TIFF 2013: Lorenza Izzo on The Green Inferno
The premiere of The Green Inferno was big news at the Toronto International Film Festival, due in no small part to director Eli Roth announcing the sequel Beyond the Green Inferno before it even premiered. For Roth’s return to horror directing, he assembled an international cast of actors to play college student activists in Peru who get captured by a cannibal tribe. Lorenza Izzo stars in The Green Inferno as Justine, the newest member to join the activist group and the focal point of the tribe’s ceremonies. We met Izzo in Toronto the day after the premiere. We’ll be sensitive to spoilers, and I’ve even edited out some specifics since the movie won’t be made public for a while, but if you know jungle cannibal movies there are a few things you can count on.
CraveOnline: What was Eli looking for in the role of Justine and what made him see that in you?
Lorenza Izzo: I don’t know what he was looking for. He found me because we shot another movie called Aftershock before. We met down there in Chile where I’m from, I’m Chilean, and I think he just found Justine. More than Justine, he found a family he could shoot with. We literally, if you see Aftershock, you will see the whole cast transformed into the cast of Green Inferno so he found his whole movie right there and took it. Nicolas Lopez is the director of Aftershock and he basically, not stole, but borrowed his DP, his cast, his friends and took them with him and had Nicolas produce his film too.
So were there any auditions for Green Inferno?
Yes, of course, there were. We had other people join us and we call it Chilenize them. We created our own little group. Daryl Sabara who is amazing in the movie, it was such a pleasure to work with him, he’s one of the main guys. Kirby Bliss Blanton who was in Project X, Magda Apanowicz who is Canadian, she was amazing in it too and Aaron Burns, who is the man. He did VFX, he was holding the camera too, he was a camera operator and he was one of the main guys on cast too. So we had a really good mix of people. We were all sort of translating while we were in Peru so we had Chilean speaking Spanish and Americans so we were all helping each other out as we were moving from location to location.
But you were always Justine, no other character?
Yes, yes, yes.
Did you make friends with the Peruvian actors?
I did. That was quite a journey for me. I love kids. I always have. I was an only child until I was 12 and then my sister arrived. I kind of at the beginning hated her and would almost throw her out of her crib because I was so jealous. I know 12 is kind of old for that, but then I have this fascination and we got to work with these little eight-year-old villagers, little native kids. So I was obsessed with them. I would play soccer. We would get there really early in the morning. To get to the village, it was a 90 minute car ride. In total it was a five hour ride there so we got there exhausted, but we would get there really early. We all drove there together. So the cameras had to set up and so we had a while until we started shooting so I would play soccer with the kids. The families were amazing. I think the village really appreciated us being there and we really appreciated them working with us so the energy, the vibe of everyone together it didn’t feel like work.
Did they actually speak English, or at least Spanish?
They spoke Spanish. No English so we created a system of translation and there was Coco who was Eli’s assistant Peruvian AD so he was always with Eli. The villagers always had a constant communication with him and they loved him. Eli was really warm with the kids and with the families and what we call the Pussycat Dolls, the five elderly women who did all of the rituals. They were obsessed with Eli. It was really funny.
How did you approach Justine?
It was tough. It’s such a character that I was so excited to play. I really felt so attracted to her. Ariel Levy who plays Alejandro, he’s such an attractive guy. He’s Latin and he has an accent and he’s doing something for the world. It’s so easy these days to fall for these guys. She’s innocent but not really. She’s a really smart girl. You can see that she comes from a good family and she’s had everything in life and she sort of wants to give back. So I was really careful. I wanted to make her real because Eli, as you know, he’s very good at creating characters that are full and wanting people to really get what they are.
I was very stressed out because I want to give it all because Justine really holds the movie, the story, and I want to portray the most realistic way possible. I want to make everyone follow her and not think, “Oh my God, what is she getting herself into” because nobody would do that. It’s like, are you really going to go to the jungle? When Kaycee says, “Are you going to go bulldozer hugging?” I really agree with Kaycee. When I read the script, I was like, “I agree with her.” But no, not really. I would want to give back to the world so that was my main thing. I really wanted people to go with Justine and be like, “Yes.” I think I got a little payback at some point so I approached her, I just studied a lot.
Payback in the film or in real life?
In real life too. When we were shooting the movie, I think what really paid off for me, just going every day to the jungle, in New York, in Chile, I didn’t have to do much. I felt like I sort of became her and I was on the journey with her. The script kind of gave it all. It was just that. It was great.
Were you aware of the legacy of the girl in white tribal paint in the jungle movie?
Yes, I was. I studied that before and I was really attached to it. There are certain cultures you think you can get in and you can go and say, “What you’re doing is shameful” which is what Alejandro says, but what? What’s the limit? These kids who are in an Ivy league school think that they can go down there and attach themselves to these trees and defend them because they think they’re self-righteous and can do that, but until what point? So I think it’s such a smart way to approach all these society issues. I love that.
The white paint obviously represents something traumatic in the movie, but did you find it ultimately beautiful when you’re running through the jungle painted white?
It was beautiful. If you notice, they’re all painted in red and the contrast is green and there’s this little girl all painted in white. It’s all an artwork. She’s running through the jungle freely so it’s all kind of a beautiful story. In fact, when she first gets there, the elderly woman looks at her and she can tell. She’s a gift from the gods, the pure, clean one.
I also probably know Eli’s references. Did he give you movie homework?
Not really. He kind of wanted me to approach it in my own way. The thing about this movie is of course he has his influences. We all know about all these cannibal movies, and I did do my research because I can’t just come into this, “Oh, I’m going to do my own thing.” But it’s more about giving a cannibal movie to a modern audience and giving it in a modern sense too.
People don’t want to know who lives or dies, but it’s pretty bold of Eli to announce the sequel before the premiere. Let’s say, has there been talk of any of this cast returning for the sequel?
No. You know what? I was just as surprised and shocked as you were when I found out about the sequel. I was standing on the stage and right before, they were like, “There’s a sequel!” I’m like agh! What? Me and my manager were like, “What?” So yeah, I’m like you. There’s a sequel. That’s it. I have no idea. I think people have died so maybe there’s the returning of some zombie cannibals, I don’t know.
As a franchise, it could always be a new plane crashes with new passengers, or maybe a boat this time.
That could be really great. Our boat rides while shooting that, one day I thought we would not survive because the river overflowed and there were tree barks the size of from there to hear, and we were jumping up and down. The guy was driving the boat kind of drunk. I thought I was going to die. There were times I thought I was going to die, it was great.
One thing that occurred to me as I was watching The Green Inferno, what did it actually smell like down there?
Oh, that’s a really cool question. It was actually fresh and sort of humid at the same time. It was like this humid, really, really moist… does moist ring a bell, like wet clothes? But good wet clothes, not bad wet clothes. It wasn’t bad.
Even knowing all the gross stuff was fake, I was thinking it must stink.
Oh, let me tell you, the pig shit was real. In the cage, it smelled like shit. You can say that word for word, but you know, we got used to it. It worked. When Kirby’s going in the cage, “No, they’re going to put us in the pig shit!” They are. That was obviously set production but it was kind of pig shit.
What was their red paint made out of? I thought whatever they use for coloring must also have a scent.
No, the red paint was makeup effects but they made it with these different dusts and paprika or something. I don’t know. It didn’t smell. Now that I remember, we didn’t smell. We smelled really bad by the end of the day though because it was so hot and so, so sweaty. 110 degrees.
I think I smell bad by the end of the day here in Toronto.
I know, can you imagine there? But you know what? It also rained. That was the crazy thing about it and why the cameras, the Canon C300s worked so well because it would rain. It was 10 minutes of heat and sun and it would start raining. Then again, heat and sun and then rain again, and wild horses. So it was kind of insane.
What is next for you?
I have no idea. Whatever comes. I just shot a movie, a romantic comedy, completely the opposite, called Sex Ed with Haley Joel Osment.
Yeah, he’s so funny.
I know he’s been doing theater but he hasn’t been in movies for a while.
He’s back. He’s back.
Is he your love interest in Sex Ed?
Good assumption. So yeah, we are and I literally just wrapped that and I came here.
With that title, is it an R-rated rom-com?
It’s not. It’s just the title. He’s a sex ed teacher. It’s kind of really funny and sad. It’s the only thing he could get. He wanted to be a math teacher but it didn’t work out, so he’s now trying to make it as a sex ed teacher.
So it’s science fiction because they don’t teach sex ed in schools anymore.
There you go, that’s exactly what it is.