READ INTERVIEW WITH LEIGH WHANNELL
Jigsaw is dying, and he's saved the most shocking game for last…
Two years ago, the psychotic mastermind terrified audiences around the world in SAW, ensaring his victims in unspeakably gruesome games. In 2005, SAW II continued Jigsaw's saga, establishing the SAW franchise as one of the most successful - and talked about - horror series of recent years. Now, Darren Lynn Bousman, the director of SAW II, returns to the helm of SAW III, a new chapter that promises to trump its predecessors in scares and intensity - and give fans an even closer look at Jigsaw's dark world.
"In SAW III, we learn much more about Jigsaw than we have before," explains Bousman. "This time he has a much grander plan, but his health is failing. So he has enlisted the help of some unlucky victims to make sure he survives and his plan is carried through."
"SAW III is a major rollercoaster ride," says producer Mark Burg. "There are amazing traps and more of Jigsaw in a way that we haven't seen him. I don't think anybody who sits down in the theater will see the ending coming."
Fans of the first two SAW films will see several familiar faces in SAW III: Tobin Bell reprises his role as Jigsaw; Shawnee Smith returns as Jigsaw's unlikely protegé, Amanda; and Dina Meyer appears as Kerry, SAW II's police detective. Also returning are SAW co-creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell, who wrote the story, with Whannell (who co-wrote both SAW and SAW II) assuming sole writing credit for the script. "Leigh is a very talented writer," avows Burg. "This script shows that he's adept with complex plotting, but he can also write characters with real psychological depth."
Despite SAW II's success, Bousman, who only finished directing the sequel last year, was initially reluctant to return to the series. "There was a lot of pressure after the popularity of the first two, and I didn't want to let the fans down," he admits. "But James, Leigh and I knew that they were going to hand the SAW films off to somebody else, and we wanted to make sure that the integrity was preserved. On top of that, I really liked the new story."
Bousman's familiarity with the production certainly placed him at an advantage; yet delivering the highly anticipated third installment of a cult series was not without its challenges. "The hardest thing is trying to give the audience something they haven't seen before," explains Bousman. "We have to make it more violent, more intense, more horrific, but also stay true to the story and the characters."
Adds producer Oren Koules, "I think this year we're particularly aware of meeting and surpassing the audience's expectations. We've worked incredibly hard to make it as exciting as we possibly can."
With Whannell and Bousman back on board, the producers continued to re-assemble the winning team behind SAW II. According to Koules, almost ninety-five percent of the SAW II crew returned to the new production, including director of photography David Armstrong and production designer David Hackl. The crew was housed in the same hotel and many of the same locations in Toronto were used. "It was like reuniting a family," reports Koules. "It was as if we never went away."
Unlike other franchises that lack continuity between installments, SAW III expands on its predecessors, developing Jigsaw's story while recalling events in the previous films. In a sense, it is both a prequel and a sequel. Explains Bousman, "This movie is a horror film for a much smarter audience. It's non-linear like the first two films. There are flashbacks within flashbacks. It shows a series of events throughout time, and the audience has to piece them together."
Of course, a SAW movie wouldn't be a SAW movie if it weren't for the traps. SAW fans spend months discussing and comparing favorite torture scenes in on-line chat rooms; and iconic set pieces such as the jaw-trap in the first film and the needle pit in SAW II have become horror milestones. While the filmmakers promise even more elaborate and frightening traps in SAW III, they're keeping the details tightly under wraps.
Apart from bigger scares, SAW III also burrows deeper into Jigsaw's psyche and explores his bizarre relationship with Amanda, the heir to his gruesome work. Tobin Bell, who originated the Jigsaw role in the first SAW installment, relished the opportunity to develop his character further. "He's a philosopher of sorts, a bit of a scientist, a bit of an artist," says Bell of Jigsaw. "He also must view himself as somewhat of a therapist, because he says to his victims repeatedly, 'You'll thank me one day for this.'"
For Bell, preparation for SAW III involved copious amounts of imaginative work on Jigsaw's backstory. He filled notebooks with character details, from what Jigsaw eats for breakfast to his religious beliefs and his major in college, and covered his dressing room with diagrams and additional notes inspired by the script. He explains, "As soon as you begin to answer one question about a particular scene or a particular moment, that question opens up two more questions. And those two questions pose four new questions. And it just becomes a doubling factor. There's a lot of work to be done."
Since the relationship between Jigsaw and Amanda forms the backbone of SAW III, Smith and Bell spent a considerable amount of time creating a back-story for the two-year period before the movie's story begins. Their work is reflected in Jigsaw's and Amanda's eerie, intense bond, which blends mentor/student, father/daughter and quasi-romantic dynamics. "Some of the things Shawnee and Tobin do with mere glances tell more than Leigh and I could ever write, or I could ever direct in a scene," admits Bousman.
"It's exciting to have so long to flesh out a character," says Smith. "With this franchise, we have arcs that just keep on giving, not only forwards, but backwards."
"There's definitely a certain intimacy that has been established over the past three years since Shawnee and I have been working together," adds Bell.
SAW III also introduces two new principle characters: Jeff (Angus MacFadyen), a family man haunted by the death of his son in a hit-and-run accident; and Lynn (Bahar Soomekh), a gifted brain surgeon who has become increasingly disconnected from her life. Both become Jigsaw's pawns in an elaborate, disturbing new game.
"This script is really smart and there's depth to it," says Soomekh. "We've dissected it and analyzed it, and Leigh and Darren and the producers have been so receptive to the actors' input. This story gets to the rawest of emotions. It's really terrifying."
Visually, SAW III will have all the quick cuts and fast-paced rhythms that characterized the first two films. "SAW has a signature style. We're using a lot of whip-pans and flash-frames to create a dynamic feel," says Bousman. In many of the film's graphic torture scenes, Bousman chose the use of prosthetics over digital effects. "I really don't like to cut away from the gore," he says. "I'm a big fan of actually showing the audience what they want to see."
Bousman reports that he's kept SAW fans in mind through every step of the creative process. "We've littered this movie with nods to the first two films, with clues and puzzles - everything the fans love," says the director. "More traps, more blood, more twists, more turns. So this, really, is a movie for them."
"Darren knows better than anyone what our audience wants, and his goal is to deliver that to them every time," says Burg. "He's always thinking three steps ahead of everybody else."
Adds Koules, "Everyone here, in every department, feels a loyalty to the fans. We truly relish them. They've been so great and so supportive of us that it makes us work harder to make each SAW film bigger and better."
With three films under its belt, the SAW team has grown closer than ever; but there is one missing member whose loss is deeply felt: SAW producer Greg Hoffman, who died unexpectedly last year, only six weeks after the release of SAW II. Hoffman, with producers Mark Burg, Oren Koules and executive producer Dan Heffner, was responsible for recognizing the potential in SAW when it was only a script, and for giving talented newcomers James Wan, Leigh Whannell and Darren Bousman their first career-making opportunities. Says Bousman, "Greg had faith in all of us even though we were all unknowns. He said, 'Come with me,' and we did and he made it happen. He was passionate and he cared, and that's not something you see a lot of in Hollywood."
ABOUT THE CAST
TOBIN BELL (Jigsaw)
Whether you know him as Jigsaw in the wildly successful Saw movies, Nordic in The Firm or even Ted Kaczynski in Unabomber --The Real Story, Tobin Bell has displayed an uncanny - and occasionally chilling - ability to burrow deep into a character's psyche. Tobin's longevity and chameleon-like ability to assume any role has placed him in the upper echelon of consummate professional actors. His success as the star of the Saw movies is a fitting reward for almost 30 years spent appearing in movies and television shows, mainly in character roles.
Starting with the role of FBI agent Ernest Stokes in Mississippi Burning (1988), Tobin Bell has played a long line of interesting characters on both sides of the law: JFK conspirator David Ferrie in Ruby, Mendoza in In The Line Of Fire, the riveting Nordic in The Firm, gunfighter Dog Kelly in The Quick and the Dead, Lucian Morano in Serial Killer, a parole officer in Goodfellas, the voice of Zaragosa in DreamWorks's Road to El Dorado, and roles in Overnight Delivery, HBO's The Fourth Floor, Good Neighbor, Black Mask 2, Loose Cannons, Malice, and Powerplay.
Tobin is a familiar face to viewers of TV movies and dramas (though comedy fans will recognize him as Ron from Seinfeld). Tobin has been a prominent guest star on some of the most critically acclaimed and popular dramas of the last decade: as attorney Nathan Volk on the NBC drama Revelations, with Bill Pullman, Natasha McElone and John Rhys-Davies; as Peter Kingsley in five episodes of 24; as Agent Dreyer on Alias; and as Karl Storm in one of the fans' favorite episodes of Walker: Texas Ranger. Tobin has also appeared on The West Wing, The Guardian, The Sopranos, Charmed, Once and Again, X-Files, Stargate, Silk Stalkings, ER, La Femme Nikita, NYPD Blue, Murder One, and Chicago Hope. His resume also includes the television movies-of-the-week One Hot Summer Night, Babysitter's Seduction, Mortal Fear and Deep Red.
Tobin comes by some of his acting skill naturally; his mother is the British actress Eileen Bell. But Tobin also learned from the best, studying with Lee Strasberg and Ellen Burstyn at the New York's Actor Studio and with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse. On the New York stage Tobin has appeared at the New York Shakespeare Festival, the New York Public Theater, Ensemble Studio Theater, and Playwright's Horizons.
tobin was born in New York City and raised in Weymouth, Mass. As befits the star of "thinking men's horror movies," Tobin is a graduate of Boston University, with a master's degree in Environmental Education from Montclair State College. Hobbies include playing the guitar, taking wildlife photographs and making frequent climbing trips to the Presidential Range of New Hampshire's White Mountains. Also a writer, Tobin has completed several screenplays and stage plays. He is married, with two children, and splits his time between homes in New York and Los Angeles.
SHAWNEE SMITH (Amanda)
Shawnee Smith made her film debut at the age of 12 as a dancer in the musical "Annie." Just three years later, the South Carolina-born Smith received accolades for her performance in the TV movie "Crime of Innocence" starring Andy Griffith, and also began appearing on regional stages, including co-starring with Richard Dreyfus at the Huntington Hartford Theatre. She also began to win supporting roles in feature films like "Iron Eagle," "Summer School," "The Blob," "Who's Harry Crumb?," "The Desperate Hours," and "Leaving Las Vegas." Smith's television roles include the miniseries "Lucky/Chances," "The Stand" and "The Shining" and recurring roles on "The Tom Show" and "Becker." Since appearing in the original SAW, Smith has also been seen in Michael Bay's "The Island." She is currently shooting the Lifetime movie "Undercover," in production in Canada.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
DARREN LYNN BOUSMAN (Director)
Darren Lynn Bousman grew up in Kansas, where he became heavily involved in the theater community. He attended Kansas University where he majored in theater and film. During his sophomore year, he left KU to attend a film school in Orlando, FL. It was in Florida that Darren began writing and directing short horror films. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Darren began directing music videos and commercials for such Utopian Pictures artists as Velma Fix, and Tamela. In early 2003, Darren became a freelance director for The Firm, a Beverly Hills-based management company. While working with The Firm, he has directed various music videos and commercial spots, including the STATIC X hit "So" which made its premier on MTV and FUSE. In 2004, Darren helmed the commercial campaign for VIRGIN COLA where he directed five separate national spots. Darren was introduced to the Twisted Pictures producers Gregg Hoffman, Mark Burg, and Oren Koules after penning the script THE DESPERATE, which sparked the seed that Leigh Whannell and Bousman would later turn into last year's smash hit SAW II. Upon completing principle photography for SAW II, Darren went on to direct the music video "FORGET TO REMEMBER" for Mudvayne.
LEIGH WHANNELL (Screenplay and Story)
Leigh Whannell hails from Australia, where he began his career as an actor appearing in Aussie series like "Neighbours" and "Blue Heelers." He met filmmaker James Wan in film school, where they started developing ideas together, and landed his first role in an American film in "The Matrix Reloaded." Wan and Whannell wrote "Saw" in Australia and brought it to the US, where Whannell proved that not only is he an effective and versatile actor - he held his own playing opposite Cary Elwes - but a talented and imaginative screenwriter as well. In addition to his work on the screenplay for "Saw II", Whannell wrote "Saw III" and Wan's upcoming film "Silence" for Universal. He will next appear in Wan's film "Death Sentence", which is currently in production.
JAMES WAN (Story)
James Wan was one of the youngest students ever to be accepted into the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology's highly respected film and media school in Australia. After directing several award-winning shorts during his three years there, Wan then went on to work for several advertising agencies as a director, editor and graphic artist and also spent a year at the ABC's groundbreaking digital youth network, FLY-TV, where he wrote, directed, produced, and animated his own content.
SAW was Wan's first feature film as a director. The film, starring multi-award winning Danny Glover, Cary Elwes and Monica Potter, was released by Lionsgate in 2004 with a gross domestic box office of over $55 million and a worldwide theatrical of over $100 million. SAW II, executive produced by Wan, was released in 2005. Together, SAW and SAW II have grossed nearly $250 million in worldwide box office.
Wan has just finished post-production on his second feature film DEAD SILENCE for Universal Pictures and is currently in production in South Carolina on DEATH SENTENCE (Hyde Park & Baldwin Entertainment Group) which will star Kevin Bacon.
Wan received the Greg Tepper Award in 2004, a prestigious award for outstanding achievement in Film.
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