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INT:Whannell/Bousman

10.28.2005by: Thomas Leupp

Talk about pressure. Almost immediately on the heels of SAW's blockbuster opening weekend, Lions Gate announced plans for a sequel to be released one year later. Problem was, there was no script. No director either. In fact there wasn't even a basic outline of a story. Leigh Whannell and James Wan (the duo behind the first SAW) were already hard at work on another project, SILENCE, and wouldn't be available to make the follow-up. Less than a year out and all they had was a release date.

In came Darren Lynn Bousman, who had been shopping around a script similar to SAW called THE DESPERATE. The folks at Twisted Pictures had an idea: take Bousman's script and let Whannell and Wan tweak it. Bousman would be attached to direct with Whannell and Wan serving as producers. And SAW II was born.

Whannell and Bousman stopped by the Four Seasons this week to talk about making SAW II. Check it out.

Leigh Whannell Darren Bousman

As far as the story is concerned, how much time has passed between the first and second Saw films?

Whannell: We kind of wanted to keep that mysterious. It could have been a year; it could have been a month.

Bousman: There was a script that I had written called The Desperate that was very similar in tone and theme to Saw. It was scary for a while, because everyone who was reading it was saying, “I just saw a movie called Saw and it’s too similar,” and everyone was saying it was too similar, except for one company, a German company, and we were going to make it in Germany for a million dollars, and they wanted to hire an American DP and myself, and it was going to be all American actors.

So I was meeting with the DP and David Armstrong was the first guy that walked in, and he was like, “Why are you doing this in Germany and Why is it only a million dollars?” I was like, “I don’t know, they were the only ones that would do it. And he goes, “Can I show your script to somebody?” and I said “All right.” The next day, Greg Hoffman the producer called, and he said, “You’re not doing the German thing, you’re coming back to this office tomorrow.” Originally it was going to be its own movie, like, for the first three months, and then Saw came out, and did the numbers that it did, and it was so similar that it was a natural progression. But you could read the script for The Desperate and watch Saw II, and you would not be able to draw a comparison.

Whannell: We worked on it for so long and for so many months.

Bousman: The character names are the same.

Whannell: The skeleton of people trapped in a house, all the jigsaw stuff, and all the story stuff we put in there: we worked really hard and it’s unrecognizable from Darren’s original script.

Leigh, do you like Jigsaw?

Whannell: I love him. I think he’s awesome. Someone far smarter than me once said, “You’ve got to love your villains to really write them well.” You know, somebody loves the Terminator somebody loves Hannibal lector. Without love you can’t create these sorts of one-dimensional views. At the time that I wrote the first Saw, I agreed with Jigsaw’s worldview. Not his methods, but his world view…I was going through this whole thing where I was suffering anxiety, and I was going to the doctor, and of course, I think it’s something physical it’s hard to believe a doctor when they say, “Oh, You’re just stressed out.”

I was planning on having all these MRI’s and stuff, to see what was wrong with me. And I felt what Jigsaw felt like: shattered in the face of his mortality. What if it turned out to be something bad? What would I do, what would I feel? And that was where Jigsaw came from… I wanted to model him purely after my experience and have him be unique. I think we achieved that to a certain degree. He’s a comic book villain in some respect, but he’s also got a complicated worldview, which is great.

Darren, did you feel a lot of pressure making a sequel to a film that had such a passionate fan base?

Bousman: I was going to make The Desperate, coming out of my first film…if I make a good movie, it might sell, and someone might see it. If I make a bad movie, it goes straight to the video shelf no harm no foul. With a movie like Saw II, the fan base is Huge. The die-hard fans of Saw there are so many of them it’s become a phenomenon. There are people dressed up this Halloween as characters from the first film. They’re selling masks at the store…there are expectations of what Saw II should be. For a while my email got out and I was getting all kinds of emails begging me not to kill the franchise…there was a huge weight on my shoulders.

What are your favorite horror movies?

Whannell: …The Shining. It actually scares the shit out of me. If that’s the job of a horror film, there’s not many that live up to that criteria.

Bousman: One movie that stayed with me – it’s not even horror but it disturbed me more than any other film has ever disturbed me – from the seventies is called Seconds, it’s John Frankenheimer and it starred Rock Hudson. Just the premise of it was so unsettling, it was such a dark movie and it doesn’t end happy. I love movies that don’t end happy. The good guy doesn’t always win. Just like in life.

Whannell: I think Jaws had this ripple effect where there are still a lot of people who can’t go in the water. You think about it. And it also has this instantaneous iconic effect. If you’re swimming around and someone goes “Duh-Duh Duh-Duh” (Jaws theme), all of a sudden, you instantly know what they’re talking about…

Bousman: Last House on the Left.  It’s so violent and in your face and raw, but what's scary about it is, that happens! Stuff like that happens. There are people; the movie shows them becoming monsters. Straw Dogs is another one. Both of those movies just stuck with me.

Whannell: As for gore, there’s a certain light you can present it in. Make it a little more entertaining. And I really believe, for all the blood that’s spilled, Saw II is still entertaining.

Talk a little about what “the game” is about in this Saw.

Bousman: It’s a question of which game it is. Not to give too much away, but there are many different games being played there…You want the audience to look over “here,’ when there’s really something else over “here” going on. What’s the big game in this movie? Is it the game in the house? Is it the game with Donnie and Tobin?

Whannell: On many different levels you have to think about the film. There’s the visceral stuff that we knew the fans would get into, which is the little traps and things, and it’s gory and fun, but you don’t want the film to be a series of vignettes, like, a series of gory films strung together by a thin sort of story. You want the film to work as a cohesive whole. If anything the easy part was coming up with new little traps for jigsaw to trap his victims in. The hard part was framing them all in a story that arced throughout the entire film. And that’s what the idea we had to sit Donnie the detective down with Jigsaw, that’s what really gave us the whole arc of the film.

Bousman: One thing I really like about this film is that everything that jigsaw says is really ambiguous; it can mean two things. Upon a repeat viewing you see that jigsaw doesn’t lie at all. He says everything right up front…everything.

Whannell: With the first Saw, we were really dangling the carrot in front of the audience’s face…we were literally presenting the answer to the movie in the first shot.

Bousman: There were many things written that the actors didn’t even know. Most of the actors didn’t even have a full script…we could have ended the movie in a couple different places and ended it in a couple different ways.  There will be more stuff about that on the DVD.  There were things that we couldn’t shoot that the producers were appalled by.

Whannell: Low Budget means creative freedom. What do you value more? Do you want big toys, which means more money, which means less freedom? Or do you want to be doing things with a hand held camera in a freezing little studio in Toronto, but you’re allowed to do what you want? And I am realizing more and more that creative freedom is much more valuable to me.

What was it like working with our very own John Fallon, aka The Arrow?

Bousman: John Fallon was probably the most professional, best actor…we’re actually basing another film just around John Fallon.

Whannell: It’s based on a night we spent with him at the Toronto Film Festival. His drunken rampage through the streets of Toronto should be turned into a horror film. 

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

Source: JoBlo.com

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