An Interview with Tobin Bell, Star of “Saw III”
BY KEVIN CARR
Tobin Bell plays the sinister villain Jigsaw in the “SAW” series. Bell talks about the upcoming “Saw III” and how things become more intense in this installment. Excepts from the interview follow.
To hear the entire interview, click here.
7M: TELL US ABOUT THE BLOOD ON THE POSTERS.
The theme of blood is a continuous one throughout the SAW legend, and Lion’s Gate had a blood drive with SAW I and SAW II. As a matter of fact, over 4,000 pints of blood were donated in connection with the SAW II blood drive. When they had this idea to take a vial of my own blood and put it in the poster that’s in theaters of Jigsaw, and we were coming up with a way to raise some money for the Red Cross. The way we’ve decided to do it is to put a certain number of posters on auction, and whatever money is raised will go to the American Red Cross. We’re hoping to double that 4,000 pints of blood on the SAW III blood drive.
7M: DO YOU SEE JIGSAW AS A VILLAIN, A HERO OR AN ANTI-HERO?
I try to be very specific in the choices that I make for John Cramer, which is what Jigsaw’s real name is. He doesn’t think of himself as a villain or a hero. He’s just a very committed guy who thinks very specifically. He’s very well read. He’s a scientist. He’s a mechanical engineer who has a lot of gripes about the world, as we all do. One of which is that for hundreds of thousands of years, survival of the fittest was an important concept. And I think he thinks the world is going to hell in a handbasket because it’s become survival of the mediocre. And it bugs him that people don’t appreciate their blessings.
7M: WHAT WAS THE MOOD LIKE ON THE SET?
The mood on the set is quite relaxed. You’d be surprised. We’re pretty much a family by now. The same people are there that were there for SAW II and SAW III. The same director of photography. The same set designer. The same hair, same make-up, the same carpenters. And of course, the director of SAW II and SAW III, Darren Lynn Bousman, who is daddy to the whole thing, he keeps the ship.
7M: HOW HAS SAW III IMPROVED THE SERIES?
I have a feeling that we’ve raised the bar with SAW III. At least the people whose opinion I respect who have seen the film have said it’s pretty powerful stuff. There’s lots of surprises. There’s lots of traps. There’re lots of clues. And I think it’s a very fast-paced and frightening film.
In SAW III, you find out a lot more about Jigsaw’s relationship with Amanda, a relationship that’s only been being touched on and hinted with in SAW I and SAW II. There are some flashbacks to some pretty exciting moments that fans are going to enjoy. And that relationship is very rich and very dramatic.
7M: HOW DOES SAW III STACK UP TO THIS YEAR’S HORROR FILM COMPETITION?
I think that what’s happened with the horror genre, I think horror’s been a weak step-sister traditionally for some years. And I think it’s largely been because of fairly weak scripts and sort of slash-and-burn types of films. I think horror is becoming smarter. It’s becoming more relevant. When you’ve got 15-to-25 year old kids talking to you about the concepts that are in the film rather than just about the tricks and the traps and the mechanics of the film, but rather the concepts that somehow have resonated in their minds. That means a lot to me. Anything can be accomplished in the horror genre. You just need good writing to do it.
7M: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE THE FIRST ORIGINAL HORROR ICONS OF THE NEW MILLENIUM?
Great. Terrific. When you’re an actor, you don’t really think in those terms, but that’s a wonderful surprise. I went in and I laid on the floor for three weeks, and did SAW I. I liked the script, and I thought if they did the gag at the end well, it would be shocking, and I thought it was very theatrical and very dramatic – three guys locked in a bathroom.
I try not to think of results, and something like “horror icon” is such a result that I try to put my energy into things I have a little more control over.
7M: WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN COMMON WITH JIGSAW?
I think I observe a lot. I’m an actor. That’s my job. I think he observes a lot. I think I get reads on people and on situations very quickly. I think he’s a very good judge of character.
What interested me most about SAW I was the fact that he was silent. I have known for a long time that there’s power in silence. My voice was in the film throughout, and you saw me hooded and cloaked, but you never really connected me to the guy on the floor.
What drew me to the material was when I started to read the piece and I saw that it was a three-character play, I said, “Hmm. This is kinda interesting. Usually films aren’t set up that way. And I thought if they do this well, it’ll blow the people out of their seats, and in fact it did.
7M: ARE HORROR FILMS BECOMING TOO VIOLENT?
You know, Kevin, there’s a lot of violence in the world. As an artist, it’s not really a judgement I care to make. If you ask me about the news, about real life, what disturbs me is what we see on the news. That’s real. Films are just a reflection of the human condition. We live in a violent world. I don’t write horror films, but I see no reason why anything that does not reflect the human condition shouldn’t be put out there. But I tend to be more disturbed about real violence than I am about fictional or fantasy violence.
7M: WHAT IS THE ESSENSE OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN JIGSAW AND AMANDA?
Amanda has shown she’s made of sterner stuff. Jigsaw is very interested in genetics and survival of the fittest. But what drove him originally with respect to Amanda was that Amanda was victimized as so many of the weak and the poor are on the planet. She was victimized by a system and by corrupt individuals who made her life a living hell, and I think in some way, Jonathan Cramer identifies with that because he suffered from some things in his childhood that were quite outside his power to control. And what happened to Amanda is like looking in the mirror for him, and I think that’s why he’s drawn to her as an animal is drawn to another animal.