Saw III - Tobin Bell Interview

Total Film is playing games with Jigsaw and frankly, we're scared!

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SAW III

He’s been called ‘the new Freddy’; is more calculating than Jason and has 100 times the chill of anything Scream ever coughed up.
So when TF sits down in London with Tobin Bell, the man behind the Saw movies philosophical sadist Jigsaw, we perch on the edge of our seat. Don’t ask why. You’d know if you were here…

So, Tobin – first things first, what can Saw fans expect from part III?
You get to see a lot of his relationship with Amanda in this film. It’s been alluded to before but never really been developed and you get to see a lot more of that in Saw III. I think that’s a really good thing.

Tell us more…
This emotional connection with Amanda that I think provides an interesting counter-point to the horror that the traps provide. Jigsaw is not well in Saw III. Whether he was sick in Saw II or not remains a matter of conjecture. In my own mind, in my view, he had cancer before Saw I but in Saw II you notice his hair had grown back. I haven’t said this to many people but I always felt that those machines that were attached to him so that Detective Matthews and the SWAT team would be reluctant to move him. All he needed was about ten or fifteen minutes while an ambulance was being sent for, to get the game going. Also, those machines provide a visual distraction so that Detective Matthews and the police don’t notice that the kitchen in which he’s sitting, wasn’t a kitchen at all but an elevator. So, in my view, he was in remission in Saw II but he was playing a man who was sicker than he actually was. Frankly, if he was as sick as he looked, he would have been dead after a beating like that.

So old Jigsaw continues to evolve as a character then?
Oh definitely. That’s one of the things about playing Jigsaw that is so interesting to me. He is constantly evolving. There are so many opportunities and he is so complex. His principles are fascinating to me; the things he says about valuing your life. When he makes that observation to Detective Matthews - “if you knew the moment of your own death, it would change the way you live your life” - this is a great character to play.

With so many horror flicks hitting the screens at the moment, why do you think these movies have such a huge fan base?
We don’t answer a lot of questions in these films but we pose a lot of questions and if it makes young people think about an issue, then that is beneficial. I understand a lot of people talk online about the Saw films and the moral lessons about things. Though I don’t necessarily see the movies that way, I understand it. I think it really provides a good contrast, a good counter-point – especially when you have a film that has such intense horror – if you can provide some respite to that and take it to another place and issues can be raised. It can resonate with the viewer, they understand where he’s coming from and they can see why he’s doing what he does. Whether you agree with that or you don’t and I certainly don’t, people follow their convictions and that’s all he’s doing. Some people don’t ever follow their convictions; some give them lip service and then don’t commit to them at all. Others feel strongly about certain things and end up locking themselves to the front door of a perfume company because they test on animals… So people express themselves in certain ways and it’s up to each individual to go as far as they want to go.

You sound a little like you know where Jigsaw is coming from…
You need to. Every actor needs to remain on his own character’s side, no matter what the person is or what they’re capable of. The script and the story will take you to whatever deeds or actions the character is going to do but what makes it interesting is what you as an actor can reveal about his humanity. All characters, no matter how much of a monster they may be, they all had a mother. Maybe he didn’t have a mother but he had a childhood and you want to know what it was like. That’s how you fill out a character. You have to ask yourself what he means when he says a line; you have to get specific. I have to know exactly why he does what he does because of the bullshit factor. Every time you don’t develop a character, you don’t know what you mean and you’re exposed.

The movie has been closely guarded, with few advance screenings - can you give anything away about Saw III?
Only that I haven’t seen it! According to the people who’ve seen it, it’s the best of the three.

After a long and varied career, how has this hugely popular franchise changed your life?
It hasn’t changed my personal life at all but it’s very gratifying. You get into this business as an artist, as an actor. Commercial success is something that artists have very little control over. You do work and hopefully the commercial success will follow. That’s the case with Saw and there are a lot of people on this team, between Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures, the guys who produce this film, Darren Lynn Bousman, the new director of Saw II and Saw III, all of us have pitched in and tried to keep the level and the quality up. In my opinion, Saw III is going to blow the first two right out of the water. Jigsaw has saved his sickest games for part III.

Saw III is released in cinemas on 27 October.