It’s no secret that the story behind Hobo with a Shotgun’s four year journey to the big screen has been a remarkable one. In 2007, when Eisener won the Grindhouse faux trailer competition sponsored by Robert Rodriguez and the SXSW Film Festival, he was a relatively unknown Canadian filmmaker who put together his contest winning entry on a budget less than what many of us spend on groceries a week.
Now, Eisener and the feature film adaptation of his trailer of the same name are everywhere these days and for very good reason. Turns out that Eisener’s tale of a street urchin dishing up justice with a shotgun and a dream for safer streets in Hope Town has become a cultural landmark- all before the movie even bows in a limited theatrical release this Friday courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
Recently, Dread Central had the opportunity to talk with Eisener as well as producer Rob Cotterill about all things Hobo related, their response to the mainstream reception of their twisted flick, and why you can never keep a good hobo down.
With putting together an exploitation flick like Hobo with a Shotgun, the look and style of the movie are almost just as integral to the success of the project as the storytelling is. Eisener spoke about how he got his cast and crew up to speed on the history of exploitation films before they shot their first scene.
“Before we started pre-production, I put together something I called the ‘inspiration reel’ and it was a 15 minute collection of a bunch of shots from a ton of exploitation films that I felt were in some ways in the same world as Hobo or may have influenced me over the years as a filmmaker. We used it to get our crew up to speed and became a quick crash-course into the world of exploitation films,” said Eisener.
Eisener went on discuss how his growing up during the 80s and how the decade that birthed “high concept” filmmaking and storytelling served as his inspiration. “When Hobo starts off, Rutger kind of rolls in still stuck in the 70s and once he gets into Hope Town, he falls right into the 80s and I definitely think a lot of that comes from me growing up in the 80s, especially with cartoons from that generation. They always had such crazy, high-concept ideas and I just loved that. You’d see that even in movies too.”
“Back then, they used a lot of primary colors being so colorful, that always drew me in. So I used a lot of that when coming up with a lot of looks in Hobo. I mean, it’s definitely not a movie for kids but I hope adult audiences will get that sense of nostalgia when they’re watching it,” Eisener added.
Cotterill said, “I definitely think one of things that kind of sets Hobo apart from a lot of films right now is that movies these days don’t really play a lot with colors and we definitely do. There aren’t a lot of movies that have the distinctive look that we were able to pull off and I think that resonates with audiences.”
Cartoons and films of that era weren’t the only inspirations you’ll be able to see when Hobo hits theaters this Friday. Turns out, the up-and-coming director found a lot of inspiration for the look of his film from watching classic WWF wrestling.
“I also grew up on 80s wrestling and for me, it’s ingrained in my brain so it’s part of my own perception of the world around me,” explained Eisener. “When I see red and yellow together, my mind instantly goes to Hulk Hogan. And that’s because when they were designing those characters, they were imagining how the colors could help them identify with audiences and help sell posters and action figures and stuff like that. So when I was putting Hobo together, I went to my costume department and said I wanted to use the same kind of color combinations the way wrestling used to do it, and hopefully it will work for audiences in the same kind of way it worked on me as a kid.”
Wrestling didn’t only influence the director’s look of the movie; it almost was part of his casting process as well. Eisener said, “When we were developing the character of The Drake, we actually had wanted Jake “The Snake” Roberts to play him.”
“Yeah, he finally heard at one point we were considering him for the role and he contacted Jason on Facebook saying ‘hey, I heard you were looking for me’ but funny enough, that was actually just a few weeks ago,” said Cotterill.
“Originally, when we were first entertaining the idea of having Jake as The Drake, we got in an amazing audition from Brian Downey who ends up playing The Drake in the film. Once I saw it, I realized I had my Drake right there but I would still love to work with Jake one day,” Eisener added.
Both Cotterill and Eisener discussed the evolution of Hobo’s nefarious crime family composed of The Drake and his demented sons Ivan (Nick Bateman) and Slick (Gregory Smith) whose reign of terror becomes challenged when Hauer’s hobo gets fed up with their deadly antics.
Cotterill explained, “The Drake originally started off as a classic drug-dealing crime lord that you’d see in 80s movies but during the process of developing that character, he evolved into this circus ringleader that becomes a figurehead to this crazy circus of people running around town.”
“Brian, Nick and Greg all sort of worked together and teamed up to bring this insane family to life. That’s the great thing when you’re working with awesome actors- they just come into production with amazing enthusiasm and ideas that breathe life into your characters in ways that exceed any expectations you may have had when you were originally envisioning them,” added Eisener.
When Eisener was dreaming up the demented world of Hobo with a Shotgun, he imagined that the film would have a polarizing effect on audiences. However, since it seems like his vision is being widely lauded as one of the best times theater-goers will have all year, we asked Eisener to discuss his feelings about the reaction Hobo has been receiving since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
“I think the overall reception of Hobo has been so surreal for me,” explained Eisener. “When we finished the movie, we really thought that this was something that was going to divide audiences and that was something we were completely cool with. But it seems like all across the board, everyone has really been open to our crazy little story and they’ve gotten behind it full-force and I am so amazed by that. Honestly, I was never expecting all of this and it’s strange but even some of my favorite reviewers growing up are now writing positive reviews of my movie and that’s just so crazy to me.”
Now that Eisener and Cotterill are both about to enjoy the release of Hobo in theaters, they’re already focused on their next project which is a send up of 80s martial arts films (which we first reported on in March) they both grew up loving. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t stories left to be told in Hope Town.
Eisener said, “Right now, we’re staying completely focused on our next movie which is our twisted version of a martial arts film that takes place in a high school. But we’ve always been entertaining the idea of a sequel to Hobo with a Shotgun since the very beginning and there is still a Plague treatment that’s finished too.”
“There are definitely a lot of tales in the world of our Hobo. In fact, the Hobo may or may not be dead. You just never know- but I bet fans can get a clue about the Hobo’s status if they watch the movie until the very end,” added Cotterill.