Tobin Bell, Saw IV
Just when you thought he was out... they pull him back in. Over the course of three Saw
films, Tobin Bell
has created a compelling and brilliant criminal mastermind who's never at a loss for a wicked way to lead a ne'er-do-well to his or her death. Arriving in theaters on Oct. 26, just in time for Halloween, comes Saw IV
, a rather "unexpected" additional follow-up for Bell's John Cramer... all things considered. TVGuide.com asked the actor to tease just how it is that Jigsaw might be around to kill again.
TVGuide.com: Considering how Saw III ended, how is it that you're in Saw IV?
Tobin Bell: Well... Saw... Saw plays with time a lot. They fill in pieces. Saw is like a big jigsaw puzzle. When you put a jigsaw puzzle together, you put the bottom-left corner together first, and then you find yourself working on the upper-right corner.... That's the way Saw plays out. Just because you know how I died does not mean that you know the whole story. That's my explanation.
TVGuide.com: Interesting.... I suppose they could do an "origin" tale for Jigsaw.
Bell: Yeah. Just like a puzzle, there are different parts. Sometimes a story is told linearly; you start at the beginning and go to the end. That’s the traditional way of telling a story. But with film being what it is, you can play with that format and do it quite effectively. I'll give you an example: In Saw III, they have a scene [that takes place] just before I lay down on the floor in Saw I. We play with time all the time in Saw. As I said, just because you know how I die doesn't mean you know the whole story.
TVGuide.com: What do you think of the "torture porn" label that has been assigned to the genre that Saw has sort of begotten? Do you think the Saw films are "above" that, because there is a method to Jigsaw's madness?
Bell: I think people are entitled to label things whatever they want to label them. Frankly, as an actor, I'm constantly thinking, "How can I bring some humanity to [John Cramer]? How can I explain where he's coming from? How can I create some intelligence and some delicacy amidst all of these intense special effects?" I understand why people talk about that, but I think it's up to everybody to decide what they want to go see. Clearly, there are a large number of people who want to push that envelope and who are willing to pay to see the envelope pushed. As far as I am concerned as an actor and an artist, if something exists anywhere on the human palette, it's OK to create a fantasy and story related to it. Whether you want to go see it is entirely up to you.
TVGuide.com: So while I may see Hostel II or Turistas, they might not measure up to the Saw films.
Bell: Exactly. Exactly. It's all in how something is done. I get groups of skateboarders coming up to me on the street saying, "You're the guy, right?" I say, "Yes, I guess I am." They say, "When's the next Saw coming out? We can't wait!" I ask why and they say, "Because it's so crazy, man! And it's so real." Then one of them will pipe up and say, "And it teaches you stuff. Like when you said to Detective Matthews, 'If you knew the exact moment of your own death, how would it change how you live your life?'" They're quoting that stuff to me! I'm like, wow, it's amazing they're thinking about that stuff. There are special-effects people and producers and directors who pay a lot of attention to the tricks and the traps and the mechanical aspects, but as an actor I pay much more attention to the character and to his relationships.
TVGuide.com: Do you think the genre is starting to show us so much graphically that we might start regressing to where the violence is more suggested?
Bell: It's possible. It's totally possible. Everything is cyclical. Like fashion, it goes away and it comes back and it's called "retro."... In my view, what basically happened with horror is that 20 years went by, and in that time such advances were made technologically that we were able to do things that were not possible back then. That creates a new wave of what can be done.
TVGuide.com: "I can now convincingly show a body walking around with its head chopped off."
Bell: Yeah. At some point in time they will have reached a certain level and maybe horror will drop off. Somebody will do something really marvelous from another point of view, a different perspective, and all of a sudden that will become the flavor of the month. I just am so appreciative when I go to London and people come from Scotland and Ireland and Wales to talk about Saw. Before Saw III opened, I spent two days talking to people who had traveled from those countries to talk about Saw because they're so fascinated by the story on some level. Some of them are fascinated for one reason, others are fascinated for another reason.... They're smart, intelligent people who are just fans. They're fans of the experience they have in the dark, and I appreciate that. Everyone will always ask, "How do you feel about doing such horrible movies?" and it's not that I don’t think about it, but as I said to you, I think that anything human — if you want to make a story out of it, you can. It's like music or painting; people should be free to create what they want to create and throw it on the market and see if anybody wants it.
TVGuide.com: Can you tease one of the new contraptions from Saw IV for me?
Bell: Hmm.... There is an opportunity in the film to see one of the early contraptions that John Cramer aka Jigsaw works on and creates. It's a very interesting moment, and it's a relatively simple contraption. When I was a kid I liked the episode of The Lone Ranger where you found out how he became the Lone Ranger. There is a moment in Saw IV where you get to see where John Cramer was with those first kinds of mechanical devices.
TVGuide.com: Last question: You literally gave your blood to be mixed in with the ink for the posters for Saw III....
Bell: I did, because Lionsgate had a splendid idea about how to auction those posters to help promote a blood drive.
TVGuide.com: But how on earth do you one-up that for Saw IV? Maybe blend some ground bone into the paper stock?
Bell: I don’t know! I'm waiting for them to come up with something.
Check out more of Saw IV in our Online Video Guide.
Get an exclusive sneak peek at the CSI/Without a Trace crossover event in the Oct. 29 issue of TV Guide. Plus: The truth behind Oprah's health scare. Try four risk-free issues now!
Send your comments on this Q&A to email@example.com.