You’d never think that one day a nameless homeless man could just roll into a scum-ridden town and clean it up with the power of a shotgun. Director Jason Eisener believed that it could happen within a Grindhouse-like world with the release of his new film “Hobo With A Shotgun.” The scruffy hobo is played by actor Rutger Hauer, blasting himself back onto the independent film scene with his new face-busting role that all came from one little mock trailer submitted a couple of years ago for a contest at the South By Southwest Film Festival.
Once Eisener and company won the top prize, the rest was history. However, we were able to chat with the new director about the production of “Hobo With A Shotgun,” the many dreams that have come true for him so far and how truly awesome it is to have Rutger Hauer as part of your cast.
Jason Eisener: Hi! How are you?
ShockYa: I’m doing good! I hope you’re doing good too. I know you’re probably having a very long and busy press day.
Jason Eisener: Oh, it’s all good though. I’m having fun and it’s not everyday you can promote your feature film. It’s an amazing opportunity.
ShockYa: That’s for sure. And the story of how the film came to be is pretty cool too. You just go along and submit this cool mock Grindhouse trailer “Hobo With A Shotgun” and next thing you know you’ve got a film.
Jason Eisener: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s pretty surreal.
ShockYa: So it’s still pretty surreal for you, even if the publicity has been going on for awhile, especially with the festival hype that’s been surrounding “Hobo”?
Jason Eisener: Yeah, it’s — you know we’ve been working on this movie every single day for the past three and a half years. It does get hard to actually find time to actually sit back and realize what’s happened over these past couple of years. But every once in awhile, when I get a moment to myself, suddenly it’s like eye-opening and surreal. I can remember when I was making the movie, there was a moment where I had a moment to think.
We’re doing the opening scene of the movie where the Hobo is riding the railroad into this town and I got to hang around the train. We had a very small crew that day, maybe like eight of us. And it was a beautiful day while the conductor was driving Rutger (Hauer) in this incredible train. I remember just sitting on that boxcar, looking around at my friends who were hanging out with us. I’m looking at my DP who’s got Rutger Hauer in his lens and it was the first time that I got to sit back and chill out thinking, “Oh my God, I’m making a Rutger Hauer movie!” I’ll never forget that because it was like this huge, clear moment where I realized what is happening. There was definitely tears for sure.
ShockYa: Also, that must’ve been pretty surreal too, just casting Rutger Hauer as the Hobo.
Jason Eisener: Yeah, yeah. (Laughs) He was the first actor, as a kid, that really caught my attention. I tracked down every one of his movies. When they asked me to write down my list of my top five favorite actors who I thought could play the role of the hobo, I put Rutger on the top of that list because I thought that he brings this class, style and smoothness to his performance unlike anyone else. And so I put him on the top of that list, thinking that there was no way in hell that we’d ever get him.
What ended up happening — it was nerve-wracking at first. I remember my mindset right before he came on set was like, “Oh my God, I’m going to have to direct my favorite actor and he’s worked with some of my favorite directors. It’s my first film, I don’t want to look like a chump.” And he was so awesome and was so wicked to work with. he loves working with young energy. I don’t know, he just made it so comfortable for me and it was amazing for me to be able to work with him. He wasn’t just an actor on a set, he just became one of the crew. He wasn’t the kind of actor who’d do his bit, go back to his trailer and wait to be called again. He would just hang out on set or help us out with things. He would help us out with the gags saying, “Oh, I’ve seen this done a million times, let me show you how we can do it!” and would help us figure out things. So it was really great having to work with somebody that I really admired on that kind of level.
ShockYa: Man, it sounds like the set was really fun to be on as well. (Laughs)
Jason Eisener: Oh yeah, it was so fun. It was an absolute blast. For Rutger, he just thought that it was a great opportunity just to act like a naughty kid again, and he did. He just had a blast with it. We wanted to shoot the movie back at home because we have all of our friends there, so when he stepped on he became a part of that team. It just felt like an old friend that we were rejoining with on another project together. It was really weird and cool.
ShockYa: Yeah, definitely. What about the rest of the casting process? Was it also just like Rutger Hauer where you got the first person you picked kind of scenario?
Jason Eisener: Yeah, pretty much actually. The casting process wasn’t very difficult. For me I was casting people who I thought — there was also like a lot of newcomers in the movie who never acted in a feature film before. But they had such amazing amounts of energy and that’s how I cast films. I want to work with people who I can have fun with on set, have great work ethics and have the enthusiasm. Usually when you pick people like that they’ll work their ass off to make it work. I’m a believer of picking people for those reasons.
ShockYa: Yeah, and you have to have a lot of energy, especially in a film like this. every other person in there is getting blown or hacked to pieces in some very creative way. No spoilers, but what was one of your favorite kills to shoot?
Jason Eisener: Oh… (Laughs) The opening scene where the character named Logan gets his head in a sewer cover and gets a barbed-wire noose around his neck that’s tied to a truck. They drive the truck to the other end of the street and it pulls his head off, blood comes flying out and a girl in a white bikini starts dancing in the blood. For me it was a such a special moment because that was one of the first gags we shot. It worked out great and we had so much fun shooting it. Also too we had the actor who just got the corrective surgery he needed for his eyes right before the scene. And when we were shooting that moment, his vision actually started to come back. The very first thing he ever saw in the world was a girl dancing in blood. One of the AD’s heard him say, “Wow, red is so beautiful!” That was just so amazing, I couldn’t believe it and it was amazing just to be able to do that for that guy. I don’t know what else would be able to live up to that moment for him in the world.
ShockYa: That’s kind of awesome because you can go in and say, “Oh yeah, my film is an important part of that man’s life!”
Jason Eisener: (Laughs) Yeah, that’s pretty cool.
ShockYa: Definitely. It sounds like there was a lot of great things going on that set. What was the absolute best part of this whole experience between winning the contest at South by Southwest to the release. What’s been the best part so far?
Jason Eisener: Well, oh man that’s so — there’s been so many dreams coming true throughout the whole process, it’s really hard to nail it down. Seeing the movie at Sundance, getting the first reaction of the movie from an audience and seeing how positive it was was so amazing. Reading some of my favorite critics that I grew up reading writing such positive reviews for the movie, some of those were a dream come true. We had “Hobo with a Shotgun” on the cover of Fangoria. I’ve been reading that magazine ever since I was in high school. So just seeing the movie in a magazine is very surreal.
Then there’s the video game which is like this cool arcade game. Actually, at South by Southwest this year they actually built this arcade cabinet with all of the artwork from the film on it and you could play the game on this arcade machine. For me that was probably one of the most amazing things that I’ve ever seen out of this whole process of making a movie. I love arcades and I love arcade machines. Seeing an idea that we created being turned into a game in an arcade machine, I don’t think anything could ever top that.
ShockYa: Now I’m regretting it even more that I couldn’t go to South By Southwest this year.
Jason Eisener: Oh, South By was so amazing. It was incredible. (Laughs)
ShockYa: Since this is your big first film, a Grindhouse-like one, have you considered what kind of future film project you’d be doing? Would you do something similar to this, making another Grindhouse kind of feature?
Jason Eisener: Yeah, I think I’ll definitely keep working with high concept films. I love high concept material. being a kid of the ieghties and growing up with all of these cartoons, they were all such high concept ideas like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Transformers,” “He-Man” — these shows were such crazy, high concept ideas that I loved watching. That’s what helped create me as an artist and so I’ll keep working with high concept ideas.
You know, my dream is to make a kids movie that would get them away from the computer and right outside with something like snowboards, DMX racers — I would just like to make a film that would just make kids excited to get outside, get out in the world and use their imagination.
ShockYa: Yeah, because it’s pretty tough to get them out there. I’ve got to admit, I have a fourteen year old brother and sometimes it’s really hard during the weekends to pry him away from the XBox.
Jason Eisener: (Laughs) Yeah, yeah, I know what that’s like. When I was a kid, some of my best memories were when I was hanging outside with my friends. I don’t know, the XBox cannot compete with the thrill of that.
ShockYa: Yeah, it’s really interesting to see just how tecnhology has taken ahold of kids nowadays and how incredible important it is to them. It’s crazy seeing seventh graders with cell phones, knowing how to text already. It’s like, “I didn’t get a cell phone until I was sixteen!”
Jason Eisener: Yeah, it’s something that I’m amazed at too. I’m not a parent or anything but the other day I was thinking, “Man, what are these kids doing.” It’s like a six year old kid comes into a store and wants an iPhone. Those things are like little gadgets right now. Like they can do so many things and it’s totally just a different world out there right now.
ShockYa: I kind of wish maybe they’d implement age restrictions for phones, or like you’d give them one and it only has a small amount of gadgets no there. (Laughs) It’s amazing how they can work them, and I barely got to learn how to use an iPhone until a couple of years ago.
Jason Eisener: I know, it’s insane. I consider myself pretty tech savvy and there are kids out there who know that stuff inside and out.
ShockYa: Well it’s okay, we can still completely own them in classic arcade games.
Jason Eisener: Yeah, absolutely.
ShockYa: Put them on Galaga any day, I’ll wipe them out! (Laughs) By the way. congratulations on the DVD and Blu-ray release announcement on “Hobo With A Shotgun.” I have to admit, I really like the official poster with that neat hand-drawn kind of style.
Jason Eisener: Yeah, I’m in love with it. Did you hear the story about that poster?
ShockYa: No, what is it?
Jason Eisener: Basically on our website, it’s sort of like a blog. And I had a post one day and somebody wrote underneath that post saying, “Hey, I think I can draw a poster for your movie.” I was like, “Sure man, I’d love to see it” thinking he was just a fan who wanted to make some fan art and I was stoked on that. A couple of days later he sent me an email saying, “Hey, I got bored the other day so I used all the images I found on the internet to make you a poster and here it is!” I opened the file up and the poster you see is the poster that we use.
ShockYa: Oh my God, that’s awesome.
Jason Eisener: I couldn’t believe it. It’s kind of just taken off his career and he just finished the Ti West poster for “The Innkeepers,” which is an amazing, beautiful poster.
ShockYa: Man, that’s crazy. The power of the internet, the power of technology!
Jason Eisener: Absolutely! (Laughs) It’s good for some things for sure.
You can watch “Hobo With A Shotgun” OnDemand, XBox Live, the Playstation Network, iTunes or just check out your local movie theater to see if it’s playing somewhere near you.