Sundance 2015 Interview: Eli Roth on ‘Knock Knock’

Directors are very busy at Sundance. Not only are they hosting their screenings and Q&As but meeting with sales agents. So given that Eli Roth was only doing three interviews, I was thrilled to hear he personally chose me to talk to about his latest, Knock Knock which premiered as the first Midnight screening of Sundance 2015. Keanu Reeves plays Evan, a happily married father who answers the door for two lost girls (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas). He calls them an Uber and helps them dry their soaked clothes, but they seduce him, and the next morning begin a manipulative game to punish him for cheating on his family. I love this talk with Roth because we were able to discuss themes of the film with no real spoilers, so except for the assumption that there will be some violence in it, you’ll still go in fresh when it’s finally released. 


CraveOnline: The last time we spoke was for a festival movie that played well, got bought by a great studio and still hasn’t come out. So do you have to be very careful who you sell Knock Knock to?

Eli Roth: It’s interesting. It was just a very strange, terrible circumstance that two companies got caught in. It wasn’t that we sold to the wrong person or that the wrong person sold the movie. It’s just there was a big change and some of the deals, there was a disagreement about whether those deals should carry over. So it was internal conflict in a company. We just got caught up in the fallout of a corporate thing that happened. It’s like when one company buys another company and certain projects get put on hold. So everyone’s trying to work it out. The thing is that everybody loves the movie, everyone at Open Road, everyone at Worldview. We’re all trying to champion the film but it’s just hard because it’s a slow process and everybody wants to find a fair way to resolve it, and we’re very close.


Does that complicate your plans for The Green Inferno 2 which you announced at your Toronto premiere?

Yeah, for sure. That was the first thing put on hold was Green Inferno 2 so that’s the way it goes. You’ve just got to keep moving forward. That’s the good thing. Me and Nicolas, Miguel and Guillermo, our whole team, we have a lot of ideas and we never stop. So if one is in neutral and is not moving forward, we jump on another one.


It seems like one of the things you’re saying in Knock Knock is we all may be vulnerable to temptation. Does it mean we all have to be more vigilant? I’ve even been pressured to do things I don’t believe in nonsexually.

Well, everyone gets tempted by something that they know deep down is wrong. The questions is what do you do if you know you can get away with it, or you really think you can get away with it. Even in Hostel, looking at it now I can see it’s a similar thing of would you do this to someone if you thought you could get away with it? If you thought you were going to get caught, you’d never do it, but if you thought you could do it with no repercussions for your behavior, would you do it or not? Everyone has their own internal moral compass for that, and it’s really not about doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing. It’s really about the fragility.

What terrifies me is the fragility of our relationships, that you really could spend 15 years married to someone and build your life and this one little act where you slip up, and we’re human and it happens to all of us. Everyone has had that moment where you’re in a store and you know you could take something and you know you wouldn’t get caught. Do you do it? And do you feel bad if you do it? And do you do it again or do you do it once? It’s part of being human, so that’s what interested me.

That and the theme that art does not exist. They’re going to the house of an artist, destroying the artwork. That idea, what is art? Does art exist or is it just someone else’s creation? Does it have a value because it inherently has a value or does it have a value because someone else puts a value on it, and what is the value of that? What are you saying with that? That to me is a fascinating idea. To someone, Knock Knock could be an amazing thought-provoking film and to someone else it could be a cheap exploitation movie that’s a waste of your time. So there’s certain things that we hold so valuable in our life that to others are garbage. It’s terrifying.


I didn’t even think of that. You just made me think that’s what I deal with in my work. I’m trying to tell people my writing is worth something and this is what they should pay, and some people would rather get people to do it for free.

Yeah, it relates to everybody. Everyone has something in their lives that they create, that they do, that this is who I am. This is my painting. This is my writing. This is my woodworking. These are my cars. To someone else, they could just come in and just trash it. Here we are in this lounge, the Acura lounge and there’s their logo. It’s Acura, this is their car. To someone else, why would you ever drive an Acura? For me, there’s something about art that truly has a subjective, strange value. That’s the value of family. How much do you value your family and how really fragile is your world? Can it really be shattered that easily. That, I think, is a terrifying idea.