Imprisoned in a cage until it's their turn to be eaten, a group of student activists face primal fears at the hands of a cannibal tribe in Eli Roth's The Green Inferno. With the film hitting Blu-ray and DVD today from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (following its Dec. 22nd Digital HD debut), Daily Dead recently had the chance to speak with co-star Daryl Sabara (Machete, SPY Kids) about filming in the Amazon, his close encounters with tarantulas, working with Eli Roth and much more.

Thanks for taking the time to talk about The Green Inferno, Daryl. I really enjoyed your performance as Lars. Looking back, how did you get involved with The Green Inferno?

Daryl Sabara: I’ve been friends with Aaron Burns, who plays Jonah, for about six or seven years now. We met while I was filming Machete. He lived in Austin for a while and then he moved to Chile, and he was friends with Nicolás López, our producer, and was working with Nico and Eli on Aftershock and some other things. Every time he came back to the US, he would stay with me.

In the summer of 2012 he was staying at my house and he was like, “Hey man, I really need to go to REI and Sports Authority. So I was driving around town and he was picking up all this equipment for the Amazon, and I was like, “Dude, what the hell is going on? Where are you going?” He told me the plot for Green Inferno and he told me that Eli was writing it with them and was going to direct it. I’ve always been an Eli fan, so I told him, “Aaron, whatever I can do—whether it's being a PA or a camera assistant—just so I can go with you and get to watch Eli work, I’m there, I’m in.

A couple of months later, he sent me the script and asked me if there was any role in particular that I connected with and I loved the Lars character. In the horror movies, the stoner guys I feel are the most relatable, especially if you go into the movies stoned [laughs]. So I really liked that character and being a kid actor, I thought that it’d be a cool transition part. What I loved about him is that he was the paranoid stoner. He was stoned all the time, but he was always freaking out, which I thought was funny. So I met Eli a couple of months before we left, and we had breakfast and talked horror movies and at the end of the breakfast he asked, “Are you crazy enough to go with us?” And I said, “Yeah,” and that was that. It was such a great, life-changing experience.

With its isolated setting, The Green Inferno's production is really remarkable. What was it like for you to journey into that unique environment and shoot a movie?

Daryl Sabara: That was like its own movie in a way—a movie within a movie. We filmed in Santiago, Chile, and then we filmed all around Peru. We started off in Peru, and one of our locations, especially the village where we shot with our cannibals in the movie—that’s the farthest that anyone’s ever gone in the Amazon to shoot. When Eli scouted that place, he had to explain to them [the villagers] what a movie was. So he explained to them what a movie was and then someone showed them a copy of Cannibal Holocaust, and they all thought it was a comedy. So we thought, “Okay, great, they’re in.”

We filmed in the village for about three and a half weeks. Every morning we would wake up and we were a couple of hours away. So we would get in a van and travel an hour to our boat, and then it was an hour boat ride through the Amazon to the village. We’d shoot until it was starting to get dark—because you can’t travel the Amazon at night. So every day we would have to bring pretty much everything with us just in case we got stranded in that village—if there was a crazy rainstorm or anything like that. And then we would travel back, so it was a four-hour travel day every day.

The funny thing was that on our last day filming there, there was a crazy rainstorm. There’s a scene where it’s all rainy and muddy and the Samantha character runs through the mud—that was impromptu. But then right before we were packing up our equipment, the rain cleared and there were three rainbows on the village. I think we have some footage of us running through the rainbows. It was a nice sendoff.

It was intense, but when you’re in the Amazon, you look up at the sky and it’s just like a painting. It’s so beautiful there. And the villagers who played the cannibals are some of the most giving actors I’ve ever worked with. You tell them to go there and they just go there. It was so much fun.

One of my favorite scenes in the film involves Lars meeting a tarantula during a bathroom break in the rainforest. Were you at all nervous during that scene?

Daryl Sabara: Terrified. Absolutely terrified. Which is why they gave that bit to me, because they knew I would freak out and that me running and shooting a gun would feel real. Tarantulas, I didn’t know, have super speed. They are super fast. When I got there, I was a little nervous. There’s a little bit of full frontal and then I was right next to a tarantula. I would never do that in real life. This guy had a tarantula in a jar and had a joint and just smoked out the tarantula so that way we could film him crawling really slowly. So in movies when tarantulas crawl really slowly, they’re drugged up, because otherwise they’re super fast.

But also, while we were filming, I had about three encounters with tarantulas before takes. We’d say, “Ready, and…”, and before “action”, I’d look down and there’d be a tarantula crawling up my leg. Usually we’d say "action" and we’d be in action—running or something like that—so before "action" I would be brushing off my legs.

I also had tarantulas in my room where I stayed. I bunked with the guy who played Daniel, Nicolás [Martínez]—we all called him “Pollo”, but we bunked together because we were a little afraid of spiders, but then we had a bat in our room. And he convinced me that it would kill the bugs, so that helped me through the night. But I definitely got over my fear of arachnophobia.

The horror in The Green Inferno is really enhanced by the realism the villagers brought to the table. During shooting, did those macabre moments ever feel real to you?

Daryl Sabara: The most real scene, and it was the very first scene we filmed in that village—which was kind of fun but also messed up in a way—was when we arrived at the village in the canoes. So we had never really met the villagers yet—the actors hadn’t—so our introduction to them was getting into canoes with them and then all of them surrounding us and pulling our hair. And of course as soon as they yell “cut”, they’re laughing, they were so sweet. There was a little bit more reacting than acting with us.

The other thing that dawned on me halfway through shooting in that village was that it took us two hours to get there in the morning, and by the time we got there, all of the villagers were already painted like the cannibals in the movie. So halfway through, I was like, “Wait a minute, I’ve never seen these people how they really are.” That was strange.

[Spoiler Warning] One of the hardest parts of the film for me to watch was Lars' death scene, because you had built him into such a likable character up to that point. The way Lars is swarmed by the villagers is akin to how someone would die in a zombie movie. Can you talk a bit about shooting that intense scene?

Daryl Sabara: We had about one shot to get it done. I had all that makeup on me prepared for when they took a chunk out of my neck. It was really just about looking around, and it wasn’t hard to imagine actually being there as if it were really happening. It felt real. Especially when they all surrounded me. There’s a part right before they take a chunk out of my neck where they lift me up, and that’s totally them just like, “Oh, we’ll just throw him up in the air.” That’s why they were so great. They would just do things and we’d go with it because they were really pretty genius.

That’s a scene that my family members will never watch. I’ve died in other movies, too, and I’m pretty sure I’ve died now more than I’ve lived in films, and this definitely—besides World’s Greatest Dad—takes the top spot.

[Spoiler Warning] Looking back at this experience, do you have a favorite memory of working with Eli Roth?

Daryl Sabara: Eli’s the king of horror and gore, but some things would gross him out. It was always fun to watch him go “action!” and then cover his face up because it was kind of hard for even him to watch, like that scene where we’re eating the meat and find the tattoo. Honestly, every moment with him was great. I’ve worked with a bunch of different types of directors, and he's like a Swiss army knife.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.