An interview with SAW writer Leigh Whannell and Director James Wan
Writer Leigh Whannell and Director James Wan, who've collaborated on the new Buzz-Clip Saw, are super awesome. Very Cordial. And from Australia. I have yet to see their newborn crime-thriller, which is being widely touted as the next great horror film. Another "high profile" writer for Movieweb watched it, and didn't like it. In fact, the reviewer in question hated it to the point of contention.
I was given a list of questions not formed from my own surmised impression, and approached the two talented kids to see what they had to say in their defense. They honestly thought I was with Ashton Kutcher and that they were being Punk'd. Nope, I was just being myself. What transpired is probably the best Saw interview you will read anywhere. And it's only here on Oral Intercourse…
Orange: You guys are probably going to hate me. But, I haven't seen your film yet. And the guy that did see it for our site…Didn't like it. Coming in here today felt a little bit like going to the dentist's office.
James Wan: Why?
Orange: I've seen clips of your movie, and it's kind of spooky. And they're making us wait outside, then pulling us in here one at a time just like they do at the dentist's office. So, I'm like, "Oh, God! I'm scared! What's going on?" Anyway…First question…You're from Australia?
Leigh Whannell: Yes. Melbourne, Australia.
Orange: I was looking at an article in Playboy last night.
Orange: And they had a small article about Whore Houses in Australia. What are they like there? I've heard that they are pretty extravagant.
Whannell: Are brothels legal here? Can you have whore houses in America?
Orange: Only in Nevada.
Whannell: But everywhere else in America, they're illegal?
Wan: Oh, really.
Whannell: Hmm. No brothels. What are they like? The honest answer: I've never used one in Melbourne. I have been inside one of them. But I never actually used it. I was checking it out for a location. For a student film I was making. The Daily Planet, it was called. It was very confusing for me when I was a kid. I used to see it and think…We used to drive past it, because my dad lived near-by, and I was like, "Superman must work there. It's the Daily Planet." And I remember saying to my dad, seriously, when I was a kid, "What's that Daily Planet building?" Because I really liked Superman. And Mom said at the time, "That's where your dad spends his lunchtime." And Dad's like, "Yeah, whatever." It's pretty nice. It's an upper class one. It's made out of marble.
Orange: The pictures they had in Playboy were unbelievable. I was like, "Wow!" Sorry, that's not a question I came in here with. I'd just seen that last night, and she told me you were Australian right outside the door before I came in.
Orange: I have a broken rib.
Whannell: Right now?
Orange: Yeah. What's your best advice?
Whannell: I thought I had a broken rib once. There's nothing you can do for a broken rib. There's nothing you can do about it. You can't put a cast on a broken rib. You know what you have to do? It is going to hurt when you breath for awhile.
Orange: Oh, when I sneeze!
Whannell: Yeah, when you sneeze, or you cough. Just wait, and time will pass, and eventually you will get a little calcified lump, and it's going to be a new reminder of your broken rib. You will feel the lump.
Orange: How did you break your rib?
Whannell: I don't think I actually broke it. I think I only fractured it. But I was playing outdoor soccer. Being stupid with Rugby players. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the game of Rugby in Australia, but the guys that play it have necks that look like my waist. Their neck muscles are just slightly smaller than my waist. So, Lee Whannell comes in and says, we're going to play soccer with these huge rugby guys, and I ran at one of them full tilt. He didn't even have to move. He just stood there. I bounced off him, because he was an unmovable rock. For about two months after that, when I would cough, there would be complete suspense. You'd go, "Cough!" then, "AAAAHHHH!" There was this sharp pain. All you've got to do is wait. You'll know you're starting to get over it when you feel a lump there…(Checks his torso) Where's my little lump? Where is it…It's somewhere right around here. Anyway…
Orange: (Pointing at Whannell) So, you're the writer? (Points to Wan) And you're the director…(To Wan) You're not saying much.
Wan: I'm just paying attention.
Whannell: He's learning about broken ribs!
Orange: So, neither one of you were at this year's Comic-Con, because I don't recognize either one of you.
Orange: Who was the guy that was there speaking on your behalf?
Wan: That was the one of the producers. That was Greg (Hoffman).
Orange: One of the things he said right off the bat was that this movie was an Homage to the movie Magic.
Whannell: No, no, no…That's the film we're writing right now.
Orange: You're writing a remake of Magic? Because he said that the doll in Saw was taken from the old Anthony Hopkins' movie. He didn't even mention that you guys were doing a remake. He said you guys were a big fan of Magic…
Whannell: Oh, God…
Wan: We are big fans of Dario Argento. I think that's what he was referring to in terms of this movie. That defiantly influenced the doll in this film.
Orange: Is there a movie called Magic that Dario Argento did?
Whannell: No. There's only Magic with Anthony Hopkins that I know of. The Magic thing is; we're writing a script right now for Universal which is a ventriloquist horror film. And we said we wanted to do it because we'd thought that no one had really done a ventriloquist horror film. Then people say, "What about Magic?" But that's not really a horror film. That's the only Magic reference that I can think of. Saw is defiantly not a remake of Magic. But it does involve ventriloquist dolls.
Orange: Yeah, like I said. I haven't seen Saw yet. Coming out of the theater, I haven't heard anyone mention a reference to Magic, but I have heard other people say that it is a rip-off of other horror movies. This is what our reviewer said. He gave me this list of questions. God, you're probably going to hate me when this is over…I'm wondering, how do you walk that fine line between paying homage to something, and completely ripping it off.
Whannell: I think it's a fine line. It's subjective. Some people will look at it and say it's an homage, while others will call it a rip-off.
Wan: Look at Quentin Tarantino. Some people think he's brilliant. Other people think he's a rip-off artist. It depends on how you look at it.
Whannell: There's only degrees…You can look at something like the Matrix, which I think is great…
Wan: It depends whether you are French or American. If you were French, you would say that it is, "An Homaaage!" It's a mirage.
Whannell: I think that you can be influenced by things. I mean, it's everything. It's in music. It's such a wide argument; we'd need days to debate that. Take music. You start talking about the Strokes, and the Strokes are touted as the most original and undescribed band, but then…Are they just television? Should you invent a new chord? Are you only totally original if nothing in your film has ever been seen by anyone? If there's a cop in there, then someone could accuse it of being a rip-off of every other movie with a cop in it. Like, it's too wide a territory. For us, we feel the story is original. It is an original story. Where influences come in are stylistically, more than anything else. Like, we love the music from Requiem for a dream, and music like that, so we get someone like Charlie Clouser, who can give us a great score. One that is as dramatic as the one from Requiem for a Dream. Or, like James said, Dario Argento…We love him. So, he's got this strange scene in Deep Red where this puppet walks into the room, and it's sort of creepy. We might do that, but we don't rip it off. We don't have…You know, in terms of an homage or not, it's too wide an argument. It's not total mimicry. There's not a puppet walking into a room going, "Ha! Get it!" There is a puppet in there, but if you're going to say having a puppet in our film makes it a rip-off of Dario Argento, you'd be wrong.
Orange: See, I haven't even heard Dario Argento's name mentioned in some of the reviews I've read about your movie.
Whannell: He's one of our major influences. Him, and David Lynch. But, stylistically, it's more about the atmosphere then saying, "Let's lift that scene and put it directly into this."
Orange: One of the things I've seen in the clips, in the trailer, when I slowed it down, was a scene of a guy wearing a butchered pig's head. Now, you know where I'm going next with this, don't you?
Orange: When I saw that, I automatically thought of Motel Hell. Were you guys at all influenced by that movie, or no?
Whannell: I've actually never seen that movie.
Wan: There is a Silverchair clip where a guy is dressed up like a pig. Do you know the band Silverchair? They're from Australia…
Orange: Oh, yeah, I know Silverchair…But I don't think they've played their videos here since the early nineties. I don't know how big they are now, in Australia.
Wan: They have one video clip that was done in America. I think it was they're first expensive American clip, and it had a guy in a pig mask, which we both liked.
Orange: I sure hope you guys aren't hating me right now. (They Laugh) I really wish I'd seen the movie. I actually really want to see it. The guy that did see the movie, and gave me some of these questions regarding the film itself, is a screenwriter. (Wan laughs pretty good at this) Now, when you have a screenwriter writing reviews, do you think that they might be a little bit jealous when they throw out a scathing review like that? Do you ever think about that kind of stuff when you're reading the reviews?
Whannell: Yeah, defiantly.
Wan: A lot of these websites, and the people that work for them, like the guys at Aint It Cool News, right, right…You can tell that they are jaded, wannabe filmmakers. They want to be doing this.
Orange: I don't really want to do anything.
Whannell: Are you a journalist?
Orange: Not really. I just got shoved into this type of stuff by accident, and I keep doing it because I like talking to people like you. I enjoy interviewing; it's a fun thing to do.
Wan: That's a good point. People are…People look at our film and go, "That's a shit film. How come those guys are doing such a shit film? I've got such great ideas, how come I'm not doing that type of thing?"
Orange: Because they don't have the energy. Or the inspiration.
Whannell: I used to interview people and review films. I defiantly wanted to be a filmmaker. I never was jealous of anybody. If anything, I was excited about talking to people, as if one day, someone would go, "Alright, kid, come here. Let me tell you a secret." You know, I was excited. I loved it. Maybe I didn't do it for long enough. But I was never jealous of anyone.
Wan: You did it when you were very young as well, though. You're not like some forty year old that's doing it at home, in his parent's garage. You did it when you were 21. 19.
Orange: Were you doing it only in Australia, or were you doing it in the United States as well?
Whannell: I worked on a show a couple of years ago called On Entertainment where I was flying to London to interview Reese Witherspoon and stuff like that. And I got to talk to all these different people. I wanted to be the person being interviewed. I felt I was talking to all these great filmmakers, and I kind of wanted to be in their shoes. But I was never jealous. I would more take my frustration out on James. I'd tell him I was sick of interviewing all these people. I wanted us to make a film. And I kept telling myself one day…One day we'll do it.
Orange: And one day you finally made it.
Whannell: One day, we finally did. But we spent many years before that wanting to make a film, desperately.
Orange: How did this come about? I know that's probably a question you get all the time, but where did you guys get the funding for this?
Wan: We wanted to initially make this as a low budget film that we would make with our own money. Actually. With our friends. A shoot-it-in-the-backyard kind of thing. But then we realized that if we didn't have big stars, and special effects set pieces, and so on, then the script had to be really good. So we spent a lot of time on it. Eventually, the right people here read it, and really liked it. And that's how it started. It went from this really small film to a slightly bigger film. But it is still a low budget film.
Orange: Did you guys read the Onion?
Orange: Did you read the review they gave you?
Whannell: Oh, those guys hated it.
Orange: I was going to say…They describe you guys as pulling the serial killer out of your ass at the end of the film.
Wan: I was wondering where this question was going.
Orange: How accurate a statement is that? Where did they get that from?
Wan: I'm not too sure…(Whannell laughs very loudly. The question doesn't bother him at all.)
Whannell: Pulled the killer out?
Orange: They said that at the end of the movie, you just pulled this "who is it" serial killer out of your ass.
Whannell: The problem with the Onion is that they're so funny.
Orange: You're not mad at them for saying that?
Whannell: It is funny. I can't remember the exact quote, but, um…
Wan: Are you doing some sort of experiment? Like, the guy back at Movieweb said, "I dare you to say this, and see what they're reaction is."
Orange: I think that is what he did. He just gave me this sheet and was like, "Here, ask them these questions."
Wan: Let's capture this, we'll put it on Punk'd.
Whannell: We're going to have to jump on the net and bring up some good reviews and give them to you. Here, read this one!
Orange: I usually like these type of movies, so there's a 90% that my review might be good. But I have to wait and see the movie.
Whannell: I can't remember the exact quote. It's hard to talk about it without giving the exact ending away.
Orange: Well, I will ask you one more question off this sheet, but it makes me feel so bad. I just want you to know, I think you've been nothing but super awesome. I like you guys a lot.
Wan: We're cool.
Orange: You look really cool.
Whannell: We've got three drops of convict blood in us, because we are from Australia. We are used to oppression.
Orange: You can look for my review under B. Alan Orange.
Whannell: B. Alan is the other guy that doesn't like the film. He's like, "Don't make me bring him out! I'll bring him out!"
Orange: Actually, have you ever seen Stop, or My Mom Will Shoot?
Orange: The guy that wrote these questions is the guy that wrote that movie.
Whannell: (Total shock and surprise) HE'S THE GUY THAT HATES IT?
Orange: Yup…Ha, ha, ha!
Wan: Stop…Or My Mom Will Shoot? With Sylvester Stallone?
Whannell: I feel a lot better now. I just saw that movie on cable the other day. Tell him that there's no way we can compete with Stop, or My Mom Will Shoot.
Orange: One last question, really quick…He says here that the Jigsaw Killer must have paid at least one hundred thousand dollars or more to do what he does in this movie. Where did he get his funding?
Wan: Funny that you should say that, because that's what we gave the production designer to design our entire film.
Whannell: So, if the production designer can do the Jigsaw stuff for…What portion of that would have been used from the budget?
Wan: I mean, razor wire? That doesn't cost that much to buy. And he can do things.
Whannell: If the production designer can do everything for one hundred thousand dollars, then this mastermind should be able to do it for half that, right…(Laughs)
Orange: Now, if I don't like the movie, you're going to come hunt me down and kill me…So, do you think hookers make a good victim in a horror movie?
Wan: I think that's been done to death, so to speak.
Whannell: It's very Jack the Ripper.
Orange: Who, as an actor in Hollywood, would you next like to see killed on film?
Whannell: Hey. This is setting us up for a big one. Any of the cast members of Stop, or My Mom Will Shoot would do it.
Orange: Estelle Getty or Sylvester Stallone?
Wan: I like Estelle Getty. I like Sylvester.
Whannell: Maybe one of the others, then…
Orange: I can tell I'm going to get kicked out of here real quick. I apologize for the questions I came and asked. But, it was fun.
Wan: It's all good, man.
Whannell: Direct him to one of the good sites.
Wan: Have you been to bloody disgusting?
Whannell: Go check us out on the BBC, or Channel 4.
Orange: Another big horror movie that got a lot of hype was Shaun of the Dead. Have you guys seen that yet?
Wan: (Whispering) Yeah, see, that's actually a good film. They're good guys.
Orange: Well, I have to leave. You guys are really cool. At least you guys are really nice. Thank you.
Wan: Who have you interviewed that hasn't been nice?
Orange: Am I allowed to answer that?
Orange: Mo'Nique from The Hair Show is a real jerk. Do you guys know who that is?
Whannell: You need to give us someone we know. Someone famous.
Orange: Who else, let's see…I don't run into too many people that are jerks. Usually they try to act pretty nice. The guys from Open Water were real big jerks…
(The Publicist standing in the corner takes mock offense at this statement.)
Orange: I'm just kidding, guy. They weren't. They were very nice. I'm only saying that because it was a Lion's Gate movie, too. They actually shared the forum with your guy's movie at the Comic-Con.
Wan: Nice. Are you going to take your recorder, or you going to let us rerecord this interview…?
Orange: No, I'll take it. Thanks a lot, guys.
Dont't forget to also check out: Saw