Interview/Review: 'Hobo With A Shotgun' Helmer Jason Eisener talks Exploitation
All hail the Hobo! (And the Hauer!) With the recent arrival of "Grindhouse," Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s double-feature homage to the exploitation era, there has been renewed interest in flicks that feature old school over-the-top blood, guts and glory. The latest is the inspired Canadian import "Hobo with a Shotgun" (which opens in Los Angeles May 20 from the great Magnet Releasing) that features legendary character actor Rutger Hauer as an ass kicking man of the street who decides to keep the peace with a twelve gage and some attitude. The film began as a winning trailer, but based on the catchy title and inventive ideas, quickly moved to feature film status. Starpulse recently got a chance to talk one-on-one with "Hobo with a Shotgun" director Jason Eisner who provided some insight into everything from working with veteran actor Hauer to racy ideas too hot for the flick. So park your shopping cart, put on an extra layer of clothing and load the Winchester – this vigilante is hitting the streets! Here’s Hobo helmer…
DIRECTOR JASON EISENER!
Where did the concept for "Hobo with a Shotgun" originally come from?
Jason Eisener: The writer John Davis is my best friend – I’ve known him since I was six-years old. And we have a spot back home where we sometimes go to pitch ideas back and forth, it’s a local pizza joint called Ronnie’s Pizza. So we were sitting there one day and my buddy Mojo was with us. Mojo at the time had really long hair and this scruffy shirt on and he had just bought this air soft shotgun that shoots plastic pellets. And John and I are pitching ideas back and forth and Mojo speaks up and says, "Why don’t you make a movie about me?" And John looks at him up and down and says, "What – like a hobo with a shotgun?" And I was like man that’s really cool!
We all know that the fake trailer you made early on won the "Grindhouse" trailer contest, but how did it then go on to become a feature film?
JE: Even before we won the contest, we put it online and it really started to take off and became this viral hit on YouTube. People were constantly writing you gotta make this movie, you gotta make this movie! So we thought maybe we should just go out on weekends with friends and do it low budget dirty style and try to make the movie. And when we won that contest our Canadian distributor Alliance said they loved it and they wanted to make a hundred and eighty-six film prints of it and attach it to the Canadian release of "Grindhouse." I’ve never even heard of that happening before. We shot that thing for a hundred and twenty bucks on Mini-DV and it was this insane little thing that people got to watch in Canada before the movie. But they flew us up to Toronto because they wanted to talk about making it into a feature film and we met a producer named Niv Fichman, who has never made a movie that’s anywhere close to "Hobo with a Shotgun." I looked at his IMDB and I thought this is gonna be the weirdest, hardest pitch ever – there’s no way he’s gonna be down for it. But we just hit it off and we spent a couple of years raising the money and writing several drafts of the script and one day it was like we’re going, we’re making the movie!
What are some of your favorite grindhouse style films?
JE: With this film I cut together a reel before we went into pre-production and it was kind of an inspirational reel for when I woke up in the morning. It was just cut with all these clips from a lot of the exploitation films that I felt were kind of in the same world of Hobo and that were influencing us. It was a great way to get my crew up to speed when we went into pre-production – I just gave them all this DVD. It was this twelve-minute thing they could take home and watch and be thrown into the world that they were going to be stepping into for the next two months. On that reel there were clips from "The Warriors," which is my favorite movie, "Dead End Drive-In," the Brian Trenchard-Smith film, "Dead Wish 3," "Cobra," "Vice Squad," "Rolling Thunder" was on there, bits of "Taxi Driver," "Class of 1984" for sure, "The Hitcher" and "Curtains," which was a crazy old Canadian slasher film!
You made the original trailer with Dave Brunt as the hobo, who then went on to play the dirty cop in the feature – ever any apprehension about not giving him the lead role?
JE: Basically, Dave had never acted a day before in his life. I was working in a comic book shop at the time when we made that trailer. He was one of these guys that spent a lot of time just walking the streets and he’d come into my store and I just loved him. He’d tell me stories about his life or what was going on during the week and I thought he had a great personality and I loved his outlook on life. So when we shot that trailer, the rage you see on the screen is for real because he had never acted before. He had no idea how to work in front of a camera. So when it came time to make the feature film we thought we’d use Dave and get him some acting lessons and try to make it work. But he has a disability – when he was eighteen he was hit by a drunk driver and totally destroyed his hip – and the role is quite physical. Even shooting that trailer with him, you’d be shooting an hour with him and he’d be so tired and in pain and I knew Dave was really worried about it. And I thought there’s no way I could put him through this – as much as I would have loved to have him do it. But it was always his dream to play a cop in a movie because when he was hit by that drunk driver, he was on his way to put in his papers to become a cop. I also had Dave sit by me at the monitor every single day and he and Rutger became brothers on set.
How did Rutger Hauer’s name come up for the feature of Hobo and how did you convince him to make the film?
JE: Alliance asked me to come up with a list of my top five favorite actors and growing up Rutger was my favorite actor. He has this class and cool style in his performances and he creates such mystery behind his characters and that was so much what I wanted to bring to Hobo. Hobo’s very much like a western – it’s kind of a man with no name sort of character. Rutger really liked that and I think he’s always wanted to be in a western too. So I put his name at the top of the list thinking there’s no way in hell this will ever happen, but it will give people an idea as to the kind of guy I’m going for. And within a couple of days we got the script to his agent and his agent did not like the script at all. He told Rutger, "This is not for you at all – I don’t think this will interest you." And for Rutger when someone tells him he’s not going to like something that peaks his interest. So he read the script and he thought it was crazy, but he was like, "Let me talk to the director." So I got on Skype with him and I was so nervous going into that because first and foremost I’m a film fan before I’m a filmmaker. Knowing that you’re going to have to speak with your favorite actor and convince him to be in the movie there was a lot of pressure on that phone call. Within the first five minutes we hit it off and just connect personally and a half hour after the phone call he was in.
With so many on-set stories about his attention to detail in his various roles over the years, what was Rutger really like to work with?
JE: Before he showed up there was the pressure of I’m working with one of my favorite actors and he’s also worked with some of my favorite directors and he’s gonna come and work with a first-time feature filmmaker. But he does this show in the Netherlands called "Film Factory" where he helps, guides and produces short films for young filmmakers. It’s this reality TV show and I watched a bunch of episodes and I saw how giving and patient he was and when he came to set he was exactly that guy. Anytime we would act like fanboys he was like, ‘Ahhh – fuck off! – but he got so into the character.
What would you say was the hardest thing to shoot in Hobo?
JE: There was one stupid little gag that took thirty takes and it’s so simple. When they walk into the hospital and they stab the doctor with a sword and it penetrates through the back of his shirt, for some reason that thing was so hard to do. But if anything the personal struggles, building the confidence to make a first feature film and not knowing what that’s like, it’s a little scary.
With everything all the cool over-the-top elements in Hobo – a pedophile Santa, school busses with children set ablaze and even the hero glass eating – was there any outrageous ideas that were actually rejected?
JE: (Laughs) Yeah! Most of them were budgetary things. But you know where the Hobo has a gun taped to Slick’s dick? Originally, when he blew off Slick’s dick it was supposed to stay on the gun and it was kind of like a sight at the end of the Shotgun! And at the end of the movie where he blows away Drake’s head, he was gonna shove the barrel into Drake’s mouth – basically putting the dick of his own son in his mouth! And that was a little too…that’s gonna distract from the emotion and moment of the scene – although it was a lot of fun to think about and laugh about!
With the no-holds-barred approach to the material, was there ever any pressure before making the film, during shooting or even while seeking distribution to change, cut or tone down any exploitation elements?
JE: No. Any of those things really…well there was the school bus scene for instance. During pre-production raising money that was something that always would come up with financers. You read that scene off the page without actually seeing everything leading up to it and the comedy it’s a hard scene. That was always something that was a thorn in our side – we probably could have shot the movie two years ago if it wasn’t for that scene. But we knew it was very important and it’s not there just to shock people, it’s there to push the story forward. So once our financers saw that and we explained it, they got it and got behind it.
That shot of that girl on the back of the bus - we shot that a month before going into production. We thought we were going to make a teaser trailer and it was just going to be this long shot of the school bus on fire and as it gets close to the window this kid pops up. We never did anything with it because we thought it might be too much for people online. So I hung on to the shot and I ended up cutting it into the scene and it ended up staying in there!
With Hobo now gaining massive cult success status, any thoughts on moving to Los Angeles to pursue making films or will you ultimately stay in Canada?
JE: Right now the plan is to see if we can keep making these movies in Canada. We had such an amazing time making Hobo that I just don’t want to change that. We got to use all our friends and the crew we love working with and it was just an awesome positive experience that if I can keep doing that in Canada, why not?
What’s next – any more cool exploitation flicks in your future?
JE: Yeah! We definitely want to keep working with high concept and outrageous ideas – that’s our plan. I mean I’d even like to make a kid film some day, but it’s gotta be a hard kid movie and treat a kid like a kid. The audience today is totally different from the kid audience from when I grew up watching movies. Movies like "The Monster Squad" or "The Goonies" or "Stand By Me" – those moments where it’s almost intense but still a kid movie. I’d love to make a kid exploitation style high concept movie some day, I think that would be so fun to do. I want to make the ultimate tree fort movie! But the next movie we’re working on is a martial arts film and it’s in the same world as Hobo. It takes place at a high school and we’re having a lot of fun writing that right now.
So wanna know the skinny on the flick – check out the review below!
Title: "Hobo With A Shotgun"
Genre: Action, Drama, Grindhouse
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Molly Dunsworth
Director: Jason Eisener
Running Time: 86 minutes
Release Company: Magnet Releasing
Even with all the intentionally crazy moments, a good exploitation flick needs to have more to be memorable. Robert Rodriguez had just the right amount of fun and sleaze with "Planet Terror," while "Death Proof" benefited from Quentin Tarantino’s casting of ever-cool tough guy Kurt Russell. For the cleverly named "Hobo with a Shotgun" it is but a singular name that adds that surprising something to the buckets of blood and heinous acts of violence – Hauer.
Rutger Hauer plays the titular hobo, a bum who stumbles into a new town that seems to have a lot of crime problems. Guys are having their heads ripped off with the help of a speeding car and a rope, hookers are being forced to give sex Pro bono and the homeless are making their money via a sick video blogger with an affinity for shooting public humiliation. Even the local police are in on the act, either on the take or turning a blind eye. Seeing a lawnmower in a local store, the soon fed up homeless vigilante also spots a shotgun for the same price and ultimately decides to serve up a little eat lead sandwich hobo style.
Any more description items would be a waste of time because frankly the film is not that complicated. It’s a vile, disgusting, gratuitous and depraved piece of celluloid – exploitation at its beautiful head-popping best. (Director Jason Eisener is born to do this stuff!) But the thing that matches such benchmarks as a kid full of school kids getting torched by the bad guys, are the moments of serious depth infused by the soulful Hauer. Matching his tough guy persona with a wonderful inner character turmoil, Hauer brings those great bits self reflection (the monologue to the newborns is heartbreaking!) and pause (a hobo…with a heart?!) even to high concept material like this and it’s fascinating to watch.
Don't get me wrong – fans of this stuff will get their fill of all the raunchy humor (the Mother Teresa line had me laughing for five minutes after!), hubris (the bad guys here delightfully uber-cheesy!) and horror (how about throwing a sharp ice skate into the mix!) they can possibly handle. But it’s the Hauer in Hobo that makes this homeless dude worth shelling out a few extra bucks for.
Hobo With A Shotgun is currently playing On Demand and in New York, New Orleans and Austin – the films opens in Los Angeles May 20th from Magnet Releasing.