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Eli Roth spills the beans

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Directing a film is hard work. At least, that’s what Eli Roth suggests when he grumbles at us, “You put your whole life into it for a year.” So it’s hardly surprising that the bloodshed-loving director of Hostel and “Frank Sinatra of the Splat Pack” (copyright Quentin Tarantino) has decided that simply producing films, such as recent hit The Last Exorcism, might be a good idea…

How manic did your life become when you were trying to juggle directing, acting and writing?

The key is to not stop and think about it. When I was making Hostel II, Quentin wanted me to act in Death Proof and do the trailer for Grindhouse. So, of course, I said yes to everything and thought, “I’ll just figure it out later.” Ten years ago no one would take my phone calls and I was completely broke. I just want to take advantage now.

Are you OK with not having complete directorial control when you’re producing?

Producing is me taking a break. Directing is like having a relationship — it’s full time. Producing is like your friend coming to you for advice about their relationship.

How does it feel that associating yourself with something now gives it a chance of doing better? You’re a saleable brand…

It’s weird. But it’s also a responsibility that I take very seriously — the fans have put their trust in me and I have to deliver. But I’m just beginning. I’ve done the necessary first phase of my career and now I can really take off.

Are there any Hollywood A-listers you’d like to kill off in style?

Oh sure. There are lots of film-makers and actors, like Josh Brolin, who will say to me, “When are you killing me in one of your films?” It’s nice that I’ve developed a fan-base. I’d love to do a film in California with all my friends. Because we shoot all around the world, I can never get them in them. If I did one there, I could kill off everybody and deliver on that promise.

Much of your back catalogue has some extreme content. Is there anything you’d shy away from putting on film?

No, I don’t think there’s anything that’s off-limits, but there’s always a way to do the off-limits stuff that doesn’t alienate your audience. People like to come off a rollercoaster and feel an incredible adrenaline rush — they’re shaking, have a cold sweat and a huge smile on their face. They don’t want to feel so dizzy that they’re going to throw up.

You have contact with your fans through Twitter — do you take the advice they give you into account when you’re working?

You have to find a balance. But I love being in contact with the fans — it wasn’t that long ago that I was getting kicked out of the Fangoria convention because I couldn’t afford the ticket. So when I talk to the fans, and they’re treating me with respect and as an inspiration, it is such an incredible feeling of satisfaction. I love being able to feed off that energy.

Did the pseudo-documentary style of The Last Exorcism come from them?

Kudos should go to The Office for that — it was the first time it was an acceptable form of narrative storytelling, with the cameras being there and people being aware of them. The Last Exorcism is supposed to feel like a true documentary. We wanted everyone asking the question: “Who put this together and why?”

Is there anything particular that really scares you?

With my list of phobias we’d be here for 12 hours. I make films because I’m overly sensitive to things. I get afraid of driving, flying, germs. And that I might suddenly die without making all the films I wanted to make…

The Last Exorcism is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 27 December

(Image: Rex Features)

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