Interview: Hobo With A Shotgun Director Jason Eisener

‘I’d put Rutger Hauer at the top of my list.’

With the outrageous, pure unadulterated joy that is sick and twisted exploitation tribute Hobo With A Shotgun out this week, we caught up with director Jason Eisener for a chat.

The Canadian makes his feature debut with this stunning and bloodthirsty retro flick, bagging the incredible Rutger Hauer for another iconic role. He plays the titular hobo-turned-vigilante, who protects a lawless town from corrupt cops and sadistic crimelords. Read our glowing review here.

We caught up with Eisener while he was in the UK for the London premiere of Hobo, where he tells us how he landed his hero for leading man.

Where did your love of genre cinema come from?
I think originally, when I look back into my childhood and how I got into exploitation films, I think it firstly came from growing up on Saturday morning cartoons, like Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Voltron, Thundercats, Bravestar. Those shows were so full of high-concept ideas, and I grew up on high concept ideas - my imagination has always been attracted to that. I think the natural transition for someone who grew up on ’80s cartoons getting into movies is exploitation films, because they share those similar crazy high concept ideas, and once I found exploitation films and got into that genre, I just fell in love with it and tried to track down as much of it as I could. Back home we had a lot of pawn shops, and everyday after high school, I would go to all of the pawn shops and they would have stacks and stack of VHS’s, and thats where a lot of my movie collection came from. And for some reason where I’m from, everyone back home just seemed to get rid of their exploitation films, and they were all just left for me to just grab a hold of!

Hobo is your first feature, and is such an accomplished piece of work. Could you tell us a little about your background in filmmaking?
Well, the writer of the movie John Davies, he’s my best friend, and we’ve known each other since we were five. We started making movies in about grade nine, but in high school we continued making movies, and our school saw that there was an interest in filmmaking, so they made a film and video making class. We took that and just fell in love with it, and knew that this was what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives. After I left high school I went to a community college that had a two year program, where they taught us to use all the equipment like cameras and lights and sound gear, and how to edit - more like a technical program. I learned how to do everything, so when I got out of that program I was able to go out and shoot my own movies, and I could do the sound design, sound recording, I could shoot it, do everything. So a lot of us were able to make fairly low-budget films and just kept making them with our friends. Then I got a job as an assistant editor with Discovery Channel, and quickly within a couple of months I worked my way up to start directing their shows, did that for a couple of years, and while working that job I made a short film called Treevenge, which did really well on the festival circuit - got an honourable mention at Sundance. That film really helped us to get funding behind us, and to make the feature for Hobo.

It is refreshing to see an homage to the genre rather than just another remake, and it’s pretty clear that all involved share a passion for the old exploitation cinema. What are your favourite grindhouse movies?
Oh man, it’s so hard to say, but there’s one called Fight For Your Life, that’s just amazing, Rolling Thunder is another of my favourites. Let me think… Vice Squad, starring Wings Hauser, have you seen that one? [I admit I hadn’t] It’s incredible! I love that film. Cannibal Holocaust is definitely a favourite, and Dead End Drive In, which is a Brian Trenchard-Smith film from Australia that I love. The Exterminator is another one. Before going into pre-production I made an inspirational reel for my crew. It was about 12 minutes long and I took shots from all of the exploitation films that we were inspiring us, and made a montage. It was basically my way of getting my crew up to speed and into the world that we were going to be jumping into for the next few months. So I had clips from all of those films, I think Death Wish 3 was on there, and another movie called Addio Zio Tom, which is also called Goodbye Uncle Tom. It’s one of the hardest exploitation films I’ve ever seen - it’s about black slavery, an Italian film, It’s so intense. Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci’s films were definitely a huge inspiration too, and Walter Hill’s The Warriors is my favourite film of all time.

To work with Rutger Hauer must have been a dream come true, can you tell us a little about how he came to be on board?
Basically, the distributor for our movie - a Canadian company called Alliance - asked me to write down my top five favourite actors who I would love to play the role. I thought at the time that it was ridiculous, and there was no way I would ever get anyone on my list. I’d put Rutger Hauer at the top of my list thinking there’s no way this is going to happen, but it would at least give people an idea of the kind of actor I’m going for. He was my favourite actor growing up, when I saw The Blood Of Heroes, which I think is called Salute of the Jugger over here - it’s amazing! That and The Hitcher, they just blew me away when I was a kid. So they got it to his agent, and his agent didn’t like the script, and told Rutger this wasn’t for him. For Rutger, whenever someone tells him he’s not gonna like something, that really intrigues him, and so he read the script and wanted to get on Skype with me, and so I had my first Skype conversation with him and we talked for about an hour, and just hit it off. Next thing I knew he told the production that he was coming, and he was in Halifax a couple of days after that to help us make the movie.

Rutger is famous for his attention to detail and commitment to roles - could you tell us a little about how he was on set?
Before going into production I watched his television show in the Netherlands called Film Factory, where he helps young filmmakers make their short films, and I watched how giving, patient and inspirational he was to them. But I was thinking, maybe this is just show, just for TV, putting on an act - but he was that guy. When he came to our shoot he was so awesome to work with. He wasn’t the kind of actor who would just come out of his trailer, come onto the set, do the shot and go back - he was hanging around on set helping us make the movie, so I got to work with my childhood idol not only as an actor but as a fellow filmmaker, which was so awesome. He’s just hilarious, super fun and really quirky, he just loves to do fun things - he really got wrapped up in the spirit of the movie. We had a really young cast and crew, and he just fed off that energy. He said he wanted to do the movie because it was an opportunity for him to act like a naughty kid again. And he did, you know, he was constantly pulling pranks, walking around set with his little flip camera doing little fun interviews with people. It was just awesome - I couldn’t imagine a better first-time feature filmmaking experience.

For Eisener’s chat about the technical side of Hobo With A Shotgun, head over to ScreenGeek.