Back in February this year, I interviewed horror director/producer/writer Eli Roth, film director Nicolás López and actress Lorenza Izzo on behalf of HCF with a group of fellow journalists. Besides from our discussion on The Last Exorcism Part II with Eli Roth, we interviewed Chilean director Nicolás López on his new earthquake shocker flick Aftershock, which he co-wrote with Eli, and lead actress Lorenza Izzo, who starred alongside Eli in the movie.
With the UK having their first proper glimpse of Aftershock on the big screen from 16th August 2013, after a string of festival screenings, we at HorrorCultFilms are delighted to share with you this laughter-filled interview, where we discuss Aftershock, Chilean filmmaking and shooting in the Amazon on The Green Inferno, with two of the coolest people in the film business!
Nicolas, I understand you started writing at quite a young age and then you created your own website. How did you go from that to then becoming a film director?
Nicolas: Basically, everything that I did was because of necessity, in terms of that I wanted to tell stories, and I didn’t have a camera at the time, and I didn’t know how to direct. I still don’t know how to direct according to many film critics, but I started writing because it was the easiest way of telling stories. I started sending El Mercurio (large Chilean newspaper) facts at the time, and lying about my age, and they were like, “Oh, he’s really cool, we should publish something.” I don’t know how I got a column there. I started writing there every week, and at the same time I started doing shorts. The good thing was that I had never shot on film, because I started to direct when digital cameras were appearing, so I was part of that whole revolution. So suddenly, you could cut your movie in your house, and it was way easier than before. And because of that, I did many many many bad movies, many bad shorts, until I did my first feature film, Promedio Rojo – it’s a very weird, high school comedy, and that’s the movie that Eli (Roth) loved, and he showed the movie to Quentin Tarantino. Quentin said that it was the funniest movie of the year…
Lorenza: It’s so really cool, it’s so good, it’s true though.
Nicolas: He thought it was really cool. I still think that Quentin was drunk at the time when he saw it. [laughes]
The best way to watch a movie!
Nicolas: I know! Well, especially with that movie. From that moment I started talking with Eli about doing something together. Being a director in Chile is like being an astronaut in Zimbabwe. Y’know, like there is no need for it. We have enough American movies being released every year, but we were like “Why not?” And that’s always been my motto, it’s like “Why not?” You know, I never studied film, I barely finished high school, I don’t know how to read…[laughs] I’m learning. It’s so hard, you know! You have all those letters!
Lorenza: You’ve got to put the letters together!
Nicolas:I know it’s so fucking hard.
Did you find it hard balancing the script between your comedy background and Eli’s horror background?
Nicolas: Oh, it was perfect because I did a trilogy of romantic comedies. The first one was called Fuck My Life, then I did one called Fuck My Wedding, and then the third part, that was just released, is called Fuck My Family. My family don’t like the last one… [laughs] Eli loved those movies, and we always talked about doing something together – not having sex, making a movie. [laughs] Even though having sex would be nice…
Lorenza: You would love it!
Nicolas: Especially now, because of his new haircut… his Top Gun haircut. We talked about doing a film. We had the idea and Eli’s like, “I would love to do a movie, that would start like one of your comedies and suddenly have something really bad or horrible at the middle. Something that would change the tone of the whole movie.” We were talking about that for years. Suddenly the earthquake happened in Chile in 2010, and, well, first I survived, and when I survived, I called Eli. I was like, “This is the movie that we have to make. We have to make it about the earthquake!” We were obsessed. I am sure that Eli told you the quote about the random element of life. We were obsessed with that idea that suddenly you’re here doing an interview, and something really bad could happen, and how you control that. You’re not escaping from a guy that has a mask, trying to stab you. It’s Mother Nature. You can’t escape from that. There’s nothing that you can do about it. So this is like a very bad version of The Impossible.
[laughs all around]
Lorenza: Shut up! No, so different!
Were you aware of any level of sensitivity you had to apply to the movie, because it was based on a real life event?
Nicolas: Well, basically…not at all. I mean, I live in Chile, I’m Chilean, there was an earthquake. I mean, I’m not making a movie about THAT earthquake, and I don’t make movies like public service, y’know. I’m not doing this movie to win an Oscar so, it’s not that kind of movie. It’s a fun popcorn movie, and of course, we used some elements about that tragedy. Then the earthquake in Japan happened. We used elements from all those tragedies, and basically it was because I was obsessed with showing what really happened in a disaster. Every time that you watch a disaster movie, you watch 2012 let’s say, it’s all about how things get destroyed. So, for me, that’s more like pornography, y’know? And I was like why don’t we make a movie where we show what happens to those little CGI characters that only appear in three frames…
Lorenza: The little head that gets chopped off…
Nicolas: What happened to him? What happened to him during the day? What happens if you make a movie about what happened before he got killed. I think that there were many movies in the Seventies that were about that, where they spent time developing the characters. That’s something that I think most of the movies from the US have lost. They don’t spend time developing the characters. They think that the audiences don’t have the patience to watch a movie and spend twenty-five minutes with a character. It’s always like, “Hi, I’m Tim!” [gunshot noise]And’s that it. Tim is an actor nobody knows and that’s it!
Bat: Have you used CGI in the film or prosthetics/practical FX?
Nicolas: Most of the effects were practical.
Lorenza: It was really cool. Things would actually fall and break…
Nicolas: We almost killed Lorenza…
Lorenza: There was a part at the beginning where the earthquake starts and I had to be under a table. Cement was meant to fall over me, and I started looking at it thinking “Nico, is this actual cement, or is this like a plastic?”
“No, it’s real, cos I want it to look real.”
I’m like, “Nico, this shit’s gonna fall on top of the table and I’m gonna die!”
Nicolas: I was like, “but you’re under the table!”
Lorenza: “But look at the table, it’s tough right?” I’m like, “Oh my God!” It looks amazing though. [laughs] It’s true, you really feel the depth of things coming down, which is what actually happened in the earthquake. So I think that’s the coolness of having practical effects versus CGI. You feel the realness of Mother Nature hitting you with everything.
So when we see you under the table in this film then we assume it’s real!
Lorenza: You should remember me saying, “Oh my God!” It’s fucking scary.
Lorenza, did you have to do any kind of special training for the movie, any workouts before you started?
Lorenza: You’d have thought so with the amount of craziness going on in this movie. All the running… you should focus on my heels. My character, Kylie, is a model, so I’m running around in these huge heels and this tiny, tiny tight dress, covered in blood and dust. I’m climbing stairs, it’s insane and….no.
Nicolas: She’s been trained for doing this her whole life. A drunk model – that’s Lorenza!
Lorenza: I did model before!
Nicolas: One that can run fast in high heels…
Lorenza: I love heels. You’re not giving me enough credit here. It was insane. It was so much fun.
Nicolas: You’re a method actor!
Lorenza: I trained my whole life for this. I can say that.
Nicolas: Yeah, your whole life. So many pills, so many drugs…
Lorenza: Oh shut up! Not true, not true! I must say we did have stunt people that would teach. There were actually some safety measures. Some. In our country, it’s not like we have, y’know dogs and everyone around…
Nicolas: No, but the cool thing is that because we were shooting the movie in Chile and it was my production company, we could get away with so many things that they, it would have been impossible to do..
Like putting your lead actress under a table?
Lorenza: That was nothing! You should have seen what we did with guns!
Nicolas: …with guns, yeah. Eli was like “So, where’s the guy, the safety…”
Lorenza: “Where’s the police?” I love that! He came up and he was like [whispers], “So, Lorenza, where’s the police?”
Nicolas: “Why would you need police?”
Lorenza: [as Eli] “No, where’s the fire truck?”
Nicolas: “We’re firing a gun, Eli. We’re not…”
Lorenza: We’re not building a fire! By the way we did build like a…
Nicolas: A fire, yeah. Eli was like, “but what happens if an actor gets hurt?” And I was like “Eli, nothing’s gonna happen. It doesn’t happen. We’re not shooting The Crow! I mean, it doesn’t have real bullets!” He’s like, “Yeah but what happens if something goes wrong?” And I was like, “OK let’s call the first AD (assistant director)” I call the first AD, and I grab the guy and I’m like, “Come here.” [gunshot noise] “Did something happen?”
And Eli was like, “What?”
Lorenza: That’s how we freak those people out, it was intense…
Nicolas: He loved it! And then we ended up shooting The Green Inferno with us…
Lorenza: We can shoot faster. This way we can get more done. In a week you could get done what would take a month. It’s crazy.
Nicolas: That was the cool thing. The movie looks big and all the effects look really big but we made this movie for a budget, and we did so many things that would have been impossible anywhere else in the world. That’s why we created this thing that we call Chilewood, and now we’re making movies from Chile, to the world, for the world, and with the Internet. We just wrapped The Green Inferno, and we have a way of doing things where we go really really fast. We already have our first cut of The Green Inferno [February 2013], and we wrapped the movie in late December. And Lorenza’s the lead of The Green Inferno. We’re also creating new stars. Most of the actors from all my comedies have a part in Aftershock and most of them have a part in The Green Inferno. That’s the cool thing. We’re mixing the best of two worlds: the best of Hollywood and the best of being able to shoot things in Chile. For me, it’s like New Zealand twenty-five years ago. That’s what we want to do.
So how’s the Chilean genre scene? There was a film at Frightfest last year called Hidden In The Woods. The filmmakers said that they had to lie to the government, and say they were making a social realist drama. Instead it’s this crazy horror film and they’re like “Yeah, no, it’s just loads of people in the woods…”
Nicolas: Having fun…
“Yeah, just having fun”, and they were like, “oh it’s fine.” Then they showed them the film and they went crazy. Is that a typical experience of Chilean filmmaking?
Nicolas: What happened in Chile, like most of the countries in Latin America, is that most of the movies are more like art films. So they don’t make many genre films.
Lorenza: Or based on history…
Nicolas: I make romantic comedies, and even those romantic comedies are, for them, like “What the fuck?!” because they are not the kind of movies that they like. Not the audience – the audience loves them. All my movies have opened Number One against really big movies. Fuck My Family opened against Life Of Pi and we were number one and they were number two.
Lorenza: It was so cool.
Nicolas: And we had a huge campaign on Facebook called ‘Fuck The Tiger’. [laughs] I was so happy.
Lorenza: It was the best thing ever!
Nicolas: Yeah, ‘fucking tiger’ It was everywhere. There is a new generation of directors that grew up watching genre movies. I’m part of that generation, and I work with most of them too, like Ernesto Diaz who did Mandrill and Mirageman. His movies were at Fantastic Fest and Sitges, and he’s the guy that is cutting The Green Inferno now, so we have a little community of a new generation of people that want to make movies for the world and of course making genre is more relatable than making a movie about, y’know, poor kids with guns.
Bat: Lorenza, do you see yourself continuing in the horror genre then after doing The Green Inferno as well as Aftershock?
Nicolas: She’s fucked. She has to now!
[laughs all around]
Lorenza: I’m kind of in this little circle. I mean, I see myself continuing in movies. I’m just gonna keep doing what I love doing and if that means another horror movie, I’m gonna go ahead. I love them. Before meeting these two guys [Eli and Nicolas], I hated horror movies. I really didn’t like them and now I’ve started to love them. It’s so cool. You need to scream you need to let out stress. You just go watch a movie where you can just scream and let it all out. It’s so awesome, y’know, and making them, is so much fun! To be covered in blood every day…there’s a whole culture behind it, it’s just so fucking awesome and if the next movie is a horror movie then yeah, of course I see myself in it.
Oh good. [laughs]
Are you two going up to Glasgow tomorrow for a screening at FrightFest?
Has Eli told you about Frightfest when he went there last time?
Nicolas: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Lorenza: A little.
So what are you expecting?
Lorenza: A lot of drinking.
Nicolas: First, to start with.
You’re just going for Scotland in general, they drink a lot, they don’t let people in otherwise.
[laughs all around]
Nicolas: I mean of course there are the classy film festivals like Toronto, for instance. Aftershock premiered in Toronto and that was great. It was Midnight Madness, so it’s like a festival inside the festival. But I love genre film festivals. I think the audience is quite different. People really enjoy the movies. Aftershock has played in other film festivals around the world and they are, let’s say… classy, and they are boring, y’know? I love when people are really excited about seeing a movie and that, for me, is the reason why there are still movie theatres! Y’know, now when everybody can watch movies on their iPads or their cellphones.
Lorenza: This is my first time actually, and I’m really excited, especially for what you say, watching a movie with people who really appreciate this particular genre and what you’re particularly doing. It’s so much better. It’s like watching a movie with family and people who actually know what you’re doing and appreciate the art of what you’re doing so… I dunno, it’s cool.
I think you’re gonna make a lot of new friends over the weekend.
Lorenza: [laughs] Yeah, well that’s what we’re looking for.
Is there a particular subject that you wanna make a film about that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
Nicolas: Well, there are two things I would love to do. I would love to make a haunted house movie. That’s something that… I think that now we need something new. After Paranormal Activity, after all those movies, we need a new twist on that, and I would love to make something that has a little depth, but I also would love to make a comedy, in English. Eli did – he plays a part in Fuck My Family, in Spanish…
Lorenza: Doctor Zachariah…
Nicolas: Inside the movie, there is a soap opera that all the characters watch, and it’s called Heart Attack. It’s like a very gory version of Gray’s Anatomy.
Lorenza: Really funny.
Nicolas: It’s really stupid and over-the-top. Basically, it was a cameo, and when we were shooting we had a hospital to shoot for one day, and we ended up shooting way more and coming up with ideas. So we ended up shooting like, I dunno, eight minutes of footage, and we cut two shorts for Youtube, and we were like, this could be a really funny movie. So now we were thinking about turning that into a movie. It’s online, and it has subtitles. For me, it’s always the idea that is the most absurd that always wins.
Lorenza: That’s so true.
Nicolas: A year ago we were shooting Aftershock and Eli was like, “Oh I would love to make a cannibal movie”, and “I have this idea”, and I was like, “We’re gonna make it.” Eli’s talking to the studio, and like, “Yeah, maybe”, and I’m like, “Eli, fuck it! Let’s do it like how we’re doing Aftershock.”
Lorenza: That’s the most absurd idea. Let’s just go in the middle of the Amazon. Nowhere with nothing. Let’s just get to it!
Nicolas: Yeah, for me the fact that everybody came out alive after The Green Inferno is a miracle.
Lorenza: Yeah, for real.
Nicolas: No, for real because it was hard. We thought that we were badass and we could shoot anywhere, and then we were in the middle of the fucking jungle…
Lorenza: No, you proved it. You proved it.
Nicolas: Dude, it was really scary, like really, really scary!
Bat: Did you stay in the village, with the people, overnight?
Lorenza: We practically kind of lived with them! We didn’t ‘stay’ stay with them but we travelled for like… the travel time was three hours…
Nicolas: Every day.
Lorenza: Every day! So we would have to take a car there… I mean not a car, there were like buses, kind of trucks… and it was a one hour ride and then there was a boat ride. We would take the Amazon river to the village, and we would have, I dunno, how many hours of shooting. It wasn’t that much, cos we had to ride back, but we literally were there for five in the morning. We had to pick up five in the morning and then be back so, yeah. They were so nice.
Nicolas: That was crazy.
Lorenza: It was crazy.
Bat: Eli was just telling us about the kids out there ripping guts apart…
Lorenza: It was so much fun, the way the kids were amazing, they had never seen ice before, for example. I remember giving them ice and them being so shocked by ice.
Nicolas: They had never seen a movie before!
Lorenza: They loved Cannibal Holocaust. Little boys and girls, they loved it!
Nicolas: And they thought it was a comedy!
Lorenza: I would take pictures with them. It was amazing! They thought it was a comedy, by the way, like eating meat. It was fun. They loved it!
Had you seen any cannibal movies yourself, prior to acting in it?
Lorenza: Uh, well the truth is no. Actually, I did see Cannibal Holocaust before though. I had to see that one. I actually loved it. They had to see that one too. That was funny. They had never seen a movie. I dunno if Eli told you this. So.. yeah. I actually asked them, cos I was curious. I was like, “What did you guys really think about the movie?” Every morning when I would get there I would talk to them. I loved to…
Nicolas: ‘Cos you spoke Spanish.
Lorenza: Yeah, I speak Spanish. And I just had so much fun. It was like a breath of fresh air to be able to play with kids and not act. It was really cool. I’d just play soccer with them in the morning. So I was like, “Okay, I need to know the truth. Did you really watch Cannibal Holocaust?” I’m talking about seven-year-old kids! I’m like, “really?” And they’re like, “Yeah, yeah!”
“What did you think?”
“It was funny!”
I’m like, “Really? Why?” As I’m saying this I see like a turtle walk by. I see like a monkey. “Really, did you think it was funny?”
“Yeah it was so cool!”
I’m like, “Oh my God, this is insane…” So yeah… it was a funny experience, for sure.
Thanks to Lorenza Izzo and Nicolas Lopez for taking the time out to speak with us.
You can catch AFTERSHOCK in select UK cinemas from 16th August 2013 and on DVD and Blu-Ray from 19th August 2013.