After a long stint in television, Tobin Bell finally broke into the world of theatrical cinemas in 2004, starring alongside Danny Glover and Monica Potter in the indie horror hit Saw. What followed could never have been expected as Bell has had the opportunity to reprise his role as the villainous Jigsaw in the franchise's four sequels. In the process, he has become a household name amongst the genre's most die-hard fans.
To many, Saw is the Halloween of the 21st Century. And since its debut four years ago, the franchise has continued to grow amongst horror fans, making you wonder how Bell handles the pressure to deliver year after year. But to him, the pressure, though present, is all good. "I think [the expectations] create pressure on all of [the cast and crew]," Bell says. "We feel a greater responsibility to the fans as we move forward. We have to keep the bar up, the stories rich and the film's rewarding."
Bell goes on to give credit to horror fans, saying that their dedication to the genre is what keeps the Saw films going.
"Horror fans are way more dedicated to their films than any other genre; so we want to keep the level of the Saw story high and keep them satisfied. [They] create a pressure, but it is a good pressure."
And speaking of horror fans, many reports have stated that Bell is not a fan of scary movies. But to that claim, we get a much more complicated answer.
"I'm a fan of good horror films, which is something that Saw has been able to accomplish," Bell reveals. "It is not special effects driven, it has a story. There are some concepts in the film that have capture the imagination of people. I have talked to [people] and they are getting those concepts. I think that creates richness in the films, and food for thought."
So with that, I couldn't help but ask of the five Saw films, which was his favorite, and which trap did he find most daunting and creative.
"Saw II is my favorite film of the bunch," he answers quickly. "I have a special place in my heart for it as it was the immergence of Jigsaw, after he gets up off the floor. Not to mention my work with Donny Wahlberg; which was very rewarding."
As for the trap, he stayed with the same film, citing the needle pit that played home to his apprentice Amanda. Why was it so great? "It was pretty ingenious, in a very simple sort of way."
But when speaking with Bell, you also get the feeling that he didn't really expect the small film back in 2004 to become a franchise; a statement that he admits to wholeheartedly.
"It was a little scary film. Three guys locked in a bathroom with some really interesting twists and turns. Lying on the floor in a puddle of blood was a daunting task; and I thought if they could pull it off in the end, then it would be amazing."
And for those who have been keeping up with the films, you know that Bell's character, John, doesn't make it to the newly released fifth film. However, his character is still around. Not to worry, there is an explanation.
"Saw doesn't play out in a linear way.," Bell reminds me. "It is like a puzzle. I think that you will find that there are some pieces to the puzzle that really tie things up a little bit and create clarity with this film; in addition to some amazing traps."
Bell goes on to explain that each film reveals pieces to the overall story. In Saw IV there are plenty of development as Jigsaw's relationship to Jill was revealed, as well as the child they were going to have. It is a background piece that helped fans understand this demented man, deforming his decent into Jigsaw. And now, with Saw V, more of the overall story is set to be revealed; though not everything.
"Not yet. We can't tell you everything yet," Bell laughs.
Which made me ask: Is a Saw VI already in the works, and if so, will he still be around for it?
"If I can make a contribution to telling a solid and rewarding story; I would be happy to do it. I look forward to seeing how fans react to 5 and then talking with the writers and producers about a possible direction for 6. We need to see what part of the puzzle we want to fill in. But yes, when you play a powerful and central character like [Jigsaw], you can't help but keep it going as long as the story is there."
So from the looks of it, it sounds like October 2009 will see more tormented traps as morally degraded people will once again have to fight the works of one man, all for the prize of staying alive.