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Eli Roth

Roth at a premiere for Inglourious Basterds in August 2009
Born Eli Raphael Roth
April 18, 1972 (1972-04-18) (age 37)
Newton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Other name(s) David Kaufbird
Eli R. Roth
Occupation Actor
Years active 1996–present

Eli Raphael Roth (born April 18, 1972) is an American film director, producer, writer and actor. He is part of the group of filmmakers dubbed the Splat Pack,[1] because of their association and their focus on the horror genre. Roth is known for making violent, low-budget horror films that are box office hits worldwide, and for bringing back the R-rating to horror at a time when studios believed only PG-13 horror would work. Roth is also an award-winning actor, most known for his role as Donny Donowitz in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds", for which he won both a SAG Award (Best Ensemble) and a BFCA Critic's Choice Award (Best Acting Ensemble).


Early life

Roth was born in Newton, Massachusetts, to Dr. Sheldon Roth, a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst and professor at Harvard University, and Cora Roth, a painter.[2] His grandparents immigrated from Austria, Russia and Poland, and Roth was raised Jewish.[3][4]

Roth began shooting films at the age of eight after watching Ridley Scott's Alien (1979).[5] He made over 50 short films with his brothers Adam and Gabe[6] before graduating at Newton South High School and attending film school (the Tisch School of the Arts) at New York University, from which he graduated in 1994.

By the age of 20, and while still a student at NYU, Roth ran the office of producer Frederick Zollo,[6] eventually leaving to devote himself to writing full-time.

Actress Camryn Manheim gave Roth one of his first jobs in Hollywood, putting him on as an extra on The Practice when he first moved to Los Angeles. Roth would stay in Manheim's dressing room working on his scripts while she filmed the show. The two had met and become friends while Roth was working for Fred Zollo in New York City. Roth also met Manheim's cousin Howie Nuchow (former EVP of Mandalay Sports Entertainment and also from the Boston, MA area) at Camryn's family passover seder—this led to Roth's first animation project "Chowdaheads" in the year that followed. Roth also co-wrote a project called "The Extra" with Manheim;[7] Manheim would later sell the pitch to producer (and former CEO and Chairman of Fox Studios) Bill Mechanic's Pandemonium company.

Film career

In his final years (1993/1994) at NYU film school, Roth wrote and directed a student film called Restaurant Dogs as an homage to Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. The film was nominated for a Student Academy Award in 1995, and won its division (Division III.)

Through his internship with producer Fred Zollo in years prior, Roth met David Lynch and remained in contact with him over the years, eventually producing content for Lynch with his fledgling website in the late 1990s.[7] Roth met film and TV composer Angelo Badalamenti through Lynch; he would later use Badalamenti's music in his first feature film. He also met a member of special effects company KNB EFX through Lynch; KNB EFX would later contribute to his first feature.

Roth moved from NYC to LA in 1999; shortly thereafter he wrote, directed, edited, produced, animated, and provided voices for a series of animated shorts called Chowdaheads for Mandalay Sports Entertainment. The shorts were intended 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 supposed to be aired, and they were never actually broadcast, despite being completed. Roth's friend Noah Belson co-wrote the shorts and provided the other character voices.

After receiving financial backup from the website to deliver a 5-minute pilot, Roth wrote, directed, animated and produced a series of stop-motion shorts in mid-2000 called The Rotten Fruit.[7] The company ( folded shortly after several episodes were completed, and the domain name "" was picked up by Nissan years later to promote their sports car of the same name. A portion of the work for The Rotten Fruit was done at the Snake Pit studios in Burbank using miniature sets, poseable clay and foam figures, two high-end digital still cameras, and a pair of Macintosh computers. Roth's friend Noah Belson co-wrote the shorts and performed all the character voices.

Cabin Fever

In 1995, a year after graduating from NYU, Roth co-wrote Cabin Fever with his roommate and friend from NYU Randy Pearlstein. Roth based the premise of the script on his own encounter with a skin infection he contracted while training horses at a farm in Selfoss, Iceland, in 1991. Much of the script was written while Roth was working as a production assistant for Howard Stern's movie Private Parts.

The film was made in 2001 on a budget of $1.5 million dollars raised from private investors. Roth sold the film to Lionsgate at the 2002 Toronto Film Festival for $3.5 million dollars, the biggest sale of the festival that year. The film was released in 2003, and was Lionsgate's highest grossing film that year, earning $22 million at the box office, and $35 million worldwide. Lionsgate used the theatrical success of Cabin Fever to raise the money to purchase Artisan Entertainment. Lionsgate's stock rose from $1.98 a share at the time Cabin Fever was purchased at the Toronto Film Festival to nearly $6 a share after "Cabin Fever" was released theatrically.[8] The film made Roth a new star in the horror genre, and changed the industry perception that fans want PG-13 films. In his 2004 Premiere Magazine interview for "Kill Bill," Quentin Tarantino called "Cabin Fever" his favorite new film, and called Roth "the future of horror."


Roth's second feature film, Hostel, was made on a budget of a little more than $4 million, in 2005. It opened to #1 at the box office in January 2006, taking in $20 million dollars opening weekend.[9][10] It went on to gross $80 million worldwide in box office, and over $180 million worldwide on DVD. In April 2006, on Eli Roth's birthday, Hostel opened on DVD at #1.[citation needed] The movie takes place in Slovakia, where three college students visit a hostel, where they think that all of their sexual fantasies will come true. Instead, they find an international syndicate with the express purpose of torturing and killing backpackers for the sadistic pleasures of rich businessmen. The film was voted the #1 scariest movie moment on the Bravo TV special 30 Even Scarier Movie Moments.[11] Empire Magazine readers voted "Hostel" the Best Horror Film of 2007.[12]

Roth reportedly turned down numerous studio directing jobs to make Hostel. Roth took a directing salary of only $10,000 on Hostel in order to keep the budget as low as possible, so there would be no limitations on the violence. In January 2006, film critic David Edelstein in New York Magazine credited Roth with creating the horror sub-genre 'torture porn,' or 'gorno,' using excessive violence to excite audiences like a sexual act.[13] Roth has said he hates the term, and feels it is far more reflective of the critics who use it and their lack of understanding of the genre than of the films themselves.[citation needed] Roth mocked the term at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, calling "Inglourious Basterds" Kosher Porn.[14]

Le Monde head critique and French Cinematheque head Jean-Francois Raugier named "Hostel" as the Best Film of the Decade in the January 2010 issue of Film Comment Magazine.


Roth at the Spike TV Scream Awards, 2007

In 2007, Roth directed the faux trailer segment Thanksgiving for Grindhouse, in addition to appearing in Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino's segment of the film. Roth and co-writer Jeff Rendell won a 2007 Spike TV Scream Award for Best Screamplay for their writing in "Grindhouse," sharing the award with Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Rob Zombie, and Edgar Wright. According to Imdb Roth will be directing a feature-film version of Thanksgiving to be released in 2011.[15] Roth also provided the narration for the faux trailer.[16]

Hostel: Part II

Hostel: Part II opened in 6th place with only $8.2 million and went on to total $17.6 million by the end of its theatrical run. The film only cost $10.2 million, and made $35 million dollars worldwide, and another $50 million on DVD and pay television.[17]

Lionsgate attributed the lower grosses to the summer release date opposite summer blockbusters (Shrek 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Ocean's 13) and major movie stars, as well as the film's workprint leaked from a Lionsgate studio executive online prior to the film's release: Close to two million illegal workprint downloads were tracked the day Hostel 2 opened theatrically in the U.S.

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.[18]

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 last 20 years.

Endangered Species

Eli Roth announced that after Inglourious Basterds was done he would begin work on his next film, Endangered Species.[19]

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.[20]

Other projects

Roth was working on other film projects, including an adaptation of the Stephen King novel Cell, however, on July 9, 2009, Eli Roth officially confirmed that he is no longer working on Cell, but that the Weinstein Company could make it with someone else.[21] He also talked about doing a film called Trailer Trash, a film made of fake trailers; according to an appearance on G4, Roth was quoted saying "Trailer Trash is not a horror film, it's a comedy. It will be very R-rated and completely insane, and I'm producing it with Mike Fleiss".

He is currently producing a kung fu movie entitled Man with the Iron Fist. It is being written, directed, and scored by The RZA, who stars in the film. According to Roth, Quentin Tarantino is involved with the movie as well. In a recent 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. And fans should know that yes, there will be blood... This ain't no PG-13.[22][23]

Roth has been a guest on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "Your World with Neil Cavuto," "The Howard Stern Show," "Late Night With Conan O'Brien,""Sunday Morning Shootout," and served as a guest judge on the filmmaking reality series "On The Lot." He has been profiled and interviewed in the New York Times, G.Q., Elle Magazine, Maxim, Le Monde, La Republica, Time Out: London, Time Magazine, Empire Magazine, Premiere, and Italian Vogue. Dolce & Gabbana and Nike give him clothes for all his public appearances. Roth has also appeared three times as an answer in the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, and was a subject of the G4 profile show "Icons." (2007)

Eli Roth has also been a frequent contributor to DVD extras content (liner notes and video commentary) for horror film distributors Grindhouse Releasing/Box Office Spectaculars, particularly on two of his favorite films Juan Piquer Simon's Pieces and the upcoming North American DVD release of Lucio Fulci's Cat in the Brain.[24][25][26]

"Men's Fitness" magazine voted Roth Most Fit Director in their July 2006 issue, a title Roth takes very seriously with a strict workout routine that he documents on the "Hostel" DVDs. Roth claims he treats every red carpet like it was 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 is an animator, having written, produced, directed, animated and voiced two series: Chowdaheads (1999) and The Rotten Fruit (2000). Chowdaheads was co-written and co-voiced with friend Noah Belson, and was made with traditional hand-drawn animation. The Rotten Fruit, which Roth again co-wrote and co-voiced with Belson, was made with stop-motion animation done with foam puppets.

Roth also participated in the 2006 animated comedy film, Disaster!, voicing the lumberjack during the opening moments of the film. The comical 'death by squirrels' the lumberjack suffers is inspired by Roth's gruesome and often ironic ways of killing characters in his own films.

Roth participated in a DVD audio commentary for Blood Sucking Freaks in 1996, having no formal credits, as a "Blood and Guts Expert." The DVD is one of the highest selling DVDs for Troma. Roth often makes uncredited cameos in Troma. He made an unbilled cameo as a Tromaville citizen in Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV in the year 2000.

Roth had a role in Quentin Tarantino's half of Grindhouse, Death Proof, in a scene with Jordan Ladd. Tarantino was so impressed by Roth's brief role as Justin in Cabin Fever, he asked Roth to audition for the film. Roth left his preproduction on Hostel Part II in Prague to fly to Austin, Texas for one week to film the scene at the Texas Chili Parlor. Roth said working as an actor for Tarantino was like taking a masterclass in directing, and said the only directors he would ever act for were people who had won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Roth also made appearances in several projects that David Lynch directed for

Roth was profiled on the G4 TV show Icons, and was on the cover of Forbes magazine's Hollywood's most profitable stars issue.

Eli Roth brought a Raiders of the Lost Ark shot-for-shot remake by kids to the attention of both Harry Knowles and Steven Spielberg. Roth had a copy in his collection of videos for years before showing it at Harry Knowles' Butt-Numb-A-Thon film festival in December, 2002. The response was so overwhelming that Roth took the tape to his very first meeting at Dreamworks, and gave it to an executive to give to Steven Spielberg. The executive called Roth the next week saying that Spielberg loved it and wanted to contact the filmmakers. Roth had never met the filmmakers, but Google searched every name in the credits until he got a hold of Jayson Lamb, the cinematographer. The three filmmakers, Lamb, Chris Strompolis, and Eric Zala (a former Activision employee), had not spoken to each other in years when Roth contacted them out of the blue, saying that Spielberg wanted to write them a letter. This reunited the friends, who began touring the world doing charity screenings with the film. Roth felt that the film was so powerful he had to do whatever he could to make sure fans around the world saw it. Roth introduced the film at its premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in May 2008, five and a half years after he first got the tape to Knowles and Spielberg.

Roth co-starred with Brad Pitt in Quentin Tarantino's World War II epic Inglourious Basterds, playing Donny Donowitz, a.k.a. "The Bear Jew." He also guest directed the Nazi propaganda film-within-the-film, Nation's Pride.

Roth, through his company Arcade with Eric Newman and Strike producer Marc Abraham[27], produced the horror film "Cotton," which was directed by Daniel Stamm.[28] It was completed in December 2009 and in February 2010 retitled The Last Exorcism.[29] In February 2010 was announced Roth will produce the psychological thriller The Other Woman[30], which based on a screenplay from Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland[31], it will be directed by Huck Botko Andrew Gurland.[32] Roth has also a cameo as Contest emcee in Alexandre Aja's Piranha 3-D.[33]


Year Film Credited as
Director Producer Writer Actor Role
2002 Cabin Fever Yes Yes Yes Yes Justin aka Grim
2005 2001 Maniacs No Yes No Yes Justin
Hostel Yes Yes Yes Yes American Stoner
2007 Hostel: Part II Yes No Yes Yes Head on stick (cameo)
Death Proof No No No Yes Dov
2009 Inglourious Basterds No No No Yes Donny Donowitz / The Bear Jew
Nations Pride (film within a film) Yes No No No N/A
2010 The Last Exorcism No Yes [34] No No N/A
TBA Endangered Species Yes Yes Yes Yes TBA
  • Roth's directing credit for Grindhouse is for the fake movie trailer "Thanksgiving" only.
  • Roth also had a small part in "Southland Tales" as Man Who Gets Shot On Toilet.
  • Roth directed the German propaganda film within Inglourious Basterds.


  1. ^ Jeremy Kay (08 Jun 2007). "My mission to appal, by the Splat Pack king". Telegraph. 
  2. ^ McCarthy, Phillip (2007-06-15). "Captive audiences". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2007-07-07. 
  3. ^ Fischer, Paul (2003-09-02). "Eli Roth Has The Fever". Film Monthly. Retrieved 2007-01-07. 
  4. ^ Parks, Louis B. (2009-08-19). "Eli Roth gets a head-turning role in Inglourious Basterds". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  5. ^ Shane Danielson (2007-06-24). "Blood brother: Director Eli Roth, inventer of 'torture porn'". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  6. ^ a b Mary Ellen Egan (2007-06-14). "Eli Roth makes box office gross — literally". Forbes via MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  7. ^ a b c Edgers, Geoff (9 November 2003). "The family cut-up". Boston globe. Retrieved 28 September 2009. 
  8. ^ Source: Lionsgate website financial reports
  9. ^ Stewart, Ryan (2007-06-10). "Audiences Hostile to 'Hostel II' At Box Office". Cinematical. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  10. ^ "Roth returning to 'Hostel'?". Time Out. 2006-02-03. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  11. ^ Kevin Kaufman. (2004). The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. [TV-Series]. Bravo TV. 
  12. ^ "Empire Readers Awards 2007". Empire Magazine Online. Retrieved 2009-09-28. 
  13. ^ David Edelstein. "Now Playing at Your Local Multiplex: Torture Porn", New York Magazine, published on January 28th, 2006.
  14. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (2009-05-20). "Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds': Kosher porn?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-09-28. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Giving Thanks With Eli Roth's 'Thanksgiving' Trailer
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Some Final Tweaks on Eli Roth's 'Endangered Species'
  20. ^ Faracil, David (7 September 2009). "Eli Roth is being coy". Retrieved 28 September 2009. 
  21. ^ "Eli Roth Not Involved in Hostel III" by Russ Fischer, Slash Film
  22. ^[Movies]-Eli-Roth-On-RZA/s-The-Man-With-The-Iron-Fist.htm
  23. ^
  24. ^ Icons of Fright News and Updates: Lucio Fulci's Cat in the Brain Coming to DVD March 31st
  25. ^ DVD Trash: DVD Release: Cat in the Brain
  26. ^ "Final Cat in the Brain DVD Specs", Dec. 29, 2008, by Gabrielle DiPietro
  27. ^ The Power of Christ Compels Lionsgate to Purchase Retitled 'Exorcism' Flick, 'Cotton'
  28. ^ AFM '09: First Ever Images From Eli Roth's 'Cotton'!!
  29. ^ Lionsgate Nabs Cotton, Changes Title to Last Exorcism
  30. ^ Eli Roth Set to Show Us The Other Woman
  31. ^ Eli Roth to Produce Psychological Thriller 'The Other Woman'
  32. ^ Lionsgate snags 'Last Exorcism' - Horror pic produced by Eli Roth, StudioCanal, Strike
  33. ^ Eli Roth on Bloody 'Piranha' Remake, 3-D Technology
  34. ^ Eli Roth-Produced Cotton Screening for Sundance

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