Inglourious Basterds hits theaters tomorrow, and a couple weekends ago I attended the press junket to hear from a few of the film's stars. Yesterday we shared BJ Novak's interview, and now here's more from Eli Roth. His experience was unique coming to the movie as a friend of Quentin Tarantino's and an accomplished director in his own right. Roth tried his hand at acting, but he also got behind the camera to direct movie-within-a-movie Nation's Pride, which is a Nazi propaganda film that plays an integral role in Basterds. Here's some of what Eli had to say:
- On a possible prequel: When Quentin writes, he knows every character in this movie, so he might do the Inglourius Basterds prequel — he’s got most of it written. Brad and I were always like "Prequel! Prequel! Prequel!" So we filmed [my character's backstory], but Quentin said, "I gotta tell you, I love those scenes, but you have the coolest entrance in the movie and it’s just taking away from it." And I was like "Well I don’t want to ruin the grand entrance." He’s like "You have Brad Pitt AND Hitler introducing you! So, you’re set up pretty good in this movie." He says he already has three scenes from the prequel done already. So we may see them someday.
- On making the movie as a Jewish actor: I think the death of a lot of these WWII movies is that they get so caught up in the details of being so reverential and precious to the subject matter that they don’t realize how absurd it is to have British people running concentration camps with those accents. There are people speaking in English in these "historically accurate movies." I’m like, what the f*** was that? When my relatives were getting killed I don’t think they heard any English. It’s also important to remember what happened and to make sure it never happens again. It should upset us. If I saw a a swastika and I wasn’t upset that’s where there is a problem. When you go on a set and you know it’s a movie, it’s not like driving through a neighborhood and seeing a swastika painted. That’s where I get really upset. But I will say this, the first time I showed Nation’s Pride to 300 Nazi extras, even though they were in character, my stomach turned. I looked at Quentin and was like, "Oh my god, what have I done? I’ve started the fourth Reich and they're going to make me their Sarah Palin."
To hear more from Eli, including whether he prefers acting or directing, just read more.
- On expectations and Tarantino films: Quentin always says that his movies take a couple of viewings to get used to, because people have very specific expectations. If you think about Quentin — he’s continually defied expectations. After Pulp Fiction, nobody expected Jackie Brown and it took people a while to get into the rhythm of it. Quentin said with Kill Bill, the reviews were terrible; everyone says, "Where’s the great Tarantino dialogue?" Then in Kill Bill 2 it was all dialogue and he got bad reviews because everyone asked for the great action from Kill Bill. The challenge of [Basterds] is how to sell it in a 30-second TV spot. We could sit here and talk for two hours and it would be difficult to categorize what the film is, because it’s so many different things and Quentin said, every chapter change, every 20 minutes he wants people saying, "Wait a minute, what movie are we in?"
- On acting vs. directing: I actually prefer directing. I mean I love acting, but I get an incredible thrill out of having an idea in my head and seeing people connect to it . . . or throw up from it. The truth is, I did love acting and it was really really fun, but it was a special circumstance. Quentin said "You have another career here if you want it. You are killing it. You’re hitting it out of the park, you really are." And I said, "Well, how am I going to top this experience?" And he said, "Well you might not, but now you have permission to write great parts for yourself." And that is something I think I would do.
- On working with his friend Taratino: I know that people are grading me on an extra hard curve. They know I’m friends with Quentin and they know that I’m a director, but I had to very quickly earn the respect of the audience. And it couldn’t be just from lifting weights. People had to see that it's real — that pain, and that anguish and that furor in his eyes as soon as he comes out with a bat. That he just has this murderous rage to kill these Nazis. I really pushed myself like I never have before. In a strange way I think when I come out people are expecting something brutal and we make sure to deliver that in the very first scene.