SAN DIEGO — Typically, a person who catches a glimpse of a grinning Tobin Bell is about to die.
Now that the filming of "Saw III" is concluded (see " 'Saw III' Confirmed, Promises Fresh Blood By Halloween"), however, the veteran actor might just be too love-struck to bother sticking heads in a decapitating steel trap.
Recently, a smiling Bell stood alongside series co-star Shawnee Smith and "Saw III" director Darren Lynn Bousman, offering a rare peek at the shockingly heartfelt future of the grisly horror franchise. Thankfully, the man better known as the Jigsaw Killer allowed us to live long enough to talk about it.
"The producers have seen 'Saw III,' or at least a rough cut of it," Bell reported, his famously pale eyes lighting up. "They told me they think it's the best of the films so far. My sense of it, when we were making it a month or so back, was that it would be very strong and very scary, but it also has a great deal of heart to it. Jigsaw's an interesting guy — you never know what you're going to get when you visit with him."
In the latest "Saw" installment, on track for an October 27 release, Jigsaw unveils a whole new batch of surprises for a whole new group of victims — this time, alongside the female apprentice who revealed herself at the end of the last flick. "I wouldn't say I'm super-evil," Smith said, discussing the evolution of Amanda in the third film. "She's struggling, like in any good drama. And I don't know if I would describe them as apprentice and master so much as just like, each other's everything. It's a relationship."
If you're spitting a beverage across the room right now, you are forgiven. Yes, you read that right: The world-loathing homicidal maniac known as Jigsaw is getting himself a girlfriend.
"It's definitely love," Smith giggled. "And horror, and some fun."
"Now you have two diabolical killers instead of one, so you get double your money," grinned Bousman, who also wrote and directed last year's "Saw II." "Shawnee's amazing in this one. She blew me away. She is so scary and so diabolical and so emotional at the same time. You want to hate her, and you want to love her."
"I don't think it really changes his style," Bell said of Jigsaw, who has never seemed like much of a Don Juan. "You jump forward and then back in time with some of the 'Saw' films, so you get to see that Jigsaw has known Amanda for three years. Now you get to see more of their relationship than you had ever known about before."
"It's like 'Romeo and Juliet,' " Smith said of their bond. "It was this love story that developed. Not weird — well, kind of — but like this true love. It's part three of a horror franchise, [but] all this stuff is in there."
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With that in mind, Bousman recounted his favorite of the terrifying new tortures that Jigsaw and Amanda dream up. "I can't tell you exactly what happens, but someone is drowning in, let's just say, intestines," the director grinned. "This actor had to actually lie in a vat and basically be covered in intestines and drowning in them. It was really sad because he's an adult male, not a young 20-year-old guy. In some respects it was somewhat hilarious for me, and in other respects I'm going to hell for doing that scene."
Bell's favorite "Saw III" moment is a bit more tender. "There's a scene with Amanda when she comes in to talk to me about something," he said cryptically, perhaps alluding to a doomed love affair. "I have to say goodbye to her, and that was a difficult thing to do. It was, for me, an interesting scene.
"There are a number of scenes in this film where you get to look inside of Jigsaw's soul — not just here, but here," Bell continued, pointing to his head and then his heart. "You get to see what he feels about some of the things that are important to him."
Although Jigsaw's May-December romance may be short-lived, that doesn't mean that fans won't be able to continue their own love affair with the terminally ill terror maestro. "In a lot of ['Saw II'] interviews I said that there would not be a 'Saw III,' " Bousman laughed, revealing that the third installment offers no conclusive resolution that might limit the films to a trilogy. "I don't know how many times they've killed Jason, how many times Freddy Krueger has died in the movies, so I think if this is as successful as we all hope it will be, then I would say 'Saw' will continue on."
"I don't think it wraps it up very neatly," Bell agreed. "It opens up a bunch of doors, and it closes some others. It has a lot of surprises that are pretty intricate and marvelously done. I feel that there's a flower about to blossom."
With Jason's 11 movies, and Freddy close behind with eight, Bell sees no reason why he can't also live to kill another day. "What makes you think it's a trilogy?" he said. "Look at Harry Potter — if there's a richness there and a story to be told, there's no reason not to continue. If I can grow the Jigsaw Killer and reveal more about why he does what he does and what is on his mind, then that's good. I would like to do that."
For now, however, Bell is just looking forward to the "Saw III" release. Bousman promises "more traps in this movie than there have been in any of the other films," while leading lady Smith makes her own pledge concerning the horrifying prospect of a love scene between Jigsaw and his newfound love.
"No!" she laughed, wincing. "Please — we wouldn't put you through that."
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