A Q&A with Cabin Fever director Eli Roth


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Eli Roth’s directorial debut, 2002’s Cabin Fever, has become a cult classic. While the movie is ostensibly your stereotypical a-group-of-kids-go-to-the-woods-and-a-bloodbath-ensues horror movie, it established Roth as an edgy director with a knack for clever dialogue. Though available on DVD, the movie hasn’t been released on Blu-ray until now. Featuring a new, director’s cut and additional commentary by Roth and most of the cast, the Blu-ray version, which comes out tomorrow, differs drastically from the theatrical cut. While he's been busy attending awards ceremonies (he's part of the cast in Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-nominated Inglorious Basterds), Roth recently had a minute to phone in to talk about the Cabin Fever re-release and his next feature film, Endangered Species, which he is still writing.

How hands-on were you in developing the un-rated director’s cut of the film for the new Blu-ray version?
I was very hands-on. I’ve been pushing for this since the movie was re-cut by the studio years ago. They has always said they would eventually do one. There were a lot of regime changes at Lionsgate. Thankfully, there were a few people who kept it alive. It was actually the success of Inglorious Bastards that sparked it. The Hollyshorts Film Festival gave me an award last summer in August and asked me if I wanted to do a screening. I said that I wanted to do a screening of the director’s cut and there was only one print and I had it. We showed it, and it brought the house down. Everyone was saying, “Why isn’t this out?” After Inglorious opened, friends of mine said that they could get it pushed through.

I talked to the CEO of Lionsgate, John Feltheimer — I actually saw him at a Boston Red Sox party - and I grabbed him and I was like “new transfer, new transfer.” He said, “How much is it going to cost?” I said, “C’mon dude!” He was like, “Alright. Anything you want.” It’s a catalogue title, so it’s hard to get the funding to do it. Sometimes they just upgrade it but we wanted a really nice new transfer. I supervised the transfer. Everyone fought to get a new 7.1 mix. Some of the dialogue was cleaned up and we had a fantastic mixing team. It’s not that much of a difference but to me the director’s cut makes more sense and it’s a better film. There are a lot of questions that happen as a result of certain cuts. Characters say lines that don’t exactly make sense, even in the context of Cabin Fever, which has a lot of weird lines. I wanted to add more things to give fans a reason to buy it. The gore looks spectacular and the sound is fantastic. And I did a new commentary with most of the cast. I added two of my animated shorts and there was a problem in the audio transfer so I was bummed because half the audio is missing. But because of BD-Live, in a week or two we’ll upload it to the site and people will be able to watch it with the complete audio. The technology is really cool.

How were you able to keep your own cut all this time?
When they bought the movie, there was an original transfer made. But we couldn’t find it so we had to go to the vault and get the negative. I was amazed at how much stuff had disappeared in just seven years. Not through anyone’s fault. It’s just what happens. Stuff gets moved. We had to go back to the original elements and piece it together. I thought we’d have to transfer the missing pieces from my print, which I didn’t want to do. We wanted it from the original negative. Luckily, we had it.

You made the movie years ago. What was it like going back to it? Did you see things that would you have done things differently?
I saw things I would have done differently the night it premiered. That’s part of making a film. You have to divorce yourself from that. Looking back now and watching it on the big-screen, I am so proud of what we accomplished. I really feel that what made the movie special was the cast and production design. We assembled the best team we could. My DP has gone on to do shoot Fame and Death Race. Our production designer is now a Stallone guy and has done Rambo and The Expendables. Cerina Vincent is a published author now and it’s great to see everyone is still doing stuff. Rider Strong is directing. It’s like going back to camp and having a reunion with your favorite people. I missed it so much and when we were doing the audio commentary, all I could think it that I cannot wait to make another movie.

You’ve been focused on acting.
Well, yeah, when Quentin Tarantino calls, you come charging. It’s an incredible opportunity and I had a great time doing it but there’s nothing that thrills me like directing a movie and watching it with an audience. It reminded me that this is what I need to be focused on entirely.

What’s it been like to work with Tarantino, someone you idolized?
It’s incredible. It’s an interesting transition when there are people who are your idols and then your peers and then your friends. It’s hard to think of the way I thought of him before. You always have a fantasy that you have a lot in common. There are certain celebrities where you think, “If I met this person, we would get along so well.” And when it happens and you do get along, it’s a strange and wonderful feeling. There’s a real mutual respect. His support has meant so much to me. That’s why I want to support his in any way I could. He’s a wonderful guy. He supports everyone. He’s so happy for people. So many people in Hollywood are jealous and want everyone to fail. He doesn’t. He wants everyone to make great movies.

What are you working on now?
I’m producing a few movies and we’re finalizing a deal for Cotton, which will be announced very soon. And RZA’s movie, The Man with the Iron First, which I’m producing with Strike Entertainment, we’re looking to start shooting in August. I’m finishing my script, Endangered Species. This whole awards season, Quentin wants me at every event. How can I say no? It’s been a wonderful distraction. I think after the Oscars, that will be the end of it. I’m trying to write as much as I can but I don’t want to miss this moment and then think I should have taken the time to enjoy that moment.

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