A Note from the Filmmakers
Like its predecessor, SAW II is a suspense thriller whose success with audiences relies heavily on surprises and unexpected twists of plot. In an effort to protect the experience of future viewers, we kindly ask you to refrain from including plot spoilers, especially revealing the identity of Jigsaw's protégé and the fate of his victims in the last act, in your coverage.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Darren Lynn Bousman, Co-writer/Director Leigh Whannell, Co-writer
About the Production
"Hello, Michael. I want to play a game…"
Jigsaw is back. The brilliant, disturbed mastermind who wreaked havoc on his victims in last year's SAW is back for another round of horrifying life-or-death games. When a new murder victim is discovered with all the signs of Jigsaw's hand, Detective Eric Mathews (Donnie Wahlberg) begins a full investigation and apprehends Jigsaw with little effort. But for Jigsaw, getting caught is just another part of his nefarious plan. Eight more of his victims are already fighting for their lives - and now it's time for Mathews to join the game…
"SAW was one of those movies where people begged for a sequel because there were so many questions that were left at the end of the film," explains producer Oren Koules. "We were on the fence about whether or not we wanted to do it," adds Mark Burg, Koules' producing partner. "But we got so many e-mails from people wanting to know what happened with Jigsaw that we couldn't not do it."
"When I watched the first SAW," remembers director Bousman, a music video veteran who is making his feature film debut with SAW II, "it grabbed me because it showed real people put in real situations where they're forced to become monsters. This time, we really focus on Jigsaw, and the fans of the first film are going to get to see the man behind the madness."
Since Jigsaw's identity is currently a mystery to audiences, the filmmakers decided that Det. Mathews would discover Jigsaw's whereabouts early on. It is soon revealed that Jigsaw has much more elaborate plans, plans which involve eight captive strangers and, most importantly, Mathews himself.
Like the original, there are plenty of unexpected twists that will leave even the most savvy fans of the genre shaking their heads (and jumping out of their seats) more than once. "What you think the movie is about is not what it's about at all," says Bousman. "It keeps changing directions. There's a drastic shift in the last couple of scenes where we see what the real game is that is being played, and it's something much grander and much bigger than we could ever have expected."
Indeed, the ending is such a surprise that only key cast and crew were given the final pages of the already heavily-guarded script. Additionally, the filmmakers shot "four or five" alternate endings so as not to reveal their ultimate intentions.
Along with SAW director James Wan and writer/co-star Leigh Whannell serving as executive producers, the producers re-assembled the first film's creative team, with David Armstrong returning as cinematographer, Charlie Clouser reenlisting as composer and Kevin Greutert back on board as editor.
Armed with a bigger budget and a desire to top the first film's ingenious ways to torment Jigsaw's prisoners, production designer David Hackl was eager to take full advantage of SAW II's gruesome potential. "Jigsaw has moved to a new lair, which is essentially a crack house," says producer Gregg Hoffman. "It's still incredibly disgusting, with all of these bizarre torture devices."
Hackl especially enjoyed solving the logistics of how Jigsaw's nasty traps work. In one scene, a character unknowingly slips her hands into a vessel filled with razor blades. "I had a million questions: 'Why can't she pull her hand out? Why can't she break the vessel? Why can't she apply a tourniquet to her arm to stop the bleeding?' Those aren't the usual kind of questions a production designer asks," he says, laughing.
"It's really cool to be part of such a balls-to-the-wall scenario," says actress Shawnee Smith. "Like the jaw-trap scene in the first film, all of these scenes are really medieval. You don't see a lot of that in films, and here they're done hardcore."
With only three weeks to construct the sets for the entirety of the film, Hackl achieved the impossible, assembling twenty-seven sets on a single sound stage, all in time for SAW II's five-week production schedule in the spring of 2005.
Director Darren Lynn Bousman's participation in SAW II came via an unlikely, circuitous route. Having seen footage from SAW before the film's release, Bousman was impressed by the camerawork of cinematographer Armstrong and wanted him to collaborate on a SAW-like thriller he had written called "The Desperate." Armstrong was floored by Bousman's script and rushed it to SAW's producers, Gregg Hoffman and Oren Koules. "We didn't have any idea this would be a sequel to SAW," says Oren Koules. "But when Gregg pitched it to me on the phone, I listened and I said, 'That's SAW II.'"
With Lions Gate Films eager to usher a SAW sequel into theatres within a year, and with Whannell and Wan busy promoting the first film, Hoffman and Koules saw Bousman's script as the perfect opportunity to get a sequel under way. With a rewrite by Whannell and lots of input from James Wan - whom Koules said "helped put the SAW in SAW II" - the script slowly evolved to encompass the horrifying world of Jigsaw.
Bousman's own talent and passion as a director was another intriguing part of the package. While placing a first-time director at the helm of a much-anticipated sequel might be considered risky, there was little hesitation on the part of the producers. "We had seen his commercials," remembers Hoffman, "and I thought if we took a chance on James Wan based on an eight-minute teaser he made on his own, then we should take that chance again for the sequel. We absolutely made the right decision."
"Darren Bousman is great," declares producer Mark Burg. "He's slick. He's smart. And he's shooting a hell of a movie."
From the beginning, there was no question in the mind of Oren Koules that actor Tobin Bell would be back to play Jigsaw. "Tobin's a rock star for us," says Koules. "In SAW, he wore the make-up, the special effects prosthetics and everything, which took two or three hours a day to apply, and then laid on a linoleum floor all day for six days, all only to get up for one scene."
A firm believer in the old cliché that "there is no such thing as a small part," Bell threw himself into the role of Jigsaw. "I'd never quite seen a small part that was so central and powerful," recalls Bell. "When something like that is going to be done, you invest in it completely, and that's what I did."
Now, Bell is excited to have the opportunity to flesh out Jigsaw in the sequel. "Jigsaw's mind is perhaps the most complicated and dangerous trap in the movie," says the actor. "Because Jigsaw, in his mind, doesn't kill people - he leaves all of the decisions up to them. He believes that people don't appreciate their lives, and they can only learn to appreciate their lives by being forced to fight for survival."
Also returning from the first film is the character of Amanda, played by Shawnee Smith, who is the only person to survive one of Jigsaw's brutal games. Though she was only a supporting character in SAW, Amanda became something of an icon for the film; her horrified face was used prominently in one-sheets and teasers for the original. Says Hoffman, "Shawnee has created this very intense, out there and dynamic character who has confronted Jigsaw before and seems to have extra insight because of what is going on."
Smith admits it's very exciting being part of the world of SAW. "It's become a phenomenon, and I really love working with the production company and the producers," she says. "When they asked me to do the second one, I was thrilled - even though I still don't like to be scared."
Donnie Wahlberg, who is widely known for his work in THE SIXTH SENSE and the HBO series "Band of Brothers," passed on doing horror films in the past; but he felt this project was different. "The first movie had a lot of balls," says the actor. "For a million dollar budget, they got a lot done, and it really surprised people. They've reinvented the genre a little bit, and I think that's very inspiring."
Wahlberg also didn't want to disappoint his son, who is a huge fan of the first film. "He and his friends said 'Yeah, Dad, Yeah!' when I told them I was thinking about taking the part," says Walberg. "They've already taken a bunch of the props to school."
"Donnie was amazing from the beginning," enthuses Bousman. "He came right to the table with ideas, and it was great being able to go through the script with him and have him say 'Hey, what if we tried this?' Everything from specific lines to the color of his tie. And the ideas were always right on."
"Donnie Wahlberg brings a ton of dedication to this part," says Koules, who believes that Wahlberg's own role as a father brings a rich emotional layer to his portrayal of Detective Mathews. "He really brings the intense compassion of a man who is doing his job and all of a sudden gets tangled up in a situation where his son might be a victim. The audience is really going to see that in this performance."
Along with Amanda, there are several other characters who are trapped together, each searching for an antidote to a slow-acting poison that will kill them in two hours' time. Hard-nosed Xavier (Franky G.) makes no bones about looking out for himself; sensible Jonas (Glenn Plummer) tries to play group leader; tough-as-nails Addison (Emmanuelle Vaugier), rat-like Obi (Tim Burd), and emotionally fragile Laura (Beverley Mitchell) are also tested as Jigsaw's demands wear them down physically and emotionally.
"I hate horror movies," jokes Beverley Mitchell, who is best known for playing a minister on the WB family drama "Seventh Heaven." "What makes this different is that this is a real psychological thriller. We really get into the mindset of these characters, and because you can identify with them, it's terrifying when you see them doing horrible things to each other. They're not just being chased by a guy with a chainsaw."
Having received rave reviews for his screen debut in the 2002 Sundance hit MANITO, Franky G. quickly grasped the part of Xavier - a self-involved thug who is prone to violence. "He doesn't give a shit about anybody else," explains Franky. "At first, he thinks it's a game, a joke, but the next thing you know, he's kind of gone off the deep end."
As a first-time director, Bousman was initially unsure about the performances he would be able to elicit from his cast, but his doubts were quickly assuaged on set. "It's been amazing working with people like Glenn Plummer, who I've known for years from his part in "The Substitute," or Beverley Mitchell, or Shawnee, who have so much experience," says the director. "There are times when I get a little overwhelmed and they are totally there to help. It's become a passion project for us all."
Undaunted and excited by his debut, Bousman believes his enthusiasm and dedication, which is shared by the entire crew, will translate to the big screen. "This is the kind of movie that will scare people even though it's not about blood and violence. Yes, we have plenty of blood and violence in this movie; but I think the characters and the story are compelling in their own right."
Bousman is bracing himself for the inevitable comparisons to the first SAW; yet he's confident that audiences will be squirming in their seats when SAW II opens in theatres this fall. "People will walk away saying 'Wow, they really got me again!'" says the director. "When I saw the first SAW, and that very last scene of the movie, I was kind of speechless. We've got a couple of tricks up our sleeve that are going to leave the audience the same way. They're really going to dig it."
About the Filmmakers
DARREN LYNN BOUSMAN (Director/Co-Screenplay) 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, most recently 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 SAW II.
LEIGH WHANNELL (Co-Screenplay/Executive Producer) 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 and starred in Wan's first film "Stygian" in 2000, and landed his first role in an American film in "The Matrix Reloaded." While in the states, Whannell and Wan wrote SAW, 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 has written and will star in Wan's upcoming thriller "Silence."
JAMES WAN (Executive Producer) grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and met Leigh Whannell when the two were at film school together. After making the thriller "Stygian" in 2000 (starring Whannell), Wan began working on the script and 8-minute teaser that would lead to the production of SAW, which became one of 2004's biggest box-office surprises. While helping to develop the story for SAW II and serving as one of the film's executive producers, Wan is also preparing to shoot his next feature for Twisted Pictures and Lions Gate, the suspense thriller "Silence."
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