Tobin Bell Talks "Saw 3D," His Favorite Bands, Secrets and More. By Rick Florino.

Tobin Bell Talks "Saw 3D," His Favorite Bands, Secrets and More. By Rick Florino.

December 18, 2011

"It's always a great time when we arrive at Halloween every year," exclaims Saw 3D star Tobin Bell.

Truth be told, after all these years, Halloween wouldn't be the same without a new Saw film. The series has become as integral to the season as costumes and candy. In fact, each subsequent offering always pumps enough blood into cineplexes to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. The franchise also evolves into a sharper and bloodier beast every time it rips through October. One of the main reasons that Saw continues to entrance the collective zeitgeist is Bell.

Bell's John Kramer a.k.a. Jigsaw is one of the most clever, cunning and captivating screen villains of all time. He's a genius, but he's vulnerable. His traps are brutal, but they're also didactic and karmic. Bell infuses a hypnotic intelligence into the role that makes Kramer even more intriguing as the story unfolds further. Saw 3D illuminates that more than any other movie in the series, and it's bound to make a big impact now that it's in theaters.

Saw 3D star Tobin Bell sat down with editor and Dolor for an exclusive interview about the film, what's on his playlist now and always, a few secrets revealed and how he's made John Kramer different.

What is it about the Saw franchise that keeps drawing you back?

Well, aside from a car payment? [Laughs] It's the potential of the material and the fact that there are so many fans. The eyes of the world have been on the Saw story for awhile. That's always a great vortex of energy. To be part of that is a good thing.

The energy of the film is not simply primal horror fare. It's very calculated and intelligent, and that's always been an interesting element of John Kramer and the series.

Yeah, I think so too. There's always this underlying current of smart that goes on with John Kramer. I like that about him. He's very committed, and there's a certain delicate aspect to him. Although that word, "delicate," might not seem to go along with a Saw film, there is a pronounced delicate aspect to him that I try to nurture.

If you look at other iconic horror villains like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, there's something very visceral and in-your-face about them. John Kramer possesses subtlety.

People sometimes refer to him as an iconic killer, but he doesn't really kill anyone. There's always an opportunity for people to escape from any of his traps. It's really just a question of how willing they are to endure. In some cases, they endure some of what they've put other people through. Those are the traps I like the most—the ones that are connected to people's karma and some of the crimes that they've committed. I try to stay on his side as much as I can, but that's an important point. He's not really a serial killer. Although the police and the press refer to him that way, I don't think he views himself in that way at all.

How has John Kramer changed in Saw 3D? What is it about him that's different?

One of the nice things about these films is that they're always revealing new pieces of the puzzle. He has an opportunity to participate in a revelation of a really important piece of the puzzle in Saw 3D. It's something that fans are really going to be interested in. Saw fans love those quintessential "Saw reveals" and the "Saw moments." I think this one is going to be rewarding for them.

There's an ethereal dreamy quality to these films that seems suited to 3D.

Yeah, they're couldn't be a better marriage between the 3D technology and a Saw film because of the mechanical nature of so many of the special effects. 3D has come a long way; it's amazing. From right now to when it was first invented, there is no comparison because it's so delicate. Of course, there are things flying off the screen and into your face—which people traditionally think 3D is all about—but when you see this film, you'll see that you can be in a room and there's stuff on the shelf that the camera moves past. You just feel like you can reach out and touch it. It gives you a much richer and complete experience in any of the locations that you're at.

Because there is a musical element to these films, does Saw 3D remind you of any songs?

Even I can remember that simple theme [Laughs]. I listen to music all the time. Depending on where we're at, sometimes we've really got some down time in between. With 3D, the setups are a little longer in between shots. I try to listen to something that helps me with the mood of the material. There's a band called Hydrovibe that I like to listen to for Saw. They're very good and very edgy, but they're also kind of soulful. It works for me for Saw films. I could be listening to Van Morrison, but that's not necessarily a good match for the mood of some of those scenes. Hydrovibe really is. Maybe I could try Santana with his track "Evil Ways"…that might work too.

Who else is on your playlist?

I like Eric Clapton. I tend to listen to a lot of Bob Dylan. I'm still listening to the relatively new Eagles album called Long Road Out of Eden, which has some really good Don Henley songs on it. I really like Coldplay a lot. I like John Coltrane and a French trumpet player named Jacques Coursil. It's a mix with me.

Did you get to work with Chester Bennington at all?

No, I had no scenes with Chester, but he did a great job.

Have you ever suggested any trap ideas for Saw?

Generally, no, there are guys who do that. Between the director and the special effects guys, they do a great job coming up with ideas for traps. I do have a couple of ideas filed away should they ever be needed. I have done some tweaking of traps. For example, in Saw IV, there's a scene with Cecil in the trap room and I'm there. The trap had a series of knives in it that wasn't operating properly, and I had some ideas to tweak that trap so it would be more dramatic and we'd be able to shoot it better. The guys there were able to take some parts apart and put them together. We actually did it on the spot, and it worked out well.

You got to be John Kramer for real!

Playing bad guys is fun because you get to do a lot of things that you can't really do in real life and stay out of San Quentin.

Do you have a favorite moment in Saw 3D?

There's one of those quintessential Saw moments that fans really like. I'd go back to Saw when John Kramer gets off the floor as being one of those moments. In Saw III, you were taken to the moments before he laid on the floor where Shawnee is actually in the bathroom. John is spreading the blood on the floor and shooting himself up with things that slow his heart rate so he can be close to unconscious but not quite. There are certain moments fans love to see. They're like, "What happened here? How did this go down?" As you know Saw jumps around in time, so we're able to go back and show some of those moments. Saw fans have wondered for a long time what happened to Dr. Gordon. In Saw 3D, you find out what his fate was.

—Rick Florino

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