The Saw franchise is back with Spiral: From the Book of Saw. While this may be the closest, the franchise has been completely rebooted since we first met Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw Killer in 2004. It has an A-list cast led by Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, it goes away. by John Kramer and it tries to move the series in a new direction.
A well-known element is director Darren Lynn Bousman. While James Wan directed the original, it was Bousman who directed it Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV, which made this a hugely successful horror franchise for years to come. Now, after more than a decade away, Bousman is back to once again take the audience to twisted, deadly, and trap-filled places with Spiral.
I recently had the chance to speak to Bousman in honor of Spiral arrival in theaters. We discussed the joys of swearing Samuel L. Jackson on set, how Saw II went from almost home video to become a number one hit at the box office and what it took to direct Saw 10, among other things.
About two or three months ago, we made a phone call for your movie Death of Me. Now, you and I are sitting here personally, like your movie is in theaters, and people are actually going to see it in movie theaters. How does that feel?
Darren Lynn Bousman: Honestly, it feels like light at the end of the tunnel. For me, as a fan of movies, I was at the Alamo Drafthouse last night. It was an emotional moment because we have been isolated and alone for the past year. And last night I was in a theater with like-minded lunatics watching a movie on a big screen with beer and popcorn, and I heard the panting and the screaming. It was a common experience and I think we have all missed those common experiences. It was great to be here last night and see a movie back in a theater.
What was it like to be the guy who called “action” and “cut off” when Samuel L. Jackson said the words “Mother f **** r?”
Darren Lynn Bousman: True story. The very first line he said on the very first day was mom f **** r. He threw a glass of whiskey against a wall. It wasn’t in the script. It was just, he had to throw it against the wall and turn around. He threw it on the wall, said “mom f **** r” and I’m gonna “Hahaha” [excitedly clapping]. Then he turns around and says, ‘You got your’ motherf **** r ‘. I’m ready. I’m going home. And I was like, Samuel L. Jackson’s first day on set and he’s like, “Mother f **** r.” Is this for real? There should be a fun game when you watch the movie, and I dare anyone to do this, take a shot, and I’ll even let you have a shot of beer every time the word “f ***” is said on the screen. You’re within ten minutes of this movie drunk It has quite a few “f *** s” in it.
I noticed that. Saw, most of the time you have your blood and stuff, but this one sure is pretty damn heavy.
Darren Lynn Bousman: Yeah right.
In the first 20 minutes of the movie, especially when you cut out that opening scene, there are the ingredients for a good regular police movie. I know you are mostly known for your genre stuff. Have you considered doing something like that?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I got lucky because of Spiral. You know what’s interesting, and we’ll get into this in a moment, Spiral is a love or hate movie, and I’ve made a few in the past, where you’ll like it or not. And there won’t be many snacks. I think it’s because it undermines what people are going to expect. They’re going to think it might be one Saw movie, and it’s going to be horror or whatever. And it really isn’t. It’s a police drama. It’s a buddy cop movie that eventually turns into one Saw film in the last act. When Chris [Rock] and I started talking, we said, what if 48 hours is becoming Seven, is becoming Saw. If you watch the movie, it’s three movies. It begins 48 hours, it will be Seven and it ends Saw.
I think that’s great, because I don’t feel like making the same movie over and over again. And I don’t feel like making another one Saw movie. I still don’t. I think the cool thing about this, it’s not really one Saw movie. It is something completely different that eventually becomes Saw at the very end of the movie. So when you come in you have tons of Chris Rock doing Chris Rock. He’s joking. He is great. You have a robbery. You have a buddy thing. Then it becomes something different and for me it is exciting.
I’m a huge horror guy and I couldn’t think of many horror franchises where the same guy directed a ton of episodes. And you, on two very crucial points, when this could have become a franchise or not, and when it got its biggest kick, maybe since Spiral started.
Darren Lynn Bousman: Yes.
Do you handle it that way? Like, “Maybe I’m James Wan aside, I’m the guy who made this franchise what it is?”
Darren Lynn Bousman: I never realized what Saw was until about five years after I left it. I’m the classic, cliché story of going broke, living on couches and eating ramen noodles, and then I get Saw II. I had a studio apartment, a very small studio apartment, and I’m going to Toronto, and I do Saw II. Then I insist Saw II and I go right in Saw III. Still in the same studio apartment, still in the same s **** y environment, and I joined Saw IV. And I live in a hotel. Then I immediately go to Repo! [The Genetic Opera]. It wasn’t until I got back from Repo !, so four years after making movies, that I got a mansion. Then I left and did another movie almost immediately. Only then did I start to realize, “S ***, Saw was great. ‘Because I was never there. I’ve never seen the fandom. I’ve never seen anything. I showed up and did a premiere day, and that was it.
It wasn’t until years later that I see tattoos on people from Saw. I see that now that we’re at number nine on the franchise and I was like, “Holy s *** that was something.” When I was hired, it was not a franchise. When I was hired Saw 1 wasn’t even out yet. Saw 1 had just gone to Sundance and it wasn’t a hit. I don’t think anyone knew it was going to be about a hit Saw III. Even when we did Saw II, there was talk of going straight to video.
Darren Lynn Bousman: I remember … I don’t think I could be fired for saying this. What are they going to do? Relieve me of it Spiral? So I can say this. When I turned in my director’s cut from Saw II I was BCCd on an email, and there was a discussion about, “Maybe we should put this on video right away.” The producers, Twisted Pictures, said, “Are you kidding? No way!” They fought and were released. Than Saw II, it got number one. And then it became a franchise Saw III. So I think, even when we were creating Saw II, nobody realized what it was.
That’s wild. There are some stories like that. Toy Story 2 was going to be direct-to-video. But the other thing Saw did, which has done almost nothing, Friday the 13th is the only one I can think of, where the first hits, and then you get one every year for eight years.
Darren Lynn Bousman: I’m still looking back … it was crazy. Everything happened so quickly. It happened so quickly that it is difficult to process. When we were creating Saw III we said, “Okay, this is a franchise now.” We started implanting things into Saw III that we knew would pay for themselves in both Saw IV, Saw V, Saw VI, whatever. When I left Saw IV, I left at the top. I had three number one hits and I thought there’s nothing else I can do. I can’t do anything else with this. I’ve killed as many people as possible. I’ve made as many crazy transitions as I can. I have to walk away at this point. Then it took me five or six years. I started to get angry and jealous when I saw it Saw movies. I was pissed off about what they were doing. I was like, “Why would they do that? This is awful.” I started to get angry. I was like, “I could do this. I could do something more fun than this.” Now, here we are 15 years after my last. None of this feels real. You and I sitting here now, none of this feels real. Looking back, Saw exceeds the $ 1 billion mark [at the box office]. It’s so crazy.
That’s so wild.
Darren Lynn Bousman: I was just thinking about something. In some ways I wonder if Spiral will be looked at Halloween III. I just hit that. Because it doesn’t follow Michael Myers, Halloween III. This does not follow John Kramer. It just exists in that universe.
That’s an interesting thought. I hadn’t really gotten it through that lens. However, the one thing Halloween III has that this movie doesn’t have is the most inappropriate sex scene in movie history.
Darren Lynn Bousman: Halloween III is probably one of my personal favorite movies. I think we’ll see a lot of the same things about it Spiral. There was a backlash to it Halloween III. People hated it because they were expecting Michael Myers. And it is not. They are clovers. We are doing something completely different. It’s a mask company. I think this is the same way. There’s a group of fans expecting to see John Kramer, and I’m not going to give you that, unfortunately.
I wanted to save this as my big question, but you’ve already touched it on. Saw 10 is under development. Is this a situation where at the end of this movie you saw it as if you were passing the torch to someone else to do what they want, or you said you didn’t want to make another Saw movie, but is there a version? of which you come back to do the next?
Darren Lynn Bousman: Maybe there is one more Spiral film in me. But here’s what I think is cool about the Saw franchise, and specifically afterwards Spiral. There can still be one Saw 9. There is absolutely still one Saw 9, and a Spiral 2and a TV series. The way we set this up at this point is that multiple stories are told at the same time. I don’t think we’re done with Tobin Bell. I don’t think we’re done seeing Hoffman, or any of these other characters that people have come to love. I think as long as there is a creative and ingenious way to undermine expectations and do something different, I would come back. If it is just trying to make a copy and doing the same thing I don’t know if I would. But if there was a new, fresh way to do something, then yes.
I don’t want to take anything out of context. You said there is a Saw TV series. I can totally see what you are talking about with Saw 9 vs Spiral. Are these discussions that you have actually had?
Darren Lynn Bousman: No. I learn the same things that all fans learn at the exact same time. I’m going on the Moviewebs and I’m like, “Oh s *** they have a TV series lit up?” Then I call the producers. They are all very superstitious and they don’t want to talk about things until that movie comes out. I think the TV series or Saw 10 jumped a little with the gun. I think there was a discussion about such a thing a year ago. Then, with the excitement of the building Spiral, people just jumped on the announcement. I think a lot of it depends on this weekend. Will fans return to theaters? Do they want to see more of this? Because it is the fans who dictate everything. Not We. We press the buttons, but it is the fan that powers the car. If the fans like it, if they’re excited, then I think you’ll see more. If the fans aren’t? Then it’s over. That’s what I think it is.
Like we said, you were at a theater last night. People are going back to theaters. What do you think makes Spiral a good return to a theater film?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I have realized the answer to that question in the last 48 hours. I can answer the question that you have action, violence and blood, and the screaming mom f **** r of Samuel L. Jackson and that Chris Rock is taking on a serious part. But that’s not the answer. The answer is that I think this film will cause heated discussions among friends, among franchise aficionados and devotees, and among the casual moviegoers. I’ve never seen my Twitter feed filled with such divided responses of absolute love and absolute hate.
This morning I looked at it and this is literally okay. It would be like, “The worst Saw movie I’ve ever seen! A horror of cinema. The next would say, “My favorite of all Saw movies. Saw is back! “Then a critic would say,” Bousman’s best work. 4.5 / 5. “The next would say,” Bousman’s worst movie. 0/5. “I love that because it creates discussion. The worst thing we can do is make a movie that you see and you walk out and say,” Meh, whatever. “I want to create discussions. I want to talk to people and I want people to argue. I think this movie will do that.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw is now in theaters of Lionsgate.
Topics: Saw 9, Saw