Though most will peg the 2011 Sundance Film Festival as the year Elizabeth Olsen came out of the shadow of her mega-famous twin sisters (and the buyers came back with a vengeance), it was also the year Rutger Hauer invaded Park City. Like Olsen, Hauer stars in two films. One is the beautiful 'The Mill & The Cross,' which literally brings the 1500s masterpiece The Procession to Calvary painting to life. The other, well, doesn't have the pedigree of a Bruegel work.
'Hobo with a Shotgun' finds Hauer playing a vagrant who takes it upon himself to bring order to a city held hostage by the antics of a psychotic taskmaster. Using his trusty shotgun he (literally) blows away the scum of the city.
The film is the creation of Canadian filmmaker Jason Eisener, whose fake 'Hobo With a Shotgun' trailer won Robert Rodriguez's 'Grindhouse' trailer contest in 2007 and put a 'Hobo' feature on the fast track to be made. But what Hauer brought to the role of the Hobo catapultes the film from cheesy homage to '70s grindhouse titles and '80s actions movies to being a legitimate cult hit with unapologetic gore and revolting violence by Eisener that will quickly make him a favorite of fanboys everywhere.
After barging into our interview with prop shotgun in hand, I calmed down Hauer long enough to get him to talk, along with Eisener, about the film as well as what keeps the Dutch acting legend motivated at age 67.
Rutger, what was your reaction when you were handed something called 'Hobo with a Shotgun'?
The funny thing is most people don't approach me because they are scared and that's fine, I want to keep it that way. But the thing is if you're not scarred or get over it you learn that sometimes what you're scared of is really what you shouldn't be scared of. For me, I hardly disagree with my agent and if I do I need to listen and try to figure out why we're disagreeing. This was a project where my agent called me and said, "Rutger, we just got this script and these people are from Canada and they don't have any money what do you to do?" And I said, "Nothing just ask for more money and see if they come back," real simple like that. And two weeks later he says they've come back with a little more money and I said, "Okay, I'll read the script," and I read through it and I thought what the f*ck is this? [laughs] And I think I went to the fake trailer, and then I heard from Robert Rodriguez, and after that I said to myself I guess I have to stay awake for this. But when I talked to Jason I was ready to say great you're a fan but this is not for me, but when we started talking I realized I was going to make the movie.
So Jason, what is it about Rutger that made you want him to play the Hobo?
Well he's my favorite actor. I was asked to write up a list of actors who I'd want to play the Hobo, so basically a dream list, and at the top was Rutger. We figured it would get scratched. And within a couple of days they had gotten the script to him and then I heard that Rutger wanted to talk on Skype with me. [laughs] We had an hour long conversation and we just connected.
Rutger, what was it in the conversation with Jason that made you realize you wanted to be involved in the film?
Hauer: I asked him, what's missing in this story? And Jason said what's missing is a character that is as good as an actor as you are and gives me a little more texture. He talked about other movies he had seen and moments he remembered. I could feel that he read me and I was reading him and I liked it.
Eisener: This was very collaborative. We worked together on set a lot and it was great to have Rutger come in and just jump right into the team. If my producers would come up to me and say a scene wasn't working I'd take it to heart and that was the same with Rutger, if he had a problem I knew it was true and we had to fix it.
Hauer: Jason and his team are very strong and you can't break them up, they're so fucking tight, but I felt at home and I knew -- and I said this many times to Jason -- I would say we're not fighting against time or the weather, if there's a problem we'll figure it out and solve it.
Now, Jason, that has to be a weight off your shoulders that Rutger had your back on set.
Eisener: It was very nerve-racking this being my first feature but yes, he would clam me down.
Hauer: He was open to how to get to the finish. There would be things that didn't work in the script and there were things that we couldn't pull off, but the shoulders of the team were so strong.
What did you struggle with?
Hauer: There were a few scenes that we didn't like and we didn't know how to solve it. There was the ending, what else?
Eisener: There was this one scene where the Hobo and Abby come back to her apartment after he has climbed out of the corpse, and in the script the scene worked before we had an actor like Rutger, but by the time we were shooting that scene and Rutger had made the character his own we had to change it. We rewrote it right there when we were on set and it turned out being one of my favorite scenes in the film.
Jason, what influenced your filmmaking style?
Eisener: When developing Rutger's character what I thought would work so well, if we got him, was how much he says with his eyes without saying anything. This is very much a crazy western and that was important to me. And even when Rutger plays villains in movies I still love him, so much charisma...
Rutger, we'll just give you a big head for a second. [laughs]
Hauer: It's nice to hear. Never enough.
Eisener: The Hobo can get ugly but you still love him and that's because of Rutger. And I'm very influenced from the horror and action genres I watched in my youth with my best friend John Davies, the writer of the film.
'Hobo with a Shotgun' was one of the most anticipated films leading up to Sundance. How have the Q&As been?
Hauer: They have been great! At the premiere I came out with the shotgun and everyone was going crazy and I was yelling to Jason, "F*ck, Jason, it's not loaded!"
Rutger, at this stage of your career what interests you to continue to act? I would imagine there are roles that are offered to you that you could take for just the money and there are others like this.
No, the things that come to me and bring money are so damn fucking boring, so for me it's working with people like Jason who I connect with and who give me the energy to want to create.
Where would you put the Hobo in the characters you've played in your storied career?
[Eisener laughs] Well, it's hard to compare any of them or rate them. I've worked with incredible people and I definitely want to do something again with Jason. Like I said, for me its feeling that energy of the people around me and wanting to make something where there's a collaborative feel and there's no ego and everyone is in for the same goal. That's what made this movie special.