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INT: Shawnee Smith

10.25.2006by: Fred Topel

For the first two SAW movies, Shawnee Smith only did interviews paired with a costar. For SAW I, it was Danny Glover, and that was fine because she was only in one scene. How much could she say. Even as a lead in SAW II, they paired her with Emmanuelle Vaugier, and it seemed for good reason as all Smith had to share were one-liners. Something must have gotten to her about SAW III because she’s now on her own, opening up about everything.

In her third turn as Amanda, Smith gets to play a role in the traps the entire time. From SAW II, we now know that she became Jigsaw’s assistant as soon as she broke free from his jaw trap. No longer keeping a secret from the audience, we get to see their relationship play out in front of us in the third film.

Smith was bright and happy in person. We commented on her Jennifer Garner cheeky smile, to which she replied that she’s been around a lot longer than Garner. So Garner’s got the Shawnee Smith cheeky smile. A petite little thing, tough girl Shawnee still knocked us out with her charm and wit.

Shawnee Smith


because then it kind of puts these connotations on it. But we'll go big and say this philosophy, this SAW philosophy, right? But it's kind of got like this force of its own. I mean, I haven't seen part
three yet, but the bits that I've seen edited, and what I know we filmed, it was all meticulously laid out and planned and all these threads were like purposefully woven into this rich fabric. This character, which is so hilarious, because for years, I did "Becker, but it was a joke that I never had an arc. And now it's like somehow, and it totally snuck up on me that I have this arc that just has kind of no beginning, and somehow it all connects in a meaningful way.

You know, having the same crew and the same writing team and the same producers, except for our buddy [producer Gregg Hoffman]. But you know what? His presence is still very much a part of, and was very much a part of, SAW III. You know, his substance is still a part of this. So these kind of artistic happenings, they're rare, especially in Hollywood . And I really appreciate- - I mean, hey, they're appreciating it all the way to the bank, too, but they've kept it on this [level]. It would have been easy on SAW II to make it big, easier on SAW III. And I mean, our budget's got a little bit bigger. But it's the quality of the approach.

Yeah. When the elements are aligned, you know? It's so rare to be able to work that way. Most of life as an actress in Hollywood is spent in the audition room, which is just the absolute antithesis of [creativity]. I mean, every element that could work for having this interesting, spontaneous, rich exchange is working against you. It's awful. I mean, come up with how you could strip every possibility of this thing happening, and that's the audition. And on top of that, there's only a few parts you're really right for.


went from like some twisted scene, right, to Verve's birthday party at lunchtime. I'd clean myself up really quick so she's doesn't see any kind of residue, and come out, and they were slicing the cake, and I'm saying, "Make sure you serve everybody." You know, it's like "Little House on the Prairie". It's hilarious. You know, but this is life. This is the substance of what's in this planet. I mean, there's the light and there's the dark.


substance.

Oh, please! You have to! I think about this all the time: I was a kid and I did IRON EAGLE, and I was working with Lou Gossett, Jr. He was doing the scene where he was just intense. They'd say action, and spit was flying out of his mouth. I mean, he was so razor-focused and just full of [rage], and they'd say cut, and he'd be like, "So, anyways..." Like in the middle of a joke. And then, "Okay, rolling, action!" Right back there. And I said, "How do you do this?" And he said, "Oh my gosh, Shawnee , if I tried to stay in this state all day long, I'd be wiped."

It's the approach, maybe. In that kind of environment, you, as an actress, you feel safe to relax, and play, and experiment, and grow, and take the chances. And that's such a gift. I mean, cut from that to my two different days on two different Michael Bay movies where I thought like, "Why the hell did I ever think I could act?" I mean, I couldn't hold a drink, I had four lines, I couldn't say any of them. I'm like supposed to pour the tea and serve, and he's like, "You're talking like an idiot! They're right here! Talk to them like a human being!" I'm like, "Oh my God, I've got to go kill myself!" But I just did this Lifetime movie, right? And it was the lead and they offered it to me and I got to come in and like sit down with the director. It was great. George Mendeluk.

Yeah, UNDERCOVER. George Mendeluk, man. He's like, [claps hands] "Come on, let's get on the ankle express!" [laughs] "The what?"

The joke theme of SAW III was definitely flatulence. And oh, the deviled egg! I forgot about it. Like the incredible, edible egg, right? It's like a perfect food. It's so good for your body, right? And you're working, and it's something you can eat fast. Well, they bring out the eggs at a certain time of the day, , whatever, and then apparently, everyone would get really bad gas. In all my years, I've never put the two together until Mr. Bousman, he made a rule on
set. I didn't know until I had an egg in my hand, and I was about to eat it, and he was like, "Ugh! Gross! Get off of my set! Don't eat that thing on my set, there are no eggs allowed!" And I was like, "What are you talking about?" And he was really like awful about it.

Shawnee , I smell egg! I smell rotten egg!" I'm like, "Darren, you're tripping.

Shawnee , you have to see this scene in the editing room. You farted." I said, "Darren, my God. I've been married for seven years, he's never heard me fart. Like I'm going to fart? Believe me, I'd remember if something slipped while we were filming this incredibly emotional scene! Like, it
wasn't me." He says, "Just come watch." So we watch on the screen. It says, big insert, "Nothing has been altered." It's the scene, I'm very upset.

And at one point, I just kind of went like [inhales]. And there's this very obvious sounding fart sound. So Darren took it to the grave. Actually, at one point, he said, "I put it in." But he said, "Then it was Tobin!" He'd bring Tobin in. He said, "Tobin, did you fart?" So there was like, now it was out, and there were high-tech whoopie cushions stashed here and there. He had things, like elaborate plans, but then like somebody would click their walkie and it'd make the thing go off. I stayed, like I could have gone home at . I stayed and worked out with our insane locations manager Roger, who's a Muay Thai trainer, till because Darren had planned this fart joke. I forget who it was on, but it sounded so good, right? The whole plan was so great, I stayed until ten. I'm at work getting abused in our workout room.

We'd have like ab and salsa class at lunchtime. It was hilarious watching Darren try and like move his hips. That was funny. That should have been filmed. That would have been the priceless footage. And at , I hear this big commotion on the set, because I said, "Don't do this without me. Don't do this without me." Well, somebody, one of the PAs had pushed the walkie and it set off the fart machine, and my big fart moment was at the end of the movie, my last scene. And Tobin was trying to make, like he does with everything, he's like looking for the truth in the simple, human thing. And I'm standing there. I don't have access to these high-tech
whoopie things.

So I just have this old school, like remember? You lick the thing, and it makes like a wet fart. It's really great. And I fill it up, and I get it behind my wardrobe, and I'm standing there, and I couldn't get it to go. And I'm holding in my laughter, and Tobin doesn't know if I'm crying or laughing. And at some point, I said, "I'm sorry, Tobin." And at some point, he got, like, "Where are you, Shawnee ? Where are you? I'm trying to find you." Finally, I just said, "Tobin, I'm trying to do a fart joke. Here it is. I can't make it work!" And I said, "I gotta do this to Darren, to get him back for this torture over this whole movie about this scene. Can you do it?" So then he tries to do it. He can't. He doesn't know how to do a whoopie cushion, like at all. It was a total failure. And Darren didn't even have his headphones on, to hear it. [sighs] Oh, it was very anti-climactic.


everybody and hiding and working against caring. For me, by far, the most upsetting scene in SAW II was when Beverley's character died in my arms. Well, the absolute end of it was questionable, but she was headed there anyways. But part three is like, it's a love story. I mean, she, with like heart, mind, and soul, she is devoted to John, and she loves him. He's her everything. And she's devoted to this truth, and this love.


for, right? If you do it once in a life, aside from your children, which is kind of God's gift that you just do it innately, but to just serve another human being out of choice and sacrifice? That's big.

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