This weekend cinemagoers will be treated to an absurdly entertaining 86-minute blood-soaked love letter to exploitation sleaze called Hobo With A Shotgun. Filled with severed limbs, endangered children, empowered hookers, super-powered thugs, and a grizzled lawn care obsessed Rutger Hauer, the film grabs you by the throat and demands that you enjoy the guiltiest of cinematic pleasures. Such a batshit insane film suggests that it comes from an equally insane filmmaker, but Collider got a chance to chat with Hobo’s sweetly low key director Jason Eisener and discovered that the movie thankfully comes from his lifelong obsession with dark n’ dirty genre movies and not his own damaged psyche.
Amongst other things, the director discussed his VHS-fueled youth, the experience of working with childhood hero Rutger Hauer, and how a two-minute fake trailer made for YouTube led to his feature-length directorial debut via Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse. Hit the jump for all the gory details.
Hobo With A Shotgun made a big splash at Sundance this year with Rutger Hauer running up and down the aisles with his own shotgun during the lively Q&As. It certainly has all the necessary ingredients for a cult film in the making, and should please anyone who doesn’t mind a little gooey, squishy stuff in their entertainment. There’s something in the movie to offend the entire family, yet it’s presented with such childish glee that it’s impossible to imagine anyone actually being upset by the copious amounts of bloody violence on display.
Like most first-time directors, Jason Eisener was enthusiastic and thrilled to be chatting about his deliberately trashy opus, which was sent into motion when his initial zero budget short won the Grindhouse trailer competition and opened for that movie at the Los Angeles premiere. In case you don’t get a chance to read through the entire interview, here are a few highlights:
- The film was born out of Jason Eisener and screenwriter John Davis’ misspent youth pulling all nighters watching VHS tapes purchased from pawnshops.
- The title came from a longhaired unkempt friend who owned an Airsoft Shotgun.
- Eisener initially planned to make the feature for no money on the weekends with friends before winning the Grindhouse trailer contest and getting a call from the Canadian production company Alliance during the premiere saying they were interested in financing a feature.
- Rutger Hauer was a at the top of the list of dream casting choices that Eisener sent to Alliance, never thinking he’d actually get to work with the actor.
- Eisener plans to follow up Hobo With A Shotgun with a kung fu high school movie in the vein of Class Of 1984
JASON EISENER: Well, the writer of the film is John Davis and he’s also my best friend. We grew up together and discovered our love for cinema at the same time. I think it all started with…what did we see first? I think it was Return of the Living Dead. When I saw that film it just triggered off a whole summer of watching genre movies. Back home we have a lot of pawnshops and me and John would go to all pawnshops every day after school and clean out all of their genre movies. I remember in high school we worked at KFC together and every time we got a paycheck it would just go into buying VHS tapes at pawnshops. We would find such amazing movies in these stacks. I don’t know where they were coming from or why someone would get rid of some of those movies. Maybe some parent found their kid’s movies and pawned them off because they didn’t want them in the house. But that’s what led us down the road of just loving genre films. We had a shed in my parents’ back yard that we set up and basically just lived in it. We had a VCR and a television and a couple of bunks. We would go to a videostore down the street and they would have this deal called 5 for 5 for 5 where you could rent five movies for five days for five bucks. We’d go there every single day and watch five movies every night. We cleaned out their sci-fi, action, and horror sections in one summer.
EISENER: We were hanging out at a pizza joint where me and John would pitch movie ideas back and forth. We were there with my friend Joe who had really long hair at the time. He was wearing a scruffy shirt and he had just bought this Airsoft Shotgun that shoots plastic pellets. We were pitching ideas and he spoke up and said, “Why don’t you make a movie about me?” John just looked him up and down and said, “what a hobo with a shotgun?” It was like a light bulb went off and we were like, “oh! That sounds so cool! What could that movie be about?” We started pitching ideas then and there and coming up with little ideas regarding who the character was and what the journey would be.
When did you first plan to turn it into a feature? Right after you won the Grindhouse trailer competition?
EISENER: When we put the trailer online the view count started racking up and we thought, “wow there’s a lot of attention on this and there are a lot of people telling us that they’d love to see a feature film.” So we decided to try and make a feature with friends and spent a long time doing that on the weekends for no money. Then we went to the Grindhouse premiere in LA and I got a call from [the Canadian film production and distribution company] Alliance saying that they wanted to release our trailer with the Canadian release of Grindouse theatrically. They were going to strike a bunch of film prints of it and then they also wanted us to come to Toronto to talk about the idea and developing it into a feature film. So they took us to Toronto and we met [producer] Niv Fichman from Rhombus Media and we just really hit it off. He basically sent us straight home to get the treatment done. We sent it off and within a week or two and he told us to get him a script.
EISENER: Yeah, absolutely. There were people and financers who were onboard from the very beginning and totally supportive, but it definitely took some convincing. For instance, when we first started developing the idea as a feature, people didn’t really see what we had in mind and how we were going to handle the violence. Because when you read the script, to some people it can sound really mean spirited and very overwhelmingly insane. We made a short film in the meantime while writing the feature script called Treevenge. When we showed our financers that, they saw how we were going to deal with violence. It definitely helped open doors and get people onboard with us.
Was Rutger Hauer always your first choice to play the Hobo or were there others?
EISENER: When we first wrote the script I was thinking about the movie on a much smaller scale and trying to be realistic. I was very interested in a Canadian actor by the name of Stephen McHattie, who starred in Pontypool. He’s one of my favorite actors. He’s amazing and he was in a movie from the 70s called Moving Violation where he kind of plays a hobo too. So I thought it would be a cool return to form. But Alliance came to us and said, “just as an experiment, write down a list of names for your top five choices. If you could do this with anybody, who would it be?” If I could have anybody, of course the top of the list was going to be Rutger Hauer. When me and John were growing up and buying those movies from pawn shops, whenever we would see Rutger Hauer on one of the VHS boxes we would immediately pick it up. He was the first actor who we loved enough to track down everything he ever made. I never would have thought in my wildest dreams that we would ever get Rutger Hauer. But I kind of put it out there as the ultimate dream. I thought it would never happen, but it would give people an idea as to who we were kind of going for. The kind of actor wand the type of performance we were looking for.
EISENER: Yeah, absolutely and more. When he came to Halifax and met the cast and crew and saw how enthusiastic everyone was about the project and how everyone was just giving their heart and soul, he was so inspired. He just jumped into the team. He was more than an actor on the movie, I feel like he was one of the filmmakers. He did so much more than acting. He gave us so much advice and kind us took us under his wing. He helped us pull a lot of things off in the film. He had so much experience, so if we would be dealing with a technical problem he would come up and say, “hey guys, don’t worry I’ve seen this before. Here’s what we can do.” He was awesome. To work with him on that level was more than just working with an actor. It was like working with an amazing filmmaker too.
EISENER: We had a truck called the blood truck, there’s a little extra feature about that on youtube. We had a guy named Henry Townsend who was in charge of the blood and the guy loves blood more than anyone. Every time he came to set he was completely covered in blood from head to toe. Every time I showed up on set he would be there covered in blood with 16 to 20 buckets of blood waiting on standby. So, I’m not sure how much blood we used throughout the whole thing, but it certainly was a lot. (laughs)
Do you have any idea what you’ll do next?
EISENER: Yeah, we’re working on a high school martial arts film right now that’s very much in the vein of something like Class Of 1984. Its Bloodsport meets a John Hughes movie or Rock n’ Roll High School. The world is kind of a world where [Hobo With A Shotgun villains] Slick and IVan would pull up in a car and go to this high school. A high school full of the worst students imaginable.
So, it’ll be more like Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky than a Jackie Chan movie or something like that?
EISENER: Oh absolutely. That’s definitely a huge inspiration.