Eli Roth‘s cannibal nightmare The Green Inferno was shot in 2012, but a series of legal and financial woes kept it on the shelf — until now. As the countdown to its September 25th release date ticks away, we sat down with Daryl Sabara and Kirby Bliss Blanton to discuss their experiences during an arduous location shoot in the remote Amazon rainforest.
The movie was first shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Daryl Sabara: I was just thinking how long ago that was. That was three TIFF’s ago!
What was the casting process for the film?
DS: I’m very close friends with Aaron Burns, who plays Jonah in the film. So in the summer of 2012 we were at a Sports Authority, and he’s buying all this equipment to go to the Amazon and I was like “Dude, why are you going to the Amazon?” and then he told me the premise of the movie and I told Aaron that I would do anything to go with him just for the experience. I never imagined that I would get a part in the movie. A couple months later he emailed me and said that he had talked to Eli about me. I went to breakfast with Eli, and we sat for a couple of hours and just talked about movies. At the end of our breakfast, he asked me if I wanted to go on that crazy adventure with him to the Amazon — and I said “Yeah.”
Kirby Bliss Blanton: I went to an audition. Basically, I got a callback from Eli, and he asked, “Are you willing to do this guerrilla style?” and I said “Yeah, sure.” And he said, “No, really though.” And I still said yes. He was like “There isn’t going to be any trailers or anything.” And I was like “Alright, cool.” But even after that conversation, we were not prepared for what we got ourselves into once we were there. It was just intense.
DS: Eli’s prerequisite for everyone in the cast was to watch Cannibal Holocaust so that we had an idea of what we were getting ourselves into. Then I had Kirby come over and we watched it together, and every time she went like this [puts hands over eyes], I had to peel her hands away and say, “You have to watch this!”
KBB: I still can’t think about it.
The film is decidedly non-politically correct in a very politically correct world.
KBB: We play activists who think they can change the world by kind of just participating via social media, and once they get there it’s kind of like, “Holy shit. It’s a little more complicated than that.” But also, it’s just a movie. We’re not promoting cannibalism. It’s a real thing and it happens but we’re not pro-cannibalism.
DS: Well, I’m pro-cannibalism.
KBB: Fair. Totally fair.
The Green Inferno is pretty brutal, as far as the scenes and effects go. Did anything stay with you, or really gross you out while you were filming?
KBB: Everything was actually edible. We could actually eat it.
DS: The blood?
KBB: Yeah, the food and everything. It was gross.
DS: The practical effects were awesome for me. I came from Spy Kids which is all green screen, and in this we have a plane crash where the plane was rigged on this thing, I don’t even know what’s it’s called but —
KBB: Yeah, it like spins around 360 degrees. It was crazy!
DS: It was pretty real what we did. Even everything in the Amazon, too. We were there, in the thick of it, in the mud.
KBB: I don’t think you can get grossed out anymore once you’ve seen that much blood. You just kind of get used to it. You’re like, “Who’s dying today? Who’s eating what today?” You just kind of go to work and you’re used to it. It was almost comical and not gross, because it just became a daily thing.
DS: We would be there and think, “We’re at work right now.”
Cannibalism is a major theme in The Green Inferno. Did you get turned off to any foods while filming, or was it hard to eat?
KBB: Not due to the cannibalism, just due to being in a foreign place, really.
DS: I have to say I gravitated towards fish while I was there, because eating meat there was a little strange. So, yeah a little bit. It was a little weird on the days that we would film, but then I just had a lot of plantains.
Were you ever afraid of the tribe’s people?
DS: I was never afraid of the tribe’s people, but we stayed in a place that was an hour car ride from our boats and then it was an hour boat ride from the Amazon to the village that we shot in. By the time we arrived at the village, all of our really amazing actors, also the people who lived in the village, were already in all of their hair and make-up. So we never saw how they actually looked. Every time we got to the village, they were already all red and had their wigs on so that was kind of, not scary, but —
DS: Yeah, I just wanted to know how they really looked. It dawned on me one day that they don’t actually look like this.
Was there any part during filming that was an emotional struggle because of the material?
KBB: I mean, it was exhausting. At some point you just get so tired from crying and screaming. I think being away from home, I got emotional a couple of times.
DS: They’ve released the clips of this, but the scene where we all arrive to the jungle was really emotional and also startling too.
DS: Yeah, very intense. That was one of our first days. It was also just kind of scary because in the Amazon, there is no current so we’re in these canoes —
KBB: Literally just two pieces of wood cut together, not even a canoe really.
DS: We had villagers with us so we were safe, but getting out of those canoes and having the whole tribe come at you and pull your hair, even though we knew it was going to happen, to actually have it happen to you is sort of a startling experience and very real.
KBB: The first time is very memorable. You do it again and you’re like, “Yeah, okay.” But that first time when we looked up and they’re all coming out of the woods, there’s just so many.
DS: And the production design on the film is incredible, just the way that they transformed their home with the tribal stuff in the movie. It made it feel real. There wasn’t a lot of acting going on, more reacting.
KBB: Yeah, for sure.
What were your biggest challenges during the filming process?
DS: Getting over my spider fear, because there’s no way out. There are tarantulas everywhere in the Amazon, and we shot so fast. But even the tiny seconds we had before they said, “Ready? Set,” I would look down and there would be a tarantula crawling on my leg and on “Action,” I would hit it off and we would do the scene. But it was kind of like letting go of that fear. Also, where we stayed had bats everywhere. I had to tell myself “Okay, bats are good. They are killing the bugs.”
KBB: I think my biggest challenge was just getting eaten alive by bugs. It was really bad; they would get all swollen and be all over my face and it looked like I had leprosy. I had to get shots for them. [But] there is no cure. They made this thing with mothballs and acetone, I don’t even know what it was really, but it would make them feel better for maybe five minutes and that was it.
Have either of you ever had an experience as a traveler abroad where you felt like an outsider or an intruder?
DS: I traveled to Indonesia for a couple of months on a gig. I never felt like an intruder, but I definitely felt like an outsider. Being there and being white is startling enough but also being a redhead. I don’t know if they know what a leprechaun looks like but it was a similar feeling.
KBB: Even when we were in Chile actually, I felt super out of place because I can’t speak Spanish very well. I think being in Chile and Peru was the time I felt most out of place. And also, as a blonde white girl, I got some attention.
Since it was sort of guerrilla, what was the turnaround like between takes?
DS: We had very compact days, especially when we were shooting at the village. We got there as soon as the sun came up, and we had to leave before the sun went down.
KBB: There’s no electricity.
DS: We would have to charge our stuff and if things weren’t charged then things weren’t charged and that was it. A lot of other sets are stop-and-go, with a lot of waiting around. I was really grateful to be on something like this with Eli, who makes a set so welcoming and easy and fun. There was no stopping, almost always go, go, go.
KBB: I think having each other was really helpful, too. No one else could understand what we were going through. Between takes, even though we’re doing these ridiculous scenes, we would just be silly with each other and it just really helped. I think at the end of the day it became like a family atmosphere. So even though we were moving really quickly and doing all this intense stuff, we were really having a good time.
What’s it like to be days away from the release of this movie that you worked on years ago?
DS: It’s really exciting. We’ve seen it a couple times. We survived the jungle, and now we get to see what it looks like on screen.
KBB: I tell my friends stories about it all the time, so now they can finally see it.