Love it or hate it, there's no denying the cultural impact Saw has had on modern day cinema. For the past seven years, this franchise has become a Halloween tradition, and it has expanded and revolutionized what can be accomplished within the guttural recesses of the so-called slasher genre. It is this generation's A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th combined. And no great horror franchise would be complete without an iconic villain. That distinction here goes to Tobin Bell's John Kramer, known to most fans as Jigsaw.
For nearly a decade, and throughout seven very successful installments, Jigsaw has had his worshippers rethinking their place in life, and what they do with it on a daily basis. John Kramer was a successful civil engineer who, after a messy divorce, the discovery of inoperable brain cancer, and the loss of his unborn child, decided to exact revenge on the drug addict responsible for his wife's miscarriage. He then began designing games, or traps, rather, that tested one's own instinct for survival. His goal was to change the world one person at a time; to get them to rethink their purpose in life. And to help them discover if they truly wanted to live. This torturous method became Jigsaw's own personal institution.
Even after his death, John Kramer's chosen apprentices, those who'd survived their own carefully considered traps, would carry on with his work, his method, and his dogma. Now, on October 29th, Jigsaw's legacy will finally come to an end with Saw 3D, the final chapter in this long-running horror saga. Tobin Bell is the man behind the legendary Jigsaw Killer. We caught up with him to get his take on this 3D climax, if he thinks this is truly the end, and what it means for him to say goodbye to the iconic character of John Kramer forever.
Here is our conversation:
Is it hard to say goodbye to Jigsaw for Eternity?
Tobin Bell: Yeah. He is an old friend. I've enjoyed playing him. At the same time, I look forward to new adventures. There are thousands of wonderful characters out there. And I look forward to jumping into the shoes of someone else.
The marketing for Saw 3D has been pretty brazen about what it is showing us before the movie hits theaters. And this is a franchise known for keeping its secrets well hidden. Why are we being shown so much this time around? And, especially considering the latest clip that spoils Betsy Russell getting obliterated, is this all misdirection leading into the actual movie itself?
Tobin Bell: The question you ask me has to do more with marketing than it does acting. I don't know the answer to this. Knowing the guys behind the scenes? I don't know how this clip became available. Or whether there was any intent at all. People are always looking for reasons to place behind something like that. I am at a loss to be able to explain it, really. To be honest with you, no one has ever said to me what I could or couldn't say with these films. Generally, unless there has been some big surprise. They have been quite candid with the fact that Dr. Gordon is back in this film. What his fate was is something that has been wondered by fans for a long time. I think they want you to know enough that you actually want to go and see the film. But as far as that clip goes? I only heard about that today. I don't know how that got on there.
Lionsgate gave it to one of the sites as an exclusive.
Tobin Bell: Oh! I see.
With the latest poster, we've seen a giant monument constructed in the shape of Jigsaw leading up to this Friday's release. What does that imagery have to do with this final story being told? And how do you personally feel about that very intriguing piece of artwork?
Tobin Bell: To be honest with you, when they first showed it to me, I thought, "Hmm. Interesting." What interested me most about it is that John Kramer is an engineer. You have this super structure. The classic rebar. Those were the two things that struck me. It is a comment on the fact that he is a structural engineer. And that he is very detail oriented. He is a technician, basically. What I liked even more were the smokestacks on both sides of him, and the buildings on both sides. That represented society to me. What we do to our environment. What is going on in the Gulf. It was about the world at large, rather than being isolated as this monolithic thing. I loved that the guys who created it put the world at large in the background. That aspect I liked a lot.
So, that poster actually does tie into Saw 3D's storyline. And the themes that are present within. Saw VI dealt with our current socio-economic times, and there was this undercurrent that focused on our current problems regarding health care reform. Is there a similar underlying message here, in this new sequel?
It was clear to me. I've studied aspects of social commentary in horror films, and if you look at any Asian horror movie, the entire story usually represents a problem going on within its country of origin. I felt the commentary in Saw VI was quite apparent, and really well done. Especially considering this was an American horror movie. Maybe it went over the heads of those younger people in the audience, who don't understand thematic structuring.
Tobin Bell: Yeah. John Kramer's comments about this go all the way back to Saw I. When he talks about the treatment of the terminally ill by the medical community. And how that goes down. There was a connection there. You know how important it is to connect the dots. There was a connection there that went all the way back to that first film. I like that aspect of it. Because, what was going on in Saw VI actually took place in the Saw I timeframe. The way they play around with time? It's sometimes a little hard for people to track. But what was going on in that guy's office took place in the Saw I timeframe. As far as Saw 3D goes, as you know, these films don't play out in a linear way. They are all a giant puzzle. I particularly thought this poster we are talking about was fitting for a final chapter. I have to take these guys for their word. That this is the final chapter. And that what is represented in that poster is a final commentary on: What is the essence of John Kramer? And Jigsaw? The way he is being erected with society behind him. Whether you agree with him...If you like what he does, or if you don't like what he does? Clearly he has his views on the way people are relating to the world around them. To their fellow human beings. I thought that the poster was dramatic, and it made this subliminal statement in its own way.
This is Jigsaw's swansong. How are the previous six films paid off with this climax? And does this final chapter tie up all of the loose ends that have been left dangling? Are we left with a sense of closure?
Tobin Bell: I don't know if I would go that far. I will say, when I work on this guy, I ask myself a whole multitude of questions before we ever begin shooting. Those questions become more question. And more questions. I am always left with a number of questions. Hopefully I have answered enough questions by the time the camera has rolled, that I can play this guy with some degree of security. That I know what he means, and I know what he is saying. I don't know if all of the questions are ever answered. I just compare my situation as an actor to what you are talking about regarding this last film. Does it answer all of the questions? Um, no! But I think it fills in enough pieces that you get a good sense of the puzzle.
Though they claim this is the last installment, I've heard some murmurings that Cary Elwes' Dr. Gordon is being conditioned to take over his own Saw franchise? What are your thoughts on that? And would you participate in it?
Tobin Bell: I have not heard anything about that. At all. As an actor, I am interested in good drama. I could care less about the size of roles. I just care that you give me a good script. I will participate in anything.
That leads back into the question: Do you actually think this is the end of Saw? Looking at Final Destination, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and countless other franchises, when its announced that 'this is the end', it never really is 'the end'. In all likelihood, how possible is Saw 8? And if it happens? Do you think you'd return?
Tobin Bell: I can't refute what you are saying. It is true that this does happen. But I want to take these guys at their word. That this is where they are going. Beyond that? After we did Saw I , I didn't know where we were going after that. It would be hard for me to have any real concept about what is going to happen from here. If it were my project? I would know more. But its not. I can only deal with those things that I have some control over. This is not one of them.
Have you seen the movie yet?
Tobin Bell: I have. I saw it four days ago.
The look and feel of Saw 3D seems brighter, and more fun than previous entries. I've been told that its because a great deal of the mayhem actually takes place outside. How do you feel this sequel is different in tone, if at all, from the previous installments?
Tobin Bell: There is some amusing dialogue in this movie. I must say. And one of the traps is outside this year. That blows peoples minds when they see that. But under no circumstances do I think its more fun, or poppier. Quite the contrary. I think its very harrowing. There is a pursuit in it that is very intense. There is the reemergence of Dr. Gordon, which, as you know, is a question fans have had for a long time. But, no. The film is extremely intense. I watched it the other night with a Lionsgate executive. And he kept leaning over to me saying, "Tobin, this part is going to be really hard to take." He was right. There are four or five scenes in this that are pretty overwhelming. But that's what people go to Saw films for. They like that.
I know you can't really speak about the traps that we're going to see on Friday. But can you talk about the 3D aspect of the traps, and how you feel that changes the dynamic between the audience in terms of them being voyeurs into this world, and actually being participants?
Tobin Bell: The 3D has come along way since it was created back in the 50s. When I was watching the film, I thought it was going to be one of these intense rides where things are flying off the screen at you. There are many moments like that. But there are other moments, where you are inside of a space. And the space is so rich. And the textures in the space are so amazing, and deep. You can relax and be comfortable in 3D nowadays, whereas, you didn't used to be able to do that. It would take away from the drama. That's not the case anymore. Its much more delicate than it used to be. I don't think there could be a better marriage than between a Saw film and 3D. I think it's a really great combo, and a fitting way to end it all.
Were there any cool traps this time around that didn't make it onto the screen?
Tobin Bell: No. There are a few scenes that didn't make it on. But no traps. These traps? They are a lengthy process. And difficult to conceive of. And even more difficult to make work. Once you have committed to a particular trap, they get sculpted, and they do change. This doesn't work, or that doesn't work. But generally, once they've decided upon a trap, and certainly when they've been shot, they are used, to the best of my knowledge. They take a long time to design, so I don't know of any traps that have been cut out of any films.
My final question for the final Saw movie of all time! All great horror icons return in some form or another. Three years from now, when they decide to remake Saw, who do you think should take over for Jigsaw? Do you have your eye on any particular actor?
Tobin Bell: There are so many good actors on shows like Breaking Bad, Hung, and some of these great cable shows that are on HBO and Showtime. To be honest with you, I haven't thought about that. It's hard for me to give you an answer. I wish I had a better thought for you. I can't envision that at the moment.
How do you think you'll feel when someone comes in and takes over the role?
Tobin Bell: Like I said, give me a good script! If someone has a good idea, they should run with it, whatever it is. I like good writing. And good drama. Everyone is replaceable.