INT: Bousman & Whannell

You’d think of all people, the director and screenwriter of a SAW movie would be the most careful about spoilers. But Darren Lynn Bousman and Leigh Whannell dropped the most plot details of any interviews from the whole SAW III press junket. With 4500 words here, it might not seem like we cut out anything, but we didn’t want to ruin it for you guys. Even here they drop a lot of hints.

Whannell has looked like Adam from SAW I since he shot that movie but now he’s finally shed his clean cut Aussie boy image. With a shaved head and goatee for his new movie role, he looks more like a punk that would help Jigsaw set up the next trap. Bousman looks like the tired director who had to rush his second SAW sequel in a row, unshaven, ungroomed, just running on adrenaline. 

The plot of SAW III should be seen with as blank a slate as possible. You know Amanda is out of the closet as Jigsaw’s henchwoman now, and Jigsaw obviously isn’t in very good shape with his brain tumor. He’s got two new players in his latest game plus several other victims that play a part.

Darren Bousman Leigh Whannell

Since you give so many answers in Saw III, have you left any openings for the inevitable Saw IV?

DLB (Darren Lynn Bousman): Let’s be honest. There’s going to be a SAW 16. Leigh and I have already talked about where we want SAW IV, V, VI, VII to go. What’s the next one? CITIZENS ON PATROL?


How about prequels?

DLB: I think it’s a little too early to tell. I think as long as the SAW films are successful, that guy right there [Oren Koules] is going to continue to make them. I think what’s so cool about the SAW universe, which I love about it, is there’s so many stories still left to tell in it. I think what Leigh did which was so amazing in SAW I is he made a nonlinear story. It jumped around all over the place. You look at SAW III, half of it is a prequel. Half of it is pre-SAW I and pre-SAW II. So SAW IV, SAW V and SAW VI, there’s no telling where we can go: future, past, back in the old west maybe. 

How do you top what you’ve already done?

DLB: I think what we did in SAW III which I’m most proud of, we continue to do more of it. While on the surface it looks like a gore film, there’s violence, there’s blood, there’s carnage, it’s a much more emotional film. We took the emotion this time and went up a little bit on it. The heart of the story, and these are not the words to use when describing a horror film, but it’s a love story.

LW: It is a love story. It’s a love story between Jigsaw and Amanda. Essentially they’re like father and daughter. Here’s this guy who’s passing on his life’s work and he’s on the brink of death. For him that’s a huge thing. He’s put all this faith in Amanda and what she’s going to do, how she’s going to carry on his legacy. I think the film is also about faith and about what happens when we die and that feeling of letting go. I really think those issues really are explored in this film thanks in large part to the actors who are so great.

I can’t believe, all Jigsaw had to do in SAW I was lie on the floor. We could have cast Michael Winslow from the POLICE ACADEMY movies. I just think it’s one of those cosmic accidents that they just happened to get Tobin Bell, this great character actor, to lie on the floor for the entire film. Imagine if they’d cast a lesser actor, it wouldn’t have really made that much of a difference to SAW I because you don’t really see him. It sure would have made an impact on these films. I thank the heavens every day that Tobin is the guy playing Jigsaw because he puts so much into the character. You walk into his hotel room when we’re up there in Toronto with Saw III, it’s just plastered with notes and what was Jigsaw eating for breakfast on Tuesday, the 12th of November in 1983?

DLB: He’s got books like this. I can ask him a question, “Well, Tobin, what about your sexual life, your relationship?” And he turns to page 84 and is like, “Well, as you can see…” It’s like the book of a serial killer. It really is. Like you see in SE7EN, he’s got these books. I think in large part, that’s why the SAW films continue in my mind to hold up, is the fact that it’s not just horror films blood and guts. There’s substance, there’s great acting, there’s great performances. Tobin continues to be just a presence. Even Donnie Wahlberg in II, it’s a notch above the slasher films. Again, at the heart of this movie, yes, it’s a gore film and yes there is violence, but it crosses genres to this love story, to a tragedy, to this emotional thing which again, it’s easy to go into the theater and see the blood, see the violence and say, “Oh, another one of these movies that’s just whatever.” But look at it. At the heart of this movie it’s such a tragedy.

Does that mean the twist ending is less important? At some point, even the audience will figure out Jigsaw’s methods and tricks.

DLB: We didn’t even think of a twist ending to this. I think most people will figure it out in the first 15 minutes of the film. That’s really not a twist to me. From dialogue one of the movie, it gives it away. It tells you what it’s about. If an audience member can pick up those clues, and again, the elaborate thing that Jigsaw went to to create this basically domino effect… again, Jigsaw’s playing the puppet master. He didn’t do anything. He lay in the bed the whole time. Jigsaw never pulled a gun, never pulled a knife but knowing the carnage that would ensue if these two people were placed in this situation. But I think we hopefully surpassed just the gimmicks of SAW.

LW: Yeah, in some ways, it’s easy to do a rug pull twist where you just at the last second pull the rug out from under the audience’s feet and say, “Ta da!” the SCOOBY-DOO ending. Someone pulls off a mask and it’s like, “It turns out I’m your mother.” What Darren and I struck for SAW III was to have an emotionally impactful ending. We wanted something that would almost make someone who was really invested in the story cry. We have Jigsaw, this character who’s been so cold and clinical, he’s been presented throughout the previous two films as someone who’s very much in control. He’s more like a reptile than a human being. In SAW III he becomes a human being. You see him crack. His veneer cracks and that was what was most important to us far and above any sort of gimmick or twist.

DLB: Some of my favorite scenes aren’t the violent scenes at all.

What’s with the teeth on the poster? None of the traps involve teeth.

DLB: Well, SAW I there was no hand.

LW: I guess at this stage, I think Tim Palin, the marketing genius over at Lionsgate, he’s just going for body parts that can represent roman numerals. I don't know what he’s going to do for the V in SAW IV. 

DLB: Two legs out of a trash can?

LW: Maybe a tongue cut right down the middle. One of the great things about working on SAW is we don’t have a combative relationship with the studio. Darren has had these experiences as have I where you’re dealing with a studio where things aren’t as much fun. James and I, our film that we made after SAW was a film that you’ll be seeing soon called DEAD SILENCE, a ventriloquist doll horror film. We did that with Universal and those guys are great but as we were making the film there was a changing of the guard.

At times it was a really combative relationship with the studio. It didn’t feel like they were on our side. With the SAW films, we always feel like they’re on our side. Peter and Jason, the two guys we deal with at Lionsgate, Peter Block and Jason Constantine, they love the SAW films. They’re fans of the SAW films. Tim Palin, the marketing guy, we love Tim. We joke around with him and he comes up with these insane ideas. The first time you hear them you’re like, “An amputee beauty contest on Howard Stern?” Then you think about it for a day and you realize it’s genius.

DLB: Yeah, we’re going to draw Tobin’s blood and pour it in the posters. What? You’re going to do what?

LW: The blood drive as well. The fact that they do this blood drive. But what we love is it really is a family. People who work on films can say a lot of things but not many can say that. The team, the guys at Twisted, the people at Lionsgate.

DLB: Even at Toronto , one of the big things about us coming back was I wanted the entire crew. The entire crew came back, including the soundstage staff, the security guards, the PAs. We had the exact same PAs that were on SAW II.

LW: Yes, the same DP from SAW I shot II and III.

DLB: The same editor, same composer and SAW II and III is the same second camera assistant. It was insane. The same people, same security guard watching the set. We hired him back from another bigger movie to come back.

LW: All the transport guys as well. At this stage, it’s great because watching Darren direct up in Toronto , there’s a shorthand you can have with people once you know them so well. And the marketing guys are a big part of that. I love, even look at the cover of that [new SAW II DVD]. That’s hilarious. The packaging they do for the DVDs, it’s the type of stuff that if Darren and I were like 16 again, just horror fans living in the suburbs, we know that we would love the SAW films.

DLB: And SAW also does have a familiarity. When you see that poster, you can be a mile away, when you see that white poster with those jagged teeth, you’re like “SAW.” It’s one of those things. I think there’s also a similarity. While the visual styles might change a little bit from SAW I, SAW II and SAW III, you see 30 seconds of a SAW film, you’re like, “That’s SAW.” You know you’re back there.

Leigh, I know you’ve been playfully frustrated with some of the nit picky questions about the traps and twists. Were the flashbacks a chance to answer those?

LW: Yeah, definitely. The fans just go --

DLB: “Put the bathroom scene in there! Just answer this!”

LW: I mean, the message boards are just filled with these guys, they’re crazy. I remember reading an article where Leonard Nimoy would attend these STAR TREK fan conventions and guys would get up and be like, “In episode 12, you were wearing a wristband that’s clearly from the planet Taktar and Taktar wasn’t discovered until series 3. Now how could you have that wristband?” Here, this poor actor who’s just gotten off doing HAMLET on Broadway is like, “You know what? I don't know. I don't know what Taktar is. I didn’t write it.” For us, the thing is, I did. So we get on the message board and there’s some kid going, “Now hang on, if he was lying in a pool of his own blood…” And sometimes they get you. You’re like, “Oh, geez, we didn’t have an answer for that one.” 

DLB: The big one that we tried to answer on this one was everyone says, “Why didn’t Leigh drown? He was in the bathtub, why didn’t he drown?” So that’s why that whole scene came around. Like I think it would be cool to see Jigsaw setting it up, answer that f*cking question, why didn’t he drown?

LW: All the flashback scenes, as you say, it’s a playful way of giving back to the fans. And it wasn’t so much born out of the frustration of like “Here, here’s the answer.” It was more like if you were a fan of SAW, this would be like a little gift. I mean, Jason Constantine from Lionsgate, during the writing of SAW III, we were talking about he’s a huge STAR WARS fan and we were talking about the prequels.

Which I have to go on record, for fear of being struck down or hit by a sniper’s bullet, I didn’t like the three STAR WARS prequels, even REVENGE OF THE SITH. Sorry, George. And I was talking to Jason Constantine about it and he’s like, “You know what? I’m such a massive STAR WARS fan that I got a kick out of them just through seeing things like oh my God, that’s how Boba Fett became Boba Fett.” He called them General Antiles moments. There’s a General Antiles from like EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. You see him in one of the prequels and only the most hardcore fan would pick it up but he got a kick out of it. So we called all these little flashback scenes throughout SAW, we called them General Antiles moments. Jason, when he was reading the script, he’s like, “Ah, you’ve got a cool little General Antiles moment here where we find out how…”

DLB: There’s the big stuff that’s very easily seeable like the setting up the bathroom, the Leigh stuff. Then there’s really small stuff where actors make the appearances, like the fire guy, Avi, burned in the fire, he’s in the movie.

LW: The guy from SAW II with the shaved head.

DLB: He’s in the movie for like half a second. You see him there if you know where to look for him. There are files on the desk that relate back to SAW I. The camera pans over them and you can see them. There’s tons of little things like that. We answer a lot of questions. It’s not readily in your face, that for the die hard fans, and believe me they will find it. They will freeze frame and we set up a bunch of new ones too. People say, “Where do you go now?” But purposely there are a lot of threads that we decided in the editing, let’s not put this in there. All of these were answered but we’re like, “You know what? It’s part of the fun of the SAW series is these questions. What is this thing?” Everyone will have a different idea and they’ll argue about it. Wait ‘til SAW 16 and we’ll answer it.

Leigh, when you wrote SAW II, did you set things up for SAW III?

LW: Not really. The twists in SAW II that sort of Darren and I were so happy with was that Amanda was taking over at the end of SAW II. Sorry if you haven’t seen it. But how we find out that Amanda is basically being groomed to be his successor. That was something that we thought could be explored later on. But beyond that, not really. It was Darren’s first film as a director, first feature, so he had that to worry about.

DLB: It was my first film as a feature and he had that to worry about as well.

LW: Yeah, I had that to worry about as well so there was no real time to even --

[Darren’s phone rings]

DLB: Sorry guys, it’s my mom.

LW: Talk to your mom.

DLB: Mom, I’ve gotta call you back.

LW: It’s true, if I had gone up to Darren on the set of SAW II and said, “Hey, we should start thinking about III” he would have just- -

DLB: Cried.

LW: Cried, fallen down.

DLB: I spent most of the nights on SAW II in the fetal position.

LW: In the fetal position because there’s so much pressure, so we didn’t have really any time. The one thing I knew could be explored was this notion that someone else was taking over. In my mind, Jigsaw would have great difficulty with that, seeing somebody else or passing off the bat is the expression I should use, to someone else. So when it came time to finally start thinking about SAW III, that was the first thing that we put down. Darren and I sat down in a meeting with Mark and Oren, the producers. The only thing out of our mouths was, “This has to be about Amanda taking over from Jigsaw and what that means. Is she carrying out his tests the way he would like to see it? Is she fulfilling the promise?” 

DLB: One thing that I want to bring up… it was crucial to us that we don’t want to become a parody of ourselves. We don’t want to become a happy meal of horror films. I saw that now and there’s a little Jigsaw toy coming out. We don’t want to become a happy meal of ourselves and we took some major risks in SAW III that I think we could have gone a much safer route. We could have gotten more violent, we could have made it just more about the traps, we could have come up with a much bigger twist I’m sure.

But it wasn’t about that this time around. I think for SAW to stay fresh, it has to evolve. And what made SAW I so unique to me was the fact that it was something I hadn’t seen before. It was not a cookie cutter perfect little horror film in a box. There were questions you had no idea the answers to. Like what happened to Dr. Gordon, what happened to Adam? The good guys lose, the bad guys win. When was the last time you saw that in a horror film, or a Hollywood massive commercial film which people took to? I think going into SAW III, that’s what we all decided is like God, please don’t let this become like another one of these horrifically bad sequels that start dropping people off. So Leigh took a lot and I think the whole crew did, a lot of risks in some of the choices that we made.

Speaking of parody, wasn’t Dr. Phil and Shaq in the bathroom brilliant?

DLB: That was great. That’s actually our bathroom. That’s the bathroom we used.

LW: I’ve always said that parody is the highest form of flattery. The biggest kick I’ve gotten out of the whole SAW experience --


LW: Yeah, this year in particular has been the SAW films’ infiltration of pop culture. First of all, THE SOPRANOS is my favorite TV series ever, so my jaw hit the floor when I think it was Chris said, “We’re gonna make a horror movie, like that f*ckin’ SAW movie.” I was like, “Did he just say that?” 

DLB: “We’ll get a director like James Wan.”

LW: And it kept coming back. I was on the phone to my agent going, “I want to guest, I’ll do it for nothing, I want to be in the show, I want a guest appearance, all I want to do is get whacked by Tony.”

DLB: And SOUTH PARK ? When you get mocked on SOUTH PARK . Cartman chained a guy up and made him saw his leg off.

LW: He’s in the principal’s office and the principal’s like, “Say sorry Cartman.” He’s like, [in Cartman voice], “I’m sorry.” “Sorry for what?” “I’m sorry I chained you to the flagpole.” “Aaand?” “I’m sorry I chained you to the flag pole and then told you that I poisoned your lunch and the antidote was six feet away and the only way to get it was to saw your foot off.” And then there was SCARY MOVIE. Going to the movies and seeing that this doll that James created in his bedroom, he made that thing out of ping pong balls and ice cream sticks.

It’s now being parodied on a poster for this huge comedy franchise. It is the most gratifying stuff. It really means, just the other night, on CSI, there was just a mention to it. One of the guys in CSI: NEW YORK was hitting a fake dummy head full of blood with a high heeled show, and he’s wearing this kind of mask and the blood’s spurting on it and he’s like, “Oh, I look like something out of one of those SAW movies.”

Did you hear Stephen Colbert’s?

LW: Did he? What was it. I love that show.

He’d gone to the dentist and said every time he spit it looked like a scene from SAW III.

[Darren claps]

LW: See, that sort of stuff is what Darren and I get the biggest kick out of. It truly means you are part of pop culture. If you think of pop culture --

DLB: Oh, have you seen Youtube? On Youtube, if you type in SAW, you get hundreds of people have made their own inversions of SAW things with traps. I’m talking like nine and 10-year-old kids. I was like, “You’re not old enough to see it.” There was a nine-year-old kid chained to his bathroom.

LW: There’s one where it’s just two guys and they’re really not trying very hard. They’re just chained up with paper in their bedroom and it’s crazy. That stuff is actually the best stuff because I was just going to say, if you think of pop culture as this big cloud, this collective consciousness just filled with stuff, and in our day and age just constantly, like this huge coalface that’s just constantly being fed with more and more stuff. “Here, here, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, here’s everything.” To be one of those little blocks of coal like SAW, it’s just cool.

And you know you’ve made it when there’s a porno, BONE SAW.

LW: Really?

[Darren claps more]

DLB: I haven’t even heard of that. But you know what’s funny, not only is it the title.

LW: That is awesome.

DLB: The imitations, and I don’t even know if I’m allowed to admit this, but there’s an adult film that you can tell it’s a director who borrowed from SAW. I mean, SAW has a visual style, the 360s, the flash frames, the crazy sound effects. There was a porno shot in the same thing that someone forwarded me. I looked at it --

LW: Darren does not collect porn.

DLB: No, but it was 100%, it was a guy in a scary tape recorder voice and it was doing the 360s with the flash frames and the push ins and the whip outs. That kind of stuff is great.

LW: Apparently there’s a film with Elisha Cuthbert called CAPTIVE.

DLB: There’s another film called ARE YOU SCARED YET which is made like SAW.

LW: It is really cool. It’s one of the best things about being involved in film because it’s still a pop art. It’s still an art form for the masses. To see it become part of this language is unbelievable.

This is the most gruesome yet. How can you top that we’re seeing everything here?

DLB: We were talking before about this that I think pushing the envelope, I think we’ve pushed the envelope as far as gore is going to take it. I think that it’s now moving on, we were talking, some of the most disturbed I’ve ever been, there was nothing. It was just a feeling I had watching the movie. I watched this movie that I actually really liked called PALINDROMES. Watching it, I was just kind of disgusted the entire time. There’s really not that much to it. Another movie where there was violence but not a ton is a movie called BULLY. It’s just a feeling you get watching it, it’s a sense of dread.

LW: Yeah, I think one of the best things about the horror genre is it allows you to make comments about society that you might not get away with in a more literally presented film. If you think of something like DAWN OF THE DEAD, the original DAWN OF THE DEAD is this huge comment on mindless consumerism. But it’s cloaked in a horror film so you can take it for the gore and the effects or if you watch it more closely, you can actually get this political message underneath.

So I think horror’s great for getting the messages across, and I think more prominently, it’s great for breaking taboos. I think gore is one taboo. I think the violence on screen has reached a certain point where that taboo has been broken. There’s only a couple more things you could do. What are you going to do, have someone castrating themselves for real on screen? At some point, you’re going to have to put a lid on it and say, ‘We’ve done all this.’ Breaking taboos doesn’t have to be something that revolves around gore. It could be presenting a subject that’s uncomfortable like PALINDROMES looking at abortion or an uncomfortable subject. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a horror film, but I think the expression “pushing the envelope” doesn’t have to be about gore. It could be pushing another envelope that is just as disturbing. 

DLB: I think one of the great things in SAW III that we did is also some of the traps were emotional. They weren’t violent. Emotional things are far more disturbing I think than the violence in this movie. Again, like Leigh said, I think there’s a lot more that we can push that’s not violent-wise.

LW: Yeah, there’s a lot of subjects out there that haven’t been touched yet. I hope that upcoming filmmakers get into those subjects.

Will you continue doing practical, on set effects?

DLB: I can’t handle digital effects. They were trying to pitch me to do digital blood. We do a lot of transitions in this movie, like there’s a transition where Dina Meyer is looking down at the body and then the camera goes to the floor and it goes up and she’s in the bathtub. All those were done practically. She really ran around the back of the set, tearing clothes off, jumped in the bathtub and said, ‘Now!’ and the camera would pan up. All the transitions in the movie were practical. I think there’s just something more organic about doing practical effects, practical transitions, practical things like that than try to do them in a computer.



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