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INT: Darren Bousman

With the release of SAW II on DVD looming for Valentine's Day, director Darren Bousman took some time to chat with us about life after joining the SAW franchise. As you'll quickly discover, this is not a guy who is wasting his opportunities. Read on for a fun trip through what happens when ambition and talent meet a little luck.

Darren Bousman

Life must be crazy after the success of Saw II. What have you been up to?

It has been crazy. Recently I moved, bought a dog, and I'm reading scripts day and night. I haven't moved to Hawaii and bought a beach island or anything like that, but I have gotten a lot busier reading scripts.

So your life now is basically going blind and cleaning up dog poop?

Exactly. It's like having a kid. Running around the house and making sure she doesn't eat wires, or kill the cat.

It’s been reported recently that you're looking at helming Threshold. Can you talk a little about that project?

Without giving too much away, Threshold is something that I'm very interested in. I'm a big fan of Stephen Susco's work, and he wrote the original draft of it. And while it's similar to the french film [Evil Words], it has a life of its own. They've got some amazing sequences. It's one of those scripts that as I was reading it I was screaming out loud just thinking about how some of the stuff would look.

So it's definitely a project that I'm working on. Is it my next film? I don't know that I can say that. There are a couple other projects that I'm also working on, but it's definitely something that I'm developing.

Are you currently writing anything yourself?

Yeah I am. That one I can't go into at all, but I'm almost done with the first draft.

OK, any other projects you can talk about?

There's another one that's at Dimension that when I say it's the most disturbing script I've ever read, and I've read a lot of scripts - probably 300 just over the last four months - this project is the absolute, most disturbing thing I've ever read.

Just out of curiosity, what’s the weirdest offer you’ve gotten professionally and/or personally since Saw II opened?

You mean weirdest offer like will you sleep with my husband for a million dollars kind of offer?

Whatever it means to you. Think of it like a Rorschach question.

I got offered a childrens movie, which I laughed at. I was like, did you not see Saw II? And they were like, yeah, but we think your hip directing will be good for the kids. It was a childrens adventure movie, but not like a Goonies type thing. It was just a flat out My Little Pony kind of adventure story. I had to decline that.

One of the funniest things that has happened offer wise in regards to Saw II, is that I was trying to get this movie made for four years under the name Desperate. I went to many, many people to try and get financing for it. Some people were just douche bags and liars, some people really tried, some people just flat out rejected it.

So I was sitting in Gregg Hoffman's office, probably a week after Saw II came out, and this email came across Gregg's desk. It was this guy who had declined to make Desperate, and he had no idea who Gregg was, so I don't know how he got CC'd on it, but he was. So anyway, it was one of these guys who kept saying we're gonna finance it, but nothing ever came of it.

Well he sent an email out to about 500 investors saying, "With the recent success of our client's film Saw II, we are now looking for other investors to come on board. Actually know that we worked hand in hand with Darren on the process of Saw II." And this is just some asshole dude that I met in Idaho who said he was gonna finance my film.

The email also said that I was attached to their action-adventure political thriller when I hadn't talked to this guy in years. So alot of stuff like that has happened. People claiming that I'm attached to projects or that I'm working with them when I'm not.

Talking about how Saw II happened, clearly [cinematographer] David Armstrong was a key player in that. Do you have any specific plans to work with him in the future?

Yeah, David and I are working on something, hopefully right now. He was one of those people who read the script and believed in it. And that's all it takes. Just one person who believes in you. And David was that guy.

Looking at his work in Saw and Saw II, you know he's a great cinematographer, so yes definitely, I plan to work with him again.

So if you do the childrens movie you'll bring him along.

[laughs] Definitely.

So I have to ask how it was working with my boss John Fallon on the set.

I gotta tell you, I felt so bad about this. Here's what happened. Hoffman came to me and said, "Dude, we gotta get Fallon in this." And I'm addicted to all these websites, so I was like yeah, that's awesome! Let's do it.

We actually had a part that had a few lines, so we were like this is going to be so great. Well the day he arrived on set, I was about four hours behind. So I didn't have a chance to go up and talk to him. So here we've got this web guy there doing a story about coming to set and being in the movie, but he's just stuck sitting there.

So we were so far behind we didn't get to him that day, or the next day. And I want to introduce myself when I walk by, but he's sleeping, and I'm like ah crap. So we finally get him on set, ready to start filming, and something happens with the camera. We had to stop again.

And I'm thinking this is the absolute worst thing that could happen when you bring John Fallon to set. Keep pushing his scene back, and then when you try to shoot it, the camera breaks. But he was great. I actually think he was more excited about Dina Meyer being in the scene then he was about being on the Saw II set.

So once the movie took off, did you have a list of people to call up and say, "Hey, it’s Darren. I made it. So fuck you!"

You know, I was fired from just about every job I ever had in my life. I mean we can go all the way back to X-Files, or go to like Van Wilder. And a lot of times I was fired for working on scripts when I was supposed to be doing my job. On X-Files for example. I don't know if I was fired so much, as kindly asked not to return.

I would literally have a notebook there and I would write the whole time. And I was supposed to lock down set, but instead I would be writing. So finally one of the AD's on one of the films I worked on said, "You are never going to amount to anything in Hollywood. Mark my words right now. You are lazy. You are worthless."

And I tracked, this is not an exaggeration, I spent probably about two hours on Yahoo trying to find out where this person is now. Never found them, but it is great when things like this happen after all those people tell you it's not gonna happen.

We've got a lot of readers. If you wanna give up the name we can probably track the person down.

Probably better not [laughs]. A lot of people have called me as well. I had a lot of jobs that I really enjoyed and left with good relationships. One of my best jobs was working for Mario Kassar who produced Terminator and Basic Instinct. He called me from London where he was working on Basic Instinct 2.

He's got this heavy accent, and he's like, "Darren, you made it!" It was just so great, because here was Mario Kassar, a guy I had admired and respected for so long, and he was calling me.

Returning to your X-Files experience for a moment, IMDB has you listed as the honey wagon attendant on that crew. Is that accurate, or are you just getting punked?

I did do some ridiculous shit on X-Files. I don't think I ever actually guarded the honey wagon.

I'm a little disappointed. That was a pretty cool, weird job description.

Well, there is a story behind it. I was on X-Files for the last season or two, when Robert Patrick was on it. And I would always have to follow him around and do whatever. One time I lost him, and I thought he was in the honey wagon. So I sat there for like 2 1/2 hours. Turns out he wasn't in there so I was just sitting there like an asshole for hours. I got yelled at.

So who was the sick bastard, and I mean that with complete affection, who came up with Valentine’s Day as the street date for the DVD?

I believe that was the marketing geniuses behind Lionsgate. I just saw the Valentine's Day eCards and thought they were the funniest thing I've ever seen.

How involved were you with putting the DVD together?

A lot. More than I thought I was going to be originally. We've got over 100 hours of behind the scenes footage. The minute that I was hired, for my own personal use, I thought I want to document this. So I had my assistant get a camcorder and just start filming.

And she filmed the most mundane stuff. She filmed me getting rejected by girls at bars, she filmed me yelling at my cat, me getting yelled at by parking attendants. I have hours and hours of just ridiculous stuff that no one would ever want to see, but I have it.

You could turn it into a reality show.

[laughs] I mean, yeah we have fights breaking out between crew members...we have a bunch of stuff. The guys over at Lionsgate would call me and ask whatta ya got? All the DVD features that are on the DVD, they involved me in a lot.

Are there any features you are particularly psyched fans are going to get a chance to see?

Yes and no. I wish I had the time to really put all the behind-the-scenes footage together. But we did get a chance to...I think people look at a scene like the needle room scene, and they don't realize what all goes into that. And I think the Behind the Scenes on the traps really shows that from conception - me talking to the production designer about it - all the way up to completion of it.

Are there any Easter Eggs that people should be on the lookout for?

Yes there is one on the DVD somewhere, but I'm going to reserve comment on that until I have seen it myself.

Is there likely to be an unrated DVD release at some point in the future?

Let me say this about the unrated verison. The movie that you guys are watching, the MPAA was very nice to us. We did cut some stuff down. We self-censored ourselves. There are a couple of more scenes that I love, I think I talk about them on the Director's Commentary. However, I am very happy with the release that made it to theaters.

I think you can always go back and do a Director's Cut. You can add two more frames. I've heard nothing about them doing an unrated DVD, that's the absolute truth, but if they do one then I will put back a couple of sequences that I was really bummed that I had to cut out.

Has there been any talk about Saw III?

Lips are tightly sealed on that.

OK.

I can tell you this much. Everyone is involved in it, James [Wan], Leigh [Whannell] and myself, in some aspect. It's not going to be one of those things where we just throw it out there and give it to somebody else. Everyone is staying adamantly involved. It's become like a family for all of us, and it's something we all enjoy doing.

I have dinner with James and Leigh at least once a week. There is a story. There is an amazing script. There is a lot, so the fans have something to look forward to.

Will there be a new director?

Maybe. There's not a lot I can say on that, other than the producers on the Saw franchise are the greatest, and I think they know how to meet fans expectations.

Speaking of the Saw producers, it was quite a shock when Gregg Hoffman passed away so suddenly. How has that impacted what otherwise has been an amazing and exciting ride for you?

Gregg was not only a producer, but also a mentor. There's a special tribute to Gregg on the DVD that I wrote. It was originally posted on my blog, and it's a story about how I was working at The Firm, one of the few jobs in Hollywood I didn't get fired from.

I was doing music videos for them. Actually 90% of my job was dubbing video tapes for them, and then 10% I did a couple of music videos for them. I was really depressed because I wanted to do movies, so I wrote Desperate. Hard core, in your face, very balls to the wall movie.

And Gregg got a hold of it through David Armstrong and read it. He called me up for a meeting at Evolution, and tells me that he wants to make it. So obviously I was freaking out and excited, and I said excellent. Let me direct it.

There was a moment of hesitation and then he looked at me and said, "What have you directed?" And I pulled out this horrible demo reel, literally a bad VHS copy of some stuff I'd done, and he puts it in and watches it. Then he tilts his head a little bit and says, "I'll tell you what Bousman, I'll let you direct this movie, but you have to trust me 100%."

Then he said something to the effect of, "I'm going to take you to a war zone. Stick by me and you'll get out alive, smelling like roses." And he 100% did it. Absolutely lived up to his word. He had no reason at all to trust me. No reason to give me this huge franchise. But he did.

He did the same thing with James and Leigh. He trusted them. And he gave them this movie. He did the same thing with David Armstrong, and editor Kevin Greutert. All of these people Gregg Hoffman sort of pulled out and said, "Come with me, we're gonna do this."

He was one of the most hilarious people to be around. I'd heard nightmares about, this was my first film working in a feature capacity, and I hear nightmares about yelling and fights I'm going to get into. Nothing like that happened with Gregg Hoffman. I think we got into one altercation, which I was completely wrong about.

So in the seven months that I was in Toronto, we had one difference of opinion that became vocal. He was the nicest guy in the world, so it was a complete shock. It wasn't just losing a producer, but losing a mentor and a best friend.

He knew what the fans wanted and how to deliver it.

I imagine everyone involved in Saw III wants to make sure to maintain that spirit.

I think that's the reason, the main reason, that everyone wants to stay involved in some capacity in this. Because of Gregg Hoffman and his legacy.

Do you know if they're going to shoot for a Halloween release again?

Yes. I'm 90% positive that they're still shooting for Halloween 2006.

That might be a good time to release an unrated Saw II DVD, right?

[laughs] Like I said I've heard no rumors in regards to that.

Well thanks for taking the time to chat today, and good luck with your future projects.

Thanks.

Gotta say that Darren Bousman is not only an easy dude to talk to, but has a humility mixed with ambition that you can't help but admire. It's gonna be a lot of fun to watch what he does in the future.

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