This weekend I participated in roundtable interviews for Eli Roth”s latest film Hostel which, by the way, is truly a badass film. First up was the film’s star Jay Hernandez who plays the cynical Paxton. There are some spoilers throughout the interview, so please proceed with caution.
Question: How were you approached for this film and what made you say “yes”?
Jay Hernandez: I was approached when the script got to my agent and he sent it to me; my agents read it, Jim Toth and Kelly Tippon. They both read it; Jim loved it and Kelly hated it. She said ‘don’t do it, it’s horrible, it’s disgusting, it’s not good for you.’ Jim was like ‘dude, you got to do this thing, you gotta do it, it’s going to be awesome.’ So I read it and I responded the same way Jim did. So we set up a meeting with Eli and after meeting him and seeing his excitement and everything; it seemed like he already had every shot planned out and cut in his head. I knew he was very thorough and he talked about some of the locations he scouted. I knew Quentin was involved and it just seemed like a really cool movie. It’s something exciting to do, something different; it’s a nice departure from all the nice guys I have played so I was like ‘yeah, I’m up for it, let’s do it.’
Q: What percentage of the scripts you’ve gotten recently have been horror?
JH: Surprisingly a majority. I don’t know, as far as a percentage… 30% (laughs), but there was a lot; it seems every studio is trying to get one out because they’re making a lot of money.
Q: So what was it about this one that was more fucked up than the other ones?
JH: There was stuff that got cut out, stuff that would have definitely gotten cut out with the rating we got, which we didn’t expect necessarily. I just thought that it was ‘no holds barred’ and then Eli said he’s sticking to it and he wanted to shoot his movie, he said, ‘I’m not going to let them mess with my movie and take some out to broaden the audience. I’m going to make a horror film and go out full strong.”
Q: What did you think about the original ending?
JH: I thought it was good; it’s just the tone of it. You set the audience up for that kind of ending and when it doesn’t happen, it’s kind of disappointing for the audience. When we shot it and put together, I saw it and said ‘yeah, that works; that’s a piece of the puzzle.’ I liked it better, as a matter of fact.
Q: What was the original ending?
JH: Well, I don’t know, should I give it away? Yeah, it’s fine; it’ll probably end up on the DVD anyway. Instead of killing the guy, I go in and kidnap the guy’s daughter, the only thing that meant anything to him, that’s pure in his life. So I get off the train and follow him into the bathroom and it makes you think I’m going to do something to him, but I kidnap his daughter instead. There’s a shot of me back on the train with my hand over her mouth, and you don’t know if I’m going to hurt her or if I’m going to save her. So it sort of leaves on that note, is he going to kill her or is he trying to save her from this evil monster, you don’t really know.
Q: Will it be on the DVD?
JH: Yeah, it probably will.
Q: Can you talk about some of the scenes that were cut?
JH: They were never shot. There was one scene where the guy was torturing; it’s pretty sick, he was doing the torturing and the level of excitement was such that he had a pretty good erection going on (laughs). And now you know why it was cut out; pretty sick, huh!?
Q: What’s it like being up close to a chainsaw?
JH: It’s cool, dude; it’s classic horror. Having a chainsaw on set makes everyone excited.
Q: What about when it’s right up to your face?
JH: Well, it’s not that close; you cheat. But it was cool; just the sound of the chainsaw, it gets everyone’s blood flowing.
Q: While you’re shooting it, do you ever wonder what it’s going to look like on screen?
JH: The thing is you’re there, so it’s only context; KNB doing all these cool things. But watching it, I was still ‘oh my gosh,’ kind of moving my body looking away from some of the violence. It was cool and to be there and to have shot it, and to still be affected that way, I knew this was money.
Q: Did anything freak you out while you were shooting?
JH: I think being in that institution, psych ward, or whatever that thing was; because that was a real place from back in the 1900’s. There were these underground rooms that hadn’t been lived in for almost 60, 70 years; I keep saying this, but it really freaked me out. There was this one room, I walked off set, just trying to get some fresh air and there was this huge room that had these hooks on the wall. I was asking some of the guys what those hooks were for, and nobody could give me an answer. Still, to this day I don’t know what those hooks were for; something was being hung up there, was it bodies? Was it meat? I don’t know.
Q: Do you feel emotionally effected coming out of the whole experience?
JH: Well, after the torture scene, I was glad it was done, that I got out of it; I felt like I had been tortured. Derek and I talked about it and he felt the same way; for a couple days in those handcuffs, trying to get out, bruises develop, so every time you move, you feel pain. Yelling, emotionally you’re in this place, it hurts, it was rough those few days. When that was over, there was a huge weight lifted off my back.
Q: Do you have any stories about hanging out in Prague?
JH: Yeah, I’ve got a funny story about Derek, it’s not a bad story, I’m not going to give all his personal stuff away. We were on the streets and we were trying to exchange some money, and we go to the exchange place and there’s a guy standing outside. He says ‘I’ll give you a better rate’ with this cheesy Czech accent and so Derek says ‘Ok, what’s the rate?’ He looks at me and says ‘Should I take it?’ And I say ‘I don’t know, I don’t care; if he’s giving you more money for a $100 bill, as long as it’s cool, as long as it’s legit.’ He does it and the guy gives him a $2000 bill, which neither of us had ever seen. So he’s looking at this thing, the guy walks off, but something is still bothering him about it. He says ‘I’m going to try to break this’ and we go into the exchange rate. He shows it to the lady and asks if he can have change for it; she points up to a sign on the wall that has the same bill and it says ‘This is not Czech money, don’t accept this on the street.’ And so he looks up there, and says ‘oh shit’ and so we run out of the door to try and get this guy; basically, he gets one hundred dollars taken from him.
So about three weeks later, we’re walking down the street and see that same fuckin’ dude in front of a money exchange place, and I said ‘Derek, that’s the guy.’ So I walk up to him and he says ‘Hey, do you want to exchange money?’ And I think what am I going to do to this guy? I’ve got to get back the money. So I just reacted and grabbed the guy by his shirt and started cussing in his face – ‘You better give me back that fuckin’ money’ and I’m shaking him (laughing); the guy must have been kind of freaked out. The guys says ‘I didn’t take your money’ and so I say ‘Yes you did, like three weeks ago.’ And so he says ‘No, no, not me; how much did I take from you?’ I say ‘If you’ve got to ask that question, than you did.’ (lots of laughter) So he says ‘Ok, ok’ and reaches in his pocket and give me this huge wad of money. True story.
Q: How do feel about traveling abroad now?
JH: I love traveling abroad, and the Czech Republic is a great city; I had nothing but fun there, I’d do it again.
Q: Can you talk about the Oliver Stone movie you’re doing?
JH: Yeah, it’s about 9/11; it follows Port Authority officers on the day of 9/11. I play a guy, Dominic Bazulo; after the first plane hit the Tower, the guys go in and try to get people out of there, try to save them. It’s a sensitive subject, cause there are still family members that are there, husbands and fathers, so it’s pretty sensitive. The main person the story is about is Will Jimeno; he was a Port Authority officer. He was on set practically all the time, advising Oliver and myself and Mike (Peno) and Nicolas (Cage) and everybody else; he’s trying to make it as real as it was.
Q: You guys are shooting in LA?
Q: How weird is that walking into a set looking at that?
JH: It’s really strange; we started shooting in New York, we did about a month there, and then we came here. The first day I showed up to set, to this warehouse – remember the look of the skeleton image of the Trade Centers and they’re sticking up? That’s what I saw walking into work, and it’s really eerie seeing that, eerie feeling, but it’s really good what they’ve done to reproduce that, it’s amazing.
Q: How would you compare Oliver Stone to Eli Roth?
JH: There’s no comparison; they’re two completely different people.
Q: But they’ve been described as two eccentric people.
JH: Yeah, Eli is inspired by psychosis and Oliver is inspired by Vietnam.
Q: Was that hard going from this to that?
JH: No, it wasn’t difficult. The time we spent in New York is invaluable. I actually went down to the locker room where a lot of the guys were; the guy who I play, the locker had been untouched, and they have a picture of him. I’m like ‘Damn, this is serious stuff’ and I just want to honor these guys the best I can.
Q: Were you received well in New York?
JH: Yeah, and the fact that Will Jimeno is associated with the project brings a certain validity to it because he’s putting his stamp on it; this is his story and this was his experience. He lost a lot of people that day and for him to be associated with it, that really helps.
Q: How much of the film focuses on your character?
JH: It’s about the four guys, I work with Michael Pena, Nicolas Cage, Jon Bernthal, and these guys who go and volunteer in this story are followed.
Q: So most of you are together most of the time?
JH: No, but you have the wives and their reactions going on, but the story is about these guys.
Q: You do a lot of ensemble parts; what’s it like to headline this one?
JH: It’s a lot of work, dude, but its cool; it was a really great experience and trying to do different stuff. I’m going into this horror genre, and it was a bit of a risk; everybody has this image of me – ‘cast him as a nice guy, have him get the girl’ so it’s nice to get away from that and do something different.
Q: What’s your family think of this film?
JH: Everyone asks me about that, and my parents were both at the screening. I really didn’t want them to go because of all the stuff that was in there; I just didn’t know how they were going to react. I let my mom know what was going on and she had to cover her eyes for some of the scenes.
Q: For the violence stuff or the sex stuff?
JH: Probably both, I’m her little boy (laughs). It’s funny, cause my dad is a straight dude, he doesn’t cuss or anything, really straight guy. I asked him after we got out of the screening ‘Dad, what did you think?’ he looked at me and said ‘It was weird.’ (Laughs), that was his reaction; it was perfect, if you saw the way he said that, it was funny.
Q: Did you ever think about what you would have done had this happened to you?
JH: I think I’d probably do the same thing; but what I wouldn’t do is go back to save Kana; (laughs). I would have gotten the hell out of there.
Q: That is a scene that I said ‘what the hell is he doing?’
JH: Yeah, he conscious got to him; he told Josh that story about when he was at the pool and he heard the girl screaming and didn’t do anything, I could have saved her and I didn’t do shit. That kind of ate at him for years so the fact that he had another opportunity to write the wrong; I think that’s what made him do that.
Q: Did you ever let Eli know that something in your character didn’t ring true to you?
JH: Um, yeah, but then we wouldn’t have had the eyeball scene. That rings true to me; (lots of laughter) the eyegasm wouldn’t be there.
Q: That is one of the scenes where it’s been tested like that.
JH: Yeah, well that’s part of it.
Q: How have things changed for you since Crazy/Beautiful?
JH: That opened a lot of doors for me; people started to know who I was in the business. But it’s always a constant battle and you still have to work at what you’ve achieved. It’s been good so far, I can’t complain. I got this film coming out, I’m proud of it, it’s different; I’m doing this Oliver Stone film that’s a nice contrast to Hostel, and I’m just continuing to work, so I’m not complaining.
Q: Personally, do you still have a normal life?
JH: Yeah, I’m gone a lot, so when I come home I chill out at home with my mom and dad and my sister and brothers and just hang out.
Q: If Hostel does well enough that they want to make a sequel, would you do it?
JH: Yeah, I wouldn’t pass on that; I’ve already heard murmurs about that… it’s a possibility so we’ll see.
Q: Did you have a stunt guy?
JH: No, I did most of my stunts.
Q: There was nothing too intense.
JH: No, I did everything.
Q: What about on Friday Night Lights, did you have a stunt guy?
JH: Yeah, I had a stunt guy; they would let us hit people, but we weren’t allowed to get hit, (laughs) which is cool with me. I said ‘I’ll tackle that guy.’
Q: That movie has become a real hit on DVD, do you ever have people come up to you remembering you in that movie?
JH: Yeah, it was when I was coming back from Prague, coming back from shooting Hostel, I was at the customs office in the United States. This guy is giving me a hard time and was asking ‘What were you doing? Where are you from?’ And he had this thick Southern accent and kept on asking me ‘What kind of work are you doing?’ I didn’t know what this guy was doing. He finally asked ‘Did you do a movie?’ ‘Yes.’ When I told him Friday Night Lights, he said ‘I knew it, I knew it’ and started talking to me for about ten minutes cause he was from a neighboring town of Odessa and he was in love with the film and in love with me – (in his best Southern twang) ‘Man, I could sit here and talk football with you all day, man’ (lots of laughter) but he still wouldn’t let me go. Finally, he stamped my book and let me go. He said ‘I’ll see you soon’ but he wouldn’t let me go for about fifteen minutes.
Q: Because it’s the end of the year, what’s the best thing that’s happened to you this year?
JH: Best thing that’s happened this year? Shit, maybe Hostel; it’s a great experience, I had a great time going to Europe. I met some great people, working with Eli and Quentin and I’m happy with the finished product; I think Hostel is going to be a big thing for me this year.
Q: Do you have a resolution for next year?
JH: Next year? No I gotta work on that one.
Q: Did you have an opportunity to hang out with Quentin watching movies at his house?
JH: No, not yet; we hung out after the first screening in LA. It’s funny, cause remember from Kill Bill, the Pussy Wagon, he drove that, he took that out; driving around in the Pussy Wagon, that was pretty cool.
Q: He does take that out. I’ve seen him driving around town in it.
JH: He does, he does (laughs). It’s like ‘This is me, this is me!’ (Lot of laughter).
Q: Some people hide from celebrity, he –
JH: embraces it, and loves it.
Q: Did you get to take anything from the set? Maybe your two fingers?
JH: (Laughs) no, I didn’t take anything from the set. But I did hear that Derek took a case of gonorrhea or something. (Huge burst of laughter). Just kidding, but I had to throw it in there.
Thanks, as always, to Lionsgate for setting up the junket and inviting us. More Hostel interviews are coming up soon, so stick around! And don”t forget, Hostel opens everywhere on January 6th!
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