Born: April 18, 1972
Birthplace: Newton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Eli Raphael Roth (born April 18, 1972) is an American film director, producer, writer, and actor. As a director and producer, he is most closely associated with the horror genre, first coming to prominence by directing the 2005 film Hostel and its 2007 sequel, Hostel: Part II. As an actor, his most prominent role was as Donny "The Bear Jew" Donowitz in Quentin Tarantino's war film Inglourious Basterds for which he won both a SAG Award (Best Ensemble) and a BFCA Critic's Choice Award (Best Acting Ensemble). Journalists have included him in a group of filmmakers dubbed the Splat Pack for their explicitly violent and bloody horror films. In 2013, Roth received the Visionary Award for his contributions to horror, at the Stanley Film Festival. He directed the 2015 erotic thriller film Knock Knock and the 2018 action film Death Wish, a remake of the 1974 original.
Roth was born in Newton, Massachusetts, to Dr. Sheldon Roth, a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst and clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, and Cora Roth, a painter. Roth was raised Jewish (his family is from Austria, Hungary, Russia, and Poland). Besides English, he speaks French, Italian and Russian.
Roth began shooting films at the age of eight, after watching Ridley Scott's Alien (1979). He and his brothers Adam and Gabriel made over 100 short films before he graduated from Newton South High School and attended film school (the Tisch School of the Arts) at New York University. To fund his films while in college Roth worked as an online cybersex operator for Penthouse Magazine, posing as a woman, as well as a production assistant on feature films. Roth also ran the office of producer Frederick Zollo, leaving after graduation to devote himself to writing full-time. He collected unemployment and found work on Howard Stern's Private Parts as Stern's assistant, staying at Silvercup Studios in Queens at night working on his scripts while Stern slept.
Actress Camryn Manheim gave Roth one of his first Hollywood jobs, as an extra on The Practice, when he moved to Los Angeles. Roth would stay in Manheim's dressing room, working on his scripts, while she filmed the show. The two had become friends in New York, while Roth was working for Fred Zollo. Roth also met Manheim's cousin Howie Nuchow (former EVP of Mandalay Sports Entertainment and also from the Boston, MA area) at her family Passover seder—this led to Roth's first animation project, "Chowdaheads", the following year. Roth also co-wrote a project called "The Extra" with Manheim, who later sold the pitch to producer (and former CEO and Chairman of Fox Studios) Bill Mechanic's Pandemonium company.
In his final years (1993/1994) at NYU film school, Roth wrote and directed a student film called Restaurant Dogs, an homage to Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. The film was nominated for a Student Academy Award in 1995, ultimately winning its division (Division III).
Through his internship with Zollo, Roth met David Lynch and remained in touch over the years, eventually producing content for Lynch with his fledgling website in the late 1990s. Through Lynch, Roth met film and TV composer Angelo Badalamenti, whose music he used in his first feature film. He also met a member of special effects company KNB EFX, which contributed to his first feature.
In 1999, Roth moved to LA, where he wrote, directed, edited, produced, animated, and provided some voices for a series of animated shorts called Chowdaheads for Mandalay Sports Entertainment. They were to be shown between WCW Monday Nitro pro wrestling matches, but the C.E.O. of WCW who had green-lit the project was fired the weekend before they were to air, so they were finished but never actually broadcast. Roth's friend Noah Belson co-wrote the shorts and provided the other character voices.
In mid-2000, with financing from the website Z.com to deliver a 5-minute pilot, Roth wrote, directed, animated and produced a series of stop-motion shorts called The Rotten Fruit. The dot-com company folded after several episodes were done, and its domain name was picked up by Nissan for its "Z" sports car. A portion of Roth's work for The Rotten Fruit was done at the Snake Pit studios in Burbank with miniature sets, poseable clay and foam figures, two high-end digital still cameras, and a pair of Macintosh computers. Noah Belson again co-wrote and performed character voices.
In 1995, a year after graduating from NYU, Roth had co-written a script called Cabin Fever with his college roommate Randy Pearlstein. They based the premise on Roth's having contracted a skin infection while riding ponies at a family friend's farm in Iceland in 1991. Much of it was written in 1996, while Roth worked as a production assistant for Howard Stern's movie Private Parts.
In 2001, Cabin Fever, produced by Lauren Moews of Tonic Films and executive-produced by Susan Jackson, was made on a budget of $1.5 million raised from private investors. Jackson, who brokered the deal, sold the film to Lionsgate at the 2002 Toronto Film Festival for $3.5 million, the biggest sale of that year's festival. Released in 2003, it was Lionsgate's highest-grossing film of the year, earning $22 million at the U.S. box office and $35 million worldwide. Lionsgate stock rose from $1.98 a share when it bought Cabin Fever to nearly $6 a share after the film was released; the company used its new net worth to buy Artisan Entertainment. Cabin Fever made Roth a star in the horror genre. In a 2004 Premiere Magazine interview, Quentin Tarantino called it his favorite new film and Roth "the future of horror."
In 2005, Roth's second feature, Hostel, was made for just over $4 million. It opened No. 1 at the box office in January 2006, taking in $20 million its first weekend. The film went on to gross $80 million worldwide in box office, and more than $180 million on DVD. In April 2006, on Roth's birthday, the Hostel DVD opened at No. 1. Although the story is set in Slovakia, all the exteriors were shot in the Czech Republic.
In the movie, three friends are lured to visit a hostel where they think their sexual fantasies will come true. Instead, they fall into the clutches of an international syndicate that provides first-hand torturing and killing experiences for sadistic rich tourists. The film was rated No. 1 on Bravo TV's 30 Even Scarier Movie Moments, and Empire Magazine readers voted Hostel the Best Horror Film of 2007.
Roth reportedly turned down studio directing jobs to make Hostel. He took a directing salary of only $10,000 to keep the budget as low as possible, so there would be no limits set on its violence. In January 2006, film critic David Edelstein in New York magazine credited Roth with creating the horror subgenre 'torture porn,' or 'gorno,' using excessive violence to excite audiences like a sexual act.
In 2007, Roth directed and narrated the faux trailer segment Thanksgiving for Grindhouse as well as appearing in Death Proof, Tarantino's segment of the film. Roth and co-writer Jeff Rendell won a 2007 Spike TV Scream Award for best "screamplay" for their work in Grindhouse, sharing the honor with Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright.
Hostel: Part II opened in sixth place in June 2007, with $8.2 million; it went on to gross $17.6 million in US theaters. The film, which cost $10.2 million, earned $35 million in theaters worldwide and $50 million on DVD and pay television.
Lionsgate attributed the lower grosses to the summer release, opposite blockbusters such as Shrek 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Ocean's 13, as well as the film's workprint having been leaked online before its release. Close to 2 million illegal workprint downloads were tracked the day Hostel 2 opened.
I don't know if it was the most downloaded film of all time, but there are tracking services that track what movies are being downloaded. And a copy of Hostel 2 leaked out before its release and they had it, it was like millions and millions of hits. Not only was it downloaded, but in the countries it was downloaded - like Mexico and Brazil - there were copies on the street for practically a penny. You could buy Hostel 2 for a quarter in Mexico City. As a result, in a lot of countries where the piracy was bad, they just didn't even release it.
Hostel Part II was nominated for six Spike TV Scream Awards, including best horror film and best director. It was on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 20 best horror films of the past 20 years.
In 2009, while acting in Inglourious Basterds, Roth said he would soon begin his next film, Endangered Species.
I can't say anything without giving anything away!… I saw Transformers and Cloverfield and thought, 'I have an idea for a mass destruction movie.' But it's going to be very different from those films. And it's science fiction, but a little more grounded than that.
In a 2013 interview with The Guardian, Roth indicated that he had suspended work on Endangered Species to focus on 2015's The Green Inferno.
Roth directed the cannibal horror film The Green Inferno (2013), which was inspired by his love of Mondo horror films such as the infamous Cannibal Holocaust.
In 2002, Roth brought a shot-for-shot remake by kids of Raiders of the Lost Ark to the attention of both Harry Knowles and Steven Spielberg. He'd had a copy in his video collection for years, and showed it at Knowles' Butt-Numb-A-Thon film festival in December. The response was so great that Roth took the tape to his first meeting at DreamWorks to give to Spielberg. An executive called the next week saying Spielberg loved it and wanted to contact the filmmakers. Roth had never met them, but Google-searched every name in the credits until he found Jayson Lamb, the cinematographer. The three filmmakers—Lamb, Chris Strompolis and Eric Zala (a former Activision employee) -- hadn't spoken to each other in years when Roth contacted them. Roth, feeling their film was so powerful he had to do whatever he could to make sure fans saw it, introduced it at its premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in May 2008, five and a half years after he first gave the tape to Knowles. Soon, the three reunited friends were touring the world, doing charity screenings.
In March 2006, Ain't It Cool News announced that Dimension Films had bought the rights to the Cell by Stephen King and would produce a film to be directed by Roth. In 2009, King finished the screenplay, and actors John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson have since joined the project.
Through his company Arcade, with Eric Newman and Strike producer Marc Abraham, Roth produced the horror film The Last Exorcism, (originally titled Cotton) which was directed by Daniel Stamm. Completed in December 2009 and retitled in February 2010, The Last Exorcism cost $1.5 million to produce. It opened at more than $20 million in US sales, and earned No. #1 opening spots in Canada and the U.K. The film had paid for itself when rights in a few foreign territories were sold before shooting began. It earned over $40 million box office in the US, and $70 million worldwide.
Roth has talked of doing Trailer Trash, another compilation of fake trailers. "Trailer Trash is not a horror film," he said, "it's a comedy. It will be very R-rated and completely insane, and I'm producing it with Mike Fleiss".
He has also produced the 2012 kung fu film, The Man with the Iron Fist, written, directed, and scored by The RZA, who also stars in the film. According to Roth, Tarantino is involved as well. In an interview with CHUD, Roth said:
This movie will have everything martial-arts fans could want, combined with RZA's superb musical talent. This project has been his dream for years, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. Fans should know that yes, there will be blood... This ain't no PG-13.
Roth produced 2014 the American supernatural Horror film Clown and portrayed in a minor role the figure of Frowny the Clown. He next helmed Knock Knock (2015), about two young girls who seduce a married man and then do unspeakable things to him. Keanu Reeves starred and executive produced.
In 2015 Roth was announced as the director of an adaptation of the best-selling shark novel Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror. In 2016 it was announced that he had left the project due to creative differences.
Roth recorded an audio commentary for Troma's 2005 DVD release of Blood Sucking Freaks with no formal credit, billed only as a "Blood and Guts Expert." The DVD is one of Troma's highest-selling.
Roth is a frequent contributor to DVD "extras" content (liner notes, video commentary) for horror-film distributors Grindhouse Releasing/Box Office Spectaculars, particularly for two of his favorite films -- Juan Piquer Simon's Pieces and the North American DVD release of Lucio Fulci's Cat in the Brain.
Roth began his professional acting career in 1998 and has been known to play parts in the movies he produces. Roth's most notable appearance to date is his role as violent Bostonian soldier Donny "The Bear Jew" Donowitz in the 2009 Quentin Tarantino film Inglorious Basterds.
Roth's role in Quentin Tarantino's segment of 2007 film Grindhouse, Death Proof, came about because Tarantino was impressed by Roth's brief part as Justin in Cabin Fever. Roth—who left preproduction on Hostel Part II in Prague and flew to Austin, Texas, to film the scene at the Texas Chili Parlor—said working as an actor for Tarantino is like taking a master class in directing. He quipped that the only directors he would ever act for are people who have won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
Outside of these films and his own, Roth has appeared in a cameo role as a contest emcee in Alexandre Aja's 2010 film Piranha 3-D as well as the 2012 musical film Rock of Ages, among others. Roth has also appeared in several projects David Lynch directed for his website Davidlynch.com.
Roth hosted and executive-produced an episode of Discovery Channel's series "Curiosity", called "How Evil Are You?". The episode explored the scientific aspects of evil, with Roth undergoing a brain scan and DNA sequencing at U.C. Davis with neuropsychiatrist Dr. James Fallon. Roth also re-created the infamous Milgram experiments for the documentary, with results identical to those from 50 years earlier.
Roth directed the pilot of Hemlock Grove, a horror/thriller series, that premiered on Netflix on April 19, 2013.
He also hosts Shark After Dark on Discovery Channel's Shark Week.
In 2009, Roth wrote, directed and acted in a PSA for P.E.T.A. about the link between violence against animals and violence against people. Roth won a Telly Award for his spot (Public Service Category: Bronze.)
Roth is a curator of the EMP Museum's exhibit "Can't Look Away", detailing the history of horror. He was selected, along with directors John Landis and Roger Corman, to represent three generations of film directors who have shaped the genre. The installation opened in September 2011 and ran through 2014.
In September 2012, he opened a haunted house, Eli Roth's Goretorium, in Las Vegas. Haunted Desert LLC, which owns Goretorium, filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2013, and the attraction closed in October.
Roth directed the music video for Snoop Lion's lead single "La La La" from his reggae-genre album Reincarnated which was released on April 23, 2013.
In 2015, Roth partnered with Jack Davis to launch Crypt TV, a digital company focused on short-form horror content.
Men's Fitness magazine voted Roth "Most Fit Director" in their July 2006 issue, a title Roth takes very seriously. He follows a strict workout routine, which he documents on the Hostel DVDs. Roth claims he treats every red carpet like a Milan runway, and often jokes that he only makes films as a way to live out his lifelong dream of being a male supermodel. He spoke of his love for fashion in his interview in the October 2007 issue of Italian Vogue.
Roth was profiled on the G4 TV show Icons, and was on the cover of Forbes magazine's "Hollywood's Most Profitable Stars" issue.
In 2014, Roth married Chilean actress and model Lorenza Izzo.
|1998||The Horse Whisperer||No||No||No||Yes||Office Worker #4|
|1999||Terror Firmer||No||No||No||Yes||Shocked Onlooker|
|"Thank You, Judge"||No||No||No||Yes||Boyfriend||Music video|
|2000||Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV||No||No||No||Yes||Frightened citizen|
|2002||Cabin Fever||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Justin aka Grim|
|2004||Tales from the Crapper||No||No||No||Yes||Gay Party-goer|
|2007||Hostel: Part II||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Head on stick||Cameo|
|Grindhouse: Thanksgiving||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Tucker/Trailer Announcer||Fake trailer|
|2009||Inglourious Basterds||No||No||No||Yes||Donny "The Bear Jew" Donowitz|
|Nation's Pride||Yes||No||No||No||Film within a film|
|Don't Look Up||No||No||No||Yes||Béla Olt|
|2010||The Last Exorcism||No||Yes||No||No|
|Piranha 3D||No||No||No||Yes||Wet T-shirt contest MC||Cameo|
|2012||Rock of Ages||No||No||No||Yes||Stefano||Cameo|
|The Man with the Iron Fists||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Wolf Clan #2||Cameo|
|2013||The Last Exorcism Part II||No||Yes||No||No|
|The Green Inferno||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|2014||Clown||No||Yes||No||Yes||Frowny the Clown|
|2016||Cabin Fever||No||Yes||No||No||Executive producer|
|The House with a Clock in Its Walls||Yes||No||No||No|
|2013-2015||Hemlock Grove||Yes||Yes||Directed episode: "Pilot"|
|2015||South of Hell||Yes||Yes||Directed episode: "Pilot"|