Saw VI interview (Tobin Bell)

Tobin Bell Saw VI is going to be available on DVD and Blue Ray very soon, which means that again many of you will be letting Jigsaw into your living rooms. A wise idea? Let’s find out what Jigsaw himself (actor Tobin Bell) has to say about it.

What can audiences expect from Saw VI?

Obviously it’s got all the wonderful things that Saw fans have come to expect – the traps and tricks, the special effects, the twists and turns, and the intrigue. But I think it’s also got a very timely story. As fans know, John Kramer has been upset about the way the medical community treats the ill. Since Saw I, it’s been a continuing theme in the stories. That theme is picked up on in Saw VI. In a sense, you go back in time to find out how John Kramer became the Jigsaw character… Well, that’s part of it.

How did you first become involved with Saw?

I got a call from James Wan (director, Saw I), asking me to come in and see him. I read the script, sat down and talked to him. I thought the premise for that first script was interesting because it was like a three-character play. I liked the simple aspect of it. I thought the ending was remarkable and surprising. And I thought if it was shot as well as it was written, it would be an amazing film.

So there was no audition…

No. I just talked with James. James Wan and Leigh Whannell wrote the original Saw script. They had come from Australia with a ten minute short and had sold the idea to Twisted Pictures. Leigh played Adam, one of the guys caught in Jigsaw’s trap, and he played it very well. James directed it.

Did you know you’d be playing a recurring character at that stage?

No. Because nobody was thinking about a sequel then. Clearly John Kramer was the driving force of what was going on in the original Saw. Once I knew they were going to do another one though, I figured he’d have some kind of role to play in it.

When did you know you had a hit on your hands?

I felt that even before I started to work on Saw II. I knew that if we did a good job that there was the potential to create a continuing story. After I saw Saw II and I saw the result of what we did at the box-office, it was clear to me.

Does the resounding commercial success of the series surprise you?

It doesn’t surprise me. Since we’ve been making the films, I’ve gotten to know the nature of horror fans. They’re very dedicated, very devoted people. Once they fall in love with something, it becomes like a hobby with them, you know. And they will come back again and again as long as you keep the stories strong and keep the bar up.

Did you have a background in horror, yourself? Were you a fan?

No… No, I didn’t have any background in horror. And I don’t, frankly, distinguish between genres. You know, an actor is an actor. I’m not playing a horror character in the Saw movies. I’m playing John Kramer. Obviously when you take him and put him on a 60-foot screen and show the events that surround him and the things that he’s responsible for, that’s kind of scary. But as an actor playing him? I just follow his thought process. He doesn’t think of himself as a horror character, or as a monster, or anything like that. He’s thinks of himself as a person who is committed to what he’s doing. That’s how I play him.

Is he as disturbing to play as he is to watch? I guess the question is, after a day’s filming, do you feel like you need a hot shower?

Well, I might be covered with sticky fake blood, or whatever (laughs)… So to wash all that off, of course I need a shower (laughs). But I certainly don’t take the guy home with me, nor do I hate myself for playing him or anything like that… It behooves any actor to always stay on the side of his character and to be his best friend. And that’s the way I feel about him.

So too has he evolved throughout the series. Is that something that’s brought you back, film after film?

The arc of any character is the most interesting part of it… That and playing the scenes so they seem like they’re happening for the first time… I mean, the special effects and all of that – these guys are very good at what they do. But the actors need to create what appears to be reality on screen. That’s the challenge. And that’s not always an equation that’s easy to arrive at.

You’ve enjoyed a long and prominent career prior to Saw. How do you see these films in relation to it?

As a very interesting twist in the road. You know what it’s like. I mean, you could say everything I had done prior to this was a preparation to doing this. And everything I do, doing this, is preparation for the next thing I’m going to do. You learn something from everything that you do and I’m very grateful for the opportunity… I mean, I never thought that I would be the central guy in a successful franchise like Saw. If that happens to you once in an entire career, it’s amazing… The rest of my life, though, is totally the way it was before. You know, I get, perhaps, recognized more. Still, people come up to me and say, “Hey you’re the guy…” And I think they’re going to say, “from Saw,” and they say, “from Seinfeld,” (laughs). Or, “You’re the guy from Mississippi Burning,” And I’m always like, “Yes – there we go!” You know, I did do some other things along the way here.

What was it like working with first time director, Kevin Greutert? What does he bring to Saw VI?

He brings his editing experience, which is giant in the Saw franchise; he’s been putting them together since the very first one. He’s also a very smart man… He understands the films. He understands the connecting of the dots and where there is potential richness. And that’s great. We know the special effects. We know the traps. We know the twists and the turns. But in terms of shooting the actors in the moment, it’s… The camera sees everything, you know. And the smallest moment between two people is giant on the screen. That’s not something mechanical. It’s something human. A director who can get that from his actors, has got a lot.

When will you be directing a Saw film?

They asked me about that, (laughs). I told them it was way too much work!… [But] the truth is that I really do want to direct one of these. I’m just waiting for them to come to me again. I’ll have a better answer next time. Like, “Yes.”

What’s the atmosphere like on a Saw film? Is it different from other movies? Perhaps a sense of levity amidst the intensity?

You could say that. But once I’m doing a scene, if it’s an intense one, I’m not the kind of actor that does a take and then starts horsing around, because I know we’re going to do another take in five minutes. I don’t work that way. Some people do, and I understand people work differently, because the days are so long.

Is there a sense of family there?

I don’t know if you’d call it a family, but it certainly is a group of people who’ve worked together many times and know each other very well. We appreciate the continuity and the support that we give each other… I’d call it more of a team.

Unlike a family who might be fighting the whole time…

Exactly (laughs)… Maybe that’s why I rejected the notion of family (laughs)… I feel the same way!

What are your hopes for Saw VI?

My first hope is that the fans who love Saw think it’s a strong film and that it tells a good story. And then its success will follow that. Our first responsibility is always to our fans.

Lionsgate releases Saw VI on DVD and Blu-ray on March 8th.

And check out our review of Saw VI if you haven’t already!


Tom Atkinson

Tom is one of the editors at Love Horror. He has been watching horror for a worryingly long time, starting on the Universal Monsters and progressing through the Carpenter classics. He has a soft-spot for eighties horror.More

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