Actor Ariel Eliaz
With the world on edge and under lockdown, the satirical and highly controversial action-thriller movie “The Hunt”
finally made its way to audiences.
Delayed after two mass shootings last year and a barrage of debate from the President himself, the film released in theaters on March 13th – the very day the United States began announcing stay at home orders due to COVID-19. This forced Universal to pivot the film to an early digital release the following week, setting it up as possibly the most disrupted release in motion picture history.
Based loosely on Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” the film centers around 12 ordinary strangers being hunted down by a group of elites for sport.
The film brought together a stellar group, including director Craig Zobel, and producers Jason Blum and Damon Lindelof, who also co-wrote the script with Nick Cuse; and stars Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz and Emma Roberts. Also joining the cast is rising actor Ariel Eliaz
, who after this film will probably forever be known as the ‘pickled egg eating guy’.
Where have we seen Ariel before? He is best known to audiences as the trusted bodyguard Lior on the FX series “Snowfall.” His television credits include a bunch of hit shows, like: “The Deuce,” “The Haves and the Have Nots,” “MacGyver,” “Pose,” “Bull,” “Homeland,” “Gotham,” “Bluebloods” and many more. Previously, he has appeared in over 30 independent films, winning Best Actor at NYC Indie Film Awards in “Whisky Sour.” For his theater work, he received a Best of Festival for “Boiled Alive!” at The Player’s Theatre in New York; and the Theatre Association of NY State (TANYS) Excellence Award for playing The Cat in “Seussical the Musical.”
I recently caught up with Ariel Eliaz to ask a few questions:
Tell us about your role in “The Hunt.”
ARIEL: I play Dino, the official running a refugee camp in Croatia that Crystal (Betty Gilpin) finds herself in as she’s running for her life.
Dino begins to interrogate Crystal as he’s eating a meal which seems to consist of only a jar full of pickled eggs. We see that for him, it’s just another day at the office, which is a cage inside an airplane hangar, and just another interrogation. Even though he might seem nonchalant about it, we see that Dino is interested how an American ended up in a Croatian refugee camp. As details unfold, we meet Don (Wayne Duvall) and come to realize that Betty is not the first American to be interviewed.
We can't help but wonder if Dino hates his job to the point that he doesn't care about the people he interrogates, or maybe he's just naturally a jerk, or is he in on all of it?
Spoiler…Dino gets paid a bribe to turn them over to the killers.
Did you do anything specific to prepare for the role?
ARIEL: I spent a month learning Croatian and studying with an accent coach. I also spent a lot of my time with my friends who are Croatian and speak with accents.
How was it to work alongside Betty Gilpin?
ARIEL: She was a beautiful soul. I loved her focus and dedication to the role. Even when the cameras stopped rolling you could see her still trying to stay in character.
Here’s a weird fact -- Betty looks like the spitting image of an ex-girlfriend of mine. And, as it turns out they knew each other and actually grew up together. Also, Betty agrees that they really do look a lot alike.
Any interesting stories from the set you can share with us?
ARIEL: So, I knew from reading the script that I would be eating pickled eggs or at the very least a food prop that looked like pickled eggs. But what I never expected, was to be eating several jars full of pickled from the gas station, which I’m sure were months old. They were so stale that it felt like chewing a rubber ball, not to mention the lovely taste and smell of old vinegar.
After we finished shooting, a crew member told me that I clocked-in just short of 50 pickled eggs. I think 47 was the official number. I’m now trying to block that moment out for self-preservation purposes. I would hate to relive the trauma.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned from working on this project?
ARIEL: That I don't like pickled eggs! And, that no matter how much I want the camera to keep rolling, that when you start dry heaving into a garbage can in the middle of the scene, they will cut you off for your own safety.
In all seriousness, I learned that working with a director that loves to collaborate, like Craig Zobel, is priceless. Also, watching a story get life breathed into it is amazing. Especially when everyone has a part to play in it -- crew included.
And, now just for fun:
Who’s your favorite actor/actress?
ARIEL: I don't really have a “favorite” anything, but there are actors whose performances I deeply enjoy.
Robin Williams in “Fisher King,” “Awakenings,” and “Mrs. Doubtfire”
Francis McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
Robert Sean Leonard in “Dead Poets Society”
Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver”
The whole cast of “Killer Joe” were amazing
And, I love “Pitch Perfect”
Obviously the list goes on and on, but I guess those are the ones off the top my head.
What role from the past do you wish you could have played?
ARIEL: Eddie Carbone in “A View From The Bridge” and Pseudolus in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” These are my two biggies. And then, I feel like what every actor wants…
Travis Bickel in “Taxi Driver”
Sam Dawson in “I Am Sam”
And, I'm sure a lot of actors say this, but I would love to play the Joker. I think I have a completely different take of the kind of person the Joker is. I also would love to play Jesus or the Devil, which I again have a completely different take on what they might be like.
Favorite movie or TV show from your childhood.
ARIEL: “Three’s Company” and “Fat Albert and the Gang”
Tell us one thing that would surprise our readers to learn about you.
ARIEL: I speak multiple languages and I lived in Italy where was a sheep herder.
How can fans keep up with you?
ARIEL: Check out my website: arieleliaz.com link
And, I’ll be back recurring as Lior in Season 4 of “Snowfall” on FX.
Thanks, Ariel – we’ll be sure to watch and also avoid pickled eggs!
Actor Ariel Eliaz