmmaker has a story. A story of lucky chances and
years of irritating production executives and any family friend
with anything resembling money.
Thirty-one-year-old Eli Roth’s story includes a stint as Howard
Stern’s human wake-up call on the set of “Private Parts” and six
years spent doing research for a David Lynch Broadway musical that
has still yet to be produced. For Roth, this pair of lowly,
connections-making jobs were the jumpstart for his budding
directing career. Roth spent those long Stern-snoring nights
writing the screenplay for his recently released “Cabin Fever,” a
gore-to-the-extreme modern homage to classic ’70s horror cinema.
And, in Lynch, the legend of bizarre cinema, Roth found his
“(Lynch) was never officially my mentor,” Roth corrects over the
phone last week, “but I learned more about directing and filmmaking
and writing from that guy than any other filmmaker.”
Lynch is also the man responsible for “Cabin Fever” ever getting
filmed and released. Roth recalls, “We were trying to cast the
movie and nobody wanted to be in the film. Agents wouldn’t even
read it; they were like, ‘This is disgusting I won’t send this to
Then, as a favor, Lynch put his name on as executive producer
and the companies – that before had furiously said no – engaged in
a bidding war. “It changed the perception of the thing. As soon as
you say horror, people think straight-to-video. When you say David
Lynch, they think art house, you know ‘Mulholland Drive,’ quirky.
All of a sudden the same script that people had trashed was so
Lynchian. It’s such bullshit; they just saw his name.”
An alumni of New York University’s notorious film school, where
he won a Student Academy Award in 1995 for his “Ronald McDonald
goes on a killing spree” short film “Restaurant Dogs,” Roth is very
vocal of his hatred for the Hollywood system. Yet, Roth can now
call himself friends with the biggest names in filmmaking today.
Peter Jackson stopped production on “The Lord of the Rings: Return
of the King” just so the whole cast and crew could attend a
screening of “Cabin Fever.” And after the film played at the Los
Angeles Film Festival, Quentin Tarantino invited Roth over to
dispense career advice and watch some joint B-movie favorites. Roth
still cannot believe that his heroes now consider him part of their
club, “Tarantino owns cool and we’re all just renting it from
One day, Roth hopes to equal the success of his newfound
friends, but for now he’s keeping his goals simple, “I’m interested
in telling cool, fucked-up stories that push the envelope.” A
long-time lover of horror films, “Cabin Fever” is designed to pay
tribute to the classics of his youth and once again shock today’s
viewers with a little bit of un-PC extremism.
Roth grows vilely enthusiastic when talking about today’s scare
flicks, “I think that every horror movie today is a fucking
pussy-ass, bullshit, PG-13, neutered-down piece of shit. There are
very few exceptions, and it’s all the Japanese.”
At least he likes the Japanese.