Exclusive: Saw III ‘s Darren Lynn Bousman

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This is getting to be a habit.

Last year, ComingSoon.net spoke with director Darren Lynn Bousman and writer Leigh Whannell about Saw II, the horror sequel that far surpassed expectations as the follow-up to the 2004 indie thriller.

Another year has passed and Bousman now has the threequel Saw III coming out on Friday. This time around, John AKA Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) still lies on his deathbed and is relying on his protégé Amanda (Shawnee Smith) to help save him using some rather unconventional tactics.

ComingSoon.net is there once again to pester Darren about the movie, though this time, he’s no longer the “new kid on the block” but talks to us as the “returning champ.” (As part of the “Saw” drinking game, make sure to take a drink every time Bousman says something is “crazy”!)

ComingSoon.net: How does it feel to be coming off your second “Saw” movie with people knowing you and your work more than they did a year ago when we last spoke to you?
Darren Lynn Bousman: Overwhelming. I still don’t know how it happened. A little over two years ago, I was barely able to afford rent, get a dinner reservation anywhere, pay for gas in my car, and get someone to pay attention when I wanted to tell a story or let them read something. It’s changed. I have a voice now, which is exactly what I wanted to come to Los Angeles and have, is a voice to share what I wanted to tell to other people.

CS: “Saw II” was based on a script that you had written as something else and was molded to be a sequel, so was Leigh already working on this script while you were working on the previous movie?
Bousman: No, it’s crazy. Leigh and I talked about it last year right before the movie came out. We were like, “Dude, what do you think of ‘Saw III’? What should we do? What should we think of?” And we both had some funny ideas, then we decided not to do it. We hit gold with “Saw II” when we saw the box office numbers and we saw how well it had done. If you just won a lot of money in Blackjack in Vegas, do you want to Double Down? You do that and you end up broke. That was kind of a fear of mine. Here I am as a first-time filmmaker, I had a successful hit. Coming back to any sequel is always dangerous, so I originally turned it down, and I think so did Leigh. Greg Hoffman, the producer of the film, passed away last year in December, and Leigh, James Wan and I all got together and had lunch the day we heard. We were sitting there and we were like, “You know what? They’re going to do ‘Saw III’ with or without us, so let’s do it for Greg.” It was always his intention to have three films, and so we all got together on that day and started talking about it for the next two weeks. Three weeks after that, I was on a plane to Toronto.

CS: Since you once again only had a year to make the movie, was it easier or harder than the last time?
Bousman: Well, we had five months to shoot. It was crazy. Everyone sees the year timeframe, but from the minute that I actually got on the plane to when I had to turn the movie in, just for the timeframe, was five months and it’s so crazy to do a movie in that timeframe, to have it actually written, preproduction, production and post was crazy. But I love it, because the “Saw” films take chances, and I think part of the reason we’re able to do it is that they’re done so quickly, there’s not a lot of chances to second guess yourself. It’s like, “Is this going to work? Let’s shoot it and then we’ll worry about it later.” And it’s got a lot of guerilla-style mentality. We have a great studio like Lionsgate backing it that allows us to do it, so it’s a very creative environment where we’re not stilted and people say, “No, you can’t do that.” It’s just run and gun it and hope you got it. It’s a great environment, because it’s just fun and there’s never a dull moment.

CS: “Saw III” acts somewhat of a prequel to the first movie, and because of that, you had to reconstruct the bathroom set… again!
Bousman: Yeah, it’s funny. It jumped all over the place, it jumped pre-“Saw I,” pre-“Saw II,” post-“Saw II,” it kind of went all over the place and then obviously, for “Saw III” that was probably the hardest thing, actually recreating all of the things from the “Saw” films and doing it correctly. It would have been easy just to rebuild the bathroom and make it look okay, but perfection is what we went for and we actually built it exactly to spec. We built the HeadTrap Room exactly to spec. So it was kind of a nightmare in that respect.

CS: The movie’s set pieces and death traps were pretty elaborate, too. Was there anything you could use from “Saw II” or did you have to start from scratch?
Bousman: Everything was started from scratch. Funny story, the actual set pieces for the violent traps were the very last thing we thought of. Couple weeks before we started filming… it was an insane thing this year. Leigh and I really wanted to make a different version of “Saw” this year. I think one of our big concerns was always, coming back to do this film, we didn’t want to just make a carbon copy. I think that’s where horror films fail. They have a successful movie and they just copy it a couple of times over and make sequels. We really wanted to do a story that had massive character arcs. Basically, we wanted to make a tragedy in every sense of the word, so we constructed this very tragic story of all these characters, and then at the very end, we were like, “Oh, you know what? We have to have some traps in here.” So it was like an afterthought.

CS: They were pretty amazing, and they looked like they would take years to design and build some of them.
Bousman: Well, the Crucifix Trap did take us a while. That took us about three weeks to build. The traps were different this year in the fact that they were more emotional traps, not necessarily violent traps. They involved emotional choices, not necessarily horrific choices for Jeff, which had to make an emotional choice to help this person or not. In my mind, that’s where a lot of the terror came from in this one. That begin said, we do have some gruesome stuff in here, like the Dina Meyer or the Carrie trap.

CS: And then the vat… that’s pretty gross.
Bousman: Oh, yes, the vat. That’s good times. When you shoot that scene, you don’t know how it’s going to work, mainly because it’s the sound design that sells a lot of it. Dumping goo on a guy, it’s kind of like, “Yeah, I dunno if this is going to work.” And then you put the sounds of the blades turning and the chains going, it just goes to show important sound is to anything to really up the ante.

CS: Do I even want to know what that goo was that was getting dumped on him?
Bousman: No, you don’t want to know. It was a gelatinous, disgusting material. It was actually warm so he wouldn’t get cold in there. It smelled like egg. It was really bad.

CS: Since you’re now officially on the “Saw team,” are you able to explain this phenomenon and how these movies do so well despite their low budget and quick production?
Bousman: Well, first off, we have a great fanbase, and there’s different things you pick up on in the “Saw” films. Obviously, there’s the gore, so you got the gorehounds population, than you see the creative people who see these elegantly disgusting traps, then you cross over to another group of people who actually appreciate the story. The “Saw” films are not just gore films. They actually have a story underneath it, and a lot of times, a very complex story. “Saw III” is a much more complex film than the other two, dealing with back stories and relationships and flashbacks, and all this other kind of stuff, and I think you cross over and you get those people as well. I think that a lot of people can find something to grab onto and relate to in the “Saw” films. It’s crazy though. I mean I just got back from Japan and “Saw” is huge over in Japan, and right before that, I was in Boston doing this convention and there were tons of peopled dressed up like “Saw” characters and just going to these panels, it really is mindblowing.

CS: You’ve mentioned that you were talking about doing this third one to finish up the initial story, so do you want to move on and go back to doing some of your own things now?
Bousman: Yeah, again, I really feel that my chapter in the “Saw Universe” is concluded. I think that I’ve told the story that I want to tell. I’ve dealt with the characters I want to deal with, and I think it’s time to move on to new things, new ideas. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.

CS: That said, I read somewhere–and I’m not sure if it’s true–that Tobin Bell has already signed on for more movies.
Bousman: (laughs) He signed on for ten more movies. He signed his soul.

CS: Did the contract say, “As long as you’re alive, you’ll keep making ‘Saw’ movies”?
Bousman: No, the one thing great about the “Saw” films are they’re non-linear. They don’t just go from present into future, they jump all over the place. Characters that died in previous films come back in this one for scenes. Look, we had Leigh in this one who died in the previous film. I don’t think just because you’ve died in a “Saw” film means you’re out of the Saw family. There’s many stories left in the “Saw” thing. We set up stories in “Saw II” that played over to “Saw III.” We set up stories in “Saw III” that will play over into the next one. I mean, there’s tons of stuff. What else is interesting about the film is the layering of the “Saw” films. It’s not just a simple story of blood and guts, there are threads that we don’t answer purposefully knowing that we’ll come back to them later. We want these films to be interlocked, to be a massive puzzle in the very end you can put together and understand it all. We interlocked a lot of those pieces in “Saw III” with the telling of the back stories. And we set up new ones. There’s all these little things that we don’t answer, that have answers to them, but we’ve decided not to answer in this film.

CS: I’m sure if I asked Leigh, he’d say that he had all of that planned from the very beginning. Do you think that would be true?
Bousman: No, I think I honestly can say that with “Saw I,” there was no intention of a sequel. I think in “Saw II” we did know that it was going to go onto a third one. In “Saw I,” no, they always envisioned it just as a standalone movie.

CS: I know you’re signed to do a movie called “Wichita” for Dimension Films, but is that going to be the next movie you make?
Bousman: No, believe it or not, I might do a musical next. I’ve got a rock opera that I’m trying to be get to be the next one. It’s a horror rock opera ala “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” It’s the first thing I ever directed as a stage show, it’s called “Repo: The Genetic Opera.” These two other guys wrote it and that’s what I’m aiming for, but I have a deal with Dimension and there’s a couple projects on the plate, all horror based.

CS: As you’ve made the “Saw” movies, the budget went up a bit from the last one to this one, but are you comfortable to keep working in that budget level?
Bousman: Yeah, I like this, because again, it allows me more creative freedom. If somebody hands me an $80 million budget, obviously there’s a lot more to lose, whereas if there’s a $4 or 5 million budget, the risk is not as impactful. I like the creative freedom that I have in working in this budget range.

CS: Well, the movie really looks great considering the circumstances.
Bousman: Well, thank you very much. For shooting it for 27 days and the little amount of money we had, I’m pretty happy.

Saw III opens everywhere on Friday, October 27.