In town filming a werewolf series for Netflix, the slasher-film icon talks to Eric Veillette about how Toronto changed his life, where to find the best coffee in town and why he brings his own maple syrup to breakfast on King Street.
You just wrapped a TV series about a werewolf. How are you feeling after a 10-day shoot?
Today is the first day I don’t have to wear pants. I feel really great. When I came to Toronto 10 years ago [for the Toronto International Film Festival] with Cabin Fever, I literally got on a plane with a 35mm print, nobody knew who I was, and then you leave and you’re on the cover of Variety with the biggest sale of the festival. To come back now, I’m really proud that not only have I been able to continue making the films I love, but to diversify myself as a producer and writer.
So it’s a homecoming of sorts?
Absolutely. I’ve always wanted to come back and shoot in and around Toronto. Of our 10 days, nine of them were on location, so we shot at Parkwood Estate and Centennial Park. The crew was fantastic.
Had you been here before TIFF?
Randy Pearlstein, who co-wrote Cabin Fever with me, is a Toronto native. When we were at NYU we used to come here a lot, hang out with his family, go to Yitz’s Deli and random Jewish places I knew about.
So you’ve since ventured south of Bloor Street.
Oh yeah. I’ve got my coffee spots – Little Nicky’s and Jimmy’s – and Zoe’s Bakery Café for breakfast. Zoe’s makes the greatest pancakes but they use the worst syrup. I asked them how they can make such amazing buttermilk pancakes but then cheapen them with this Aunt Jemima stuff. So I went to Fresh & Wild and bought some good maple syrup and I bring it with me. I don’t think they know who I am, but they do know me as that guy who brings his own maple syrup. I also really like Fresh, on Spadina.
Do you bring your own peanut sauce for the rice bowls at Fresh?
Haha, no – but they’re really great there, and always know my order.
In 2002, Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever was a surprise hit at TIFF and ushered in a new generation of American horror directors. Mr. Roth, 40, has since produced and appeared in several films, including his turn as Nazi killer Donny Donowitz in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, and is currently in Toronto producing the lycanthropic TV series Hemlock Grove for Netflix. On Monday evening at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Mr. Roth, best-known perhaps for his 2005 slasher flick, Hostel, presents a screening of Umberto Lenzi’s gory Cannibal Ferox (1981). He divides his film career in two categories: before Toronto, and after Toronto.