GFF blog: Jason Eisener on Rutger Hauer exploitation flick, Hobo With a Shotgun
The former Grindhouse trailer gets the feature-length treatment, with a screening at the Glasgow Film Festival
Almost everything you want to know plot-wise about the film Hobo With a Shotgun is right there in the title. There’s a hobo. He has a shotgun. You can probably fill in the blanks yourself. The film’s genesis has a slightly more intricate story, though.
‘For the release of Grindhouse, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino had Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie and Eli Roth do fake trailers between the two films,’ explains Hobo director Jason Eisener. ‘They also put on a contest worldwide for filmmakers to make their own fake exploitation trailer. Hundreds of films were submitted for this contest, and Hobo ended up winning. Back home, the Canadian distributor for Grindhouse wanted to take our trailer and make 200 film prints to attach to the official theatrical release, so from the success of that, we were able to place our feet on the ground for making a feature film.’
Like Rodriguez’ own Machete, the high concept, low budget trailer had enough meat on its bones to become fully fleshed out. ‘When we were coming up with ideas for that original trailer, we did a treatment of what the whole film would be,’ says Eisener. ‘We did this quick little outline, and then picked out the moments that we thought would be really cool for a trailer. So we had a rough plan of what the grand idea of the movie would be.’
Unlike Rodriguez, however, Eisener (and his writing partner Rob Cotterill) didn’t have the clout to assemble a cast of A-listers to populate their B movie. Happily, the name at the top of their wish list was the one they got. ‘Our distributor asked me to make my dream list of names of who I thought could do justice to the role,’ says Eisener, ‘and growing up, Rutger Hauer was my favourite actor – in fact, he still is. Maybe in our subconscious, me and Rob – we’re best friends, we’ve known each other since we were 5 years old, and we grew up watching movies together, especially all of Rutger Hauer’s movies – maybe subconsciously that worked it’s way into the script. So I put his name down thinking, no way this is gonna happen, but at least it’ll give everyone a idea as to who I’m going for. And so I put him on top of the list, and a couple of days later I get a call back from the distributor saying, "Rutger wants to get on Skype with you, have a Skype conversation." We share a bemused moment, picturing the steely-eyed killer from The Hitcher and Blade Runner using the backpacker-friendly internet phone service. ‘I’d never used Skype before!’ continues Eisener. ‘The way Rutger tells it, his agent had read the script, and told him, “This is not the film for us, this is too crazy,” and then Rutger, whenever his agent tells him “This is too crazy for you,” he finds that fascinating. So he reads the script, and he’s just like, “What the fuck is this?” He wanted to talk to me before he signed up for anything, so we talked for about an hour over Skype, and after that he was down to do the movie.’
Rutger delivers a snarling performance as the titular gun-toting vagrant, who doles out vigilante justice to the crooked and corrupt society around him. Without wanting to attach to deep a social meaning to the film, I ask Eisener if this could be an exaggerated response to the financial crisis: a man without a home expressing his anger at the bankers who foreclosed on him. Apparently, I’m not too far off the mark. ‘Absolutely,’ says Eisener. ‘I mean, it’s not fully realised in the current edit – in the first cut of the film, there was a little bit more social commentary. Unfortunately, some of that stuff got cut out, but that spirit definitely still remains in the film.’
The film’s looks set to do well in combining this topical subtext with an overwhelming public appetite for exploitation cinema at the moment. Eisener has his own theory on why this B-movie hunger exists right now. ‘I think films like Hobo, Machete, Planet Terror, Black Dynamite – they’re such outrageous ideas, and the films, when you go to see them, they’re just this onslaught of insanity – I think there’s an audience for that now because of things like YouTube. You can just spend a night with your friends watching YouTube clips, and it’s this stream of images, music, and fucked up crazy shit – that’s the stuff that gets the most hits.’ Basically, you can have as much social commentary as you want – a long as it’s surrounded with guns, girls and gore. ‘I think that’s why movies like this can come out now: audiences just really want to see some high concept crazy shit.’