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Tobin Bell only has kind words for the murderous Jigsaw: 'There are no limits to his potential'

75-year-old actor on his return to the 'Saw' franchise, its appeal and longevity, and the endless allure of John Kramer
Tobin Bell as Jigsaw
[Image: Lionsgate]

It’s clear from talking to Tobin Bell that he has an affinity and connection to the character of John Kramer, otherwise known as Jigsaw, who he originally played in seven “Saw” films between 2004 and 2010.

It is an excitement that is once again festering inside of Bell as he returns to portray the character for an eighth time in “Jigsaw.”

“He’s a huge character. There are no limits to his potential. He’s part philosopher, part theologian, part mechanical engineer, he is a trained architect, he reads a lot, he’s interested in so many things that there are really no limits. When you have an opportunity over seven films, now eight, to develop concepts and ideas in the mind of a very mentally active and committed guy there’s nothing better. That’s what all actors look for.”

Even though the “Saw” franchise was a rousing success all the way up to its seventh installment in 2010, which grossed $136.1 million from just a $17 million budget, Bell believes that it was the right decision to take a seven-year break before the eighth film.

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“We’ve covered so much ground. It is the only franchise that did seven films in seven years. But it is a different world today to when we stopped making these films. My sense is that we are going to attract an entire new group of horror fans. Who as an entire group are very committed anyway.”

But despite the gap, Bell insists that “Jigsaw” still has “all the best aspects of the old ’Saw’ films” just with a “fresh new face.” That comes in the form of the directing team of The Spierig Brothers, the fact that ‘Jigsaw’ is a standalone film that does away with the complex timeline of its predecessors, and its brand new cast.

Bell is wary of revealing too much about his involvement in “Jigsaw,” though. But even when he is at his most cautious he can’t help but then slip in another compliment to Kramer.

“All I can say is this, without giving too much away, one of the things I love about ‘Saw’ films is that you don’t necessarily get what you see. You see things happen and it plays a game with your mind. It has been that way since the beginning. If John Kramer is anything he’s a magician, and he has been since he got up off the floor in ‘Saw 1’. I think that fans will find some pretty amazing surprises, and that’s pretty much all I can tell you.”

While the ‘Saw’ franchise has never been met with the most sterling of reviews, Bell is adamant that it helped to change the genre for the better, as the series is both “layered” and makes people “think.”

“The horror genre has been sort of the weak sister of Hollywood traditionally, through the 40s, 50s, 60s, because not enough emphasis was put on the script. It was enough to just have scares, and things of that nature. What ‘Saw’ did was introduce some concept.”

“There’s one scene that fans talk to me about all the time, and it resonates with 14-year-olds, fathers, mothers, and that has to do with appreciating life. John says it in the first film, ‘Those that don’t appreciate life. Don’t deserve life.’ In the midst of the chaos of a ‘Saw’ film when someone says something like that it resonates, and people remember it.”

Of course “Jigsaw’s” main job is to scare and terrify its audience. And in an era when the gap between television and film has never been tighter, and box office numbers are rapidly decreasing, Bell insists that “Jigsaw” is a rare modern release that needs to be seen as part of an audience and in the dark of the cinema in order to fully be experienced.

“Sitting in a theater and watching it with an audience and experiencing it all together as a group it just raises the energy. And that’s what makes it special.”

You can do just that now as “Jigsaw” is already in cinemas across the United States.