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Saw 3 - Tobin Bell interview

Tobin Bell in Saw 3

Compiled by Jack Foley

TOBIN Bell talks about reprising the role of serial killer Jigsaw in the third Saw film, which is released in cinemas on Friday, October 26.

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, the film once again focuses on the darkly malevolent schemes of a terminally ill killer, bringing others to grisly justice for their crimes, faults and failings.

Q. Can you ever have thought, when you made the first Saw film two years ago, that you’d been in at the start of such a successful franchise?
A. No. And it wasn’t that I didn’t think that it wouldn’t be successful or interesting in its simplicity. It was a theatrical kind of setting, the curtain goes up and there are three guys in a room, one of whom is dead. I mean, if that’s not theatre, what is?

I took the role because of that. I knew my voice was throughout the film, either as myself or as the puppet. And I was hooded and caped throughout most of the film, so you didn’t really connect me to the guy on the floor. When I read the script I was surprised by the ending, by the guy getting up off the floor. So I figured if I was surprised, then maybe the audience would be surprised too.

Q. The final revelation that John Kramer, Jigsaw, is alive is one of those iconic horror movie moments, isn’t it?
A. It is and it was something I hadn’t seen before. I saw the film twice, once with the crew and once with a regular audience of the general public, and they actually gasped and rose up out of their seats at that moment. I thought then that it had been done okay.

Q. At what point did you realise that story had sequel potential?
A. I wasn’t even thinking about it, it was not on my radar particularly. But when it made as much money as it did they started talking about a sequel. I thought: “Wow, this guy on the floor is going to blossom like a flower”, which is what he did in Saw II. We got inklings of stuff, and you’re still getting inklings. You’re not ever going to get the whole thing right there, because (1) I don’t think they know, and (2) it’s not fun that way.

What’s fun is what captures the imagination of Saw fans. They want to know more, but it’s like a lot of other things, it’s nice for them that it keeps moving along, interspersed with some of the things that he creates. That’s fine with me, so long as what they reveal is grounded in detail.

Q. Do you typically plan every detail of the back-story of a character you are playing?
A. Yes and no. You don’t know everything about your character, any more than you know everything about yourself. You know the room you woke up in this morning, you know where your clothes were, because all of that is real. And when you’re an actor you need to create the context, when he says that what does he mean?

Q. Having been so close to the character of Jigsaw, did you have much input into Saw III?
A. Yeah, but I had input on Saw II. It’s not always the ‘what’, it’s the ‘how’, and the way Jigsaw times the introduction of things, how he dangles the mouse in front of the cat.

Q. You haven’t seen a finished version of Saw III, but what have you heard of it?
A. Darren told me the other day that it’s a very emotional film, because of the connection between Jigsaw and Amanda, who’s played by Shawnee Smith. That’s terrific, because I know we’re going to scare the crap out of people, and I know it’s horrible, but if you can create other values with that it’s great. It’s like music. You can only take so much of something before you’re ready to move onto the bridge or the chorus, or the verse. I always like to hear that there are other values in a film that have been realised.

Q. Were you a big horror film fan before embarking on these films?
A. I’m going to start saying yes to that question because somewhere I said no and it’s become a big thing. That would be like asking if you’re a jazz fan, because jazz has this really way out kind of stuff, and it’s got be-bop and Dixieland. I will only mention two films, Jacob’s Ladder and The Dead Zone, both of which are well crafted – Jacob’s Ladder in particular. It’s very, very smart.

The Dead Zone has a beautifully played part by Christopher Walken, that’s everything in that film, and because he brought what he brought to it I was drawn into him and I cared about him, and I was interested. The texture of it changed completely. So am I a horror fan? Yeah, if you give me good horror.

Q. Does the success of the Saw films mean you are called upon to make personal appearances at places like Comic-Con, the cult and comic book convention in San Diego?
A. They asked me to go to Comic-Con last year and I didn’t go but this year I did, and I was glad of it. Last year, I said I wasn’t interested in comic books, and I felt the marketing aspect was driving it. But when I did go I was exposed to an enthusiasm that I respect.

Anyone who gives the same time and energy as those people who were dressed in the most outlandish costumes, who went to great effort to celebrate a particular genre, it’s really great stuff. I sat in an auditorium with 3,500 Saw fans and that energy is something you can’t buy. As far as those conventions go, if there are ten of them and I do one I feel that it will be the one I really want to do, and get to have that experience again.

Q. In the end is it necessary for you to like or understand the character of Jigsaw?
A. You’ll understand a certain amount, but if you like him something emotional is happening. I prefer that a viewer of a film or a play have an emotional experience. For some reason I want to understand him first, because I feel that to understand him makes you know why you spent that hour and a half submitting yourself to all that stuff. But I want both things if I can get them…

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