Bell was born in New York on 07 August 1942 and was raised
in Weymouth, Massachusetts. He
often plays villains and serial killers; he was cast as Unabomber
Theodore John Kaczynski in the made-for-TV movie Unabomber:
The True Story,
and most recently has played the role of the nefarious "Jigsaw,"
a serial killer who wants others to appreciate the value of
life via twisted games in the 2004 film Saw
and its sequels, Saw
II, III and IV.
He received a 2006 MTV Movie Award nomination for "Best
Villain" and a nomination for "Best Butcher"
in the Fuse/Fangoria Chainsaw Awards. Bell has guest starred
in popular series such as Seinfeld,
Online caught up with Bell as his latest movie, Saw
was due to be released in UK cinemas...
Online: The level of secrecy
on the Saw follow-ups has been amazing. I knew the
press didn't get to see it but I understand that the cast
don't even know how it ends yet?
Bell: That's a continuing theme with the Saw people.
They've told me: "Don't tell them anything!"
Is there anything you can tell us without giving too much
You get to know a little more about John Kramer and what his
background is, where he comes from. That's a pretty interesting
aspect of the story. And I think some of the traps and tricks
are amazing. And I think that the ending will live up to expectations.
One of the hallmarks of the Saw movies has been the
unexpected twists and I think Saw IV has one that will
make your jaw drop.
There's been a constant backlash against violent films, the
'gore-nography' as they're calling it.
Gore-nography? I haven't heard that one.
No? Well, what does it feel like to be an arch gore-nographer?!
Well, I think it's
good. How could it not be good? It's
a new word and I'm one of the first. Let's just say then that
The reaction against the Saw movies is strange. They
are violent but there's a deep, dark moral purpose to it.
Yes. That's part of the reason, I think, why they're so successful.
There's a balance between a certain delicate intelligence
that functions as a counterpoint to the intense murder and
mayhem that's going on.
the great thing. It's like good music. It's lovely to have
a certain theme, that's powerful but if you can offset that
with something pastoral, like the great symphonies. So rather
than have something that has only one dimension, the Saw
movies have some intricacy to the texture.
They're certainly smarter than many give them credit for.
When you say "they're" a lot smarter, I take the
"they're" to mean the people. Darren Bousman who
directed Saw II, III and IV, James Wan
and Lee Whanell, who created the whole idea, and then I have
to talk about the costume designer, the director of photography,
the editor who have all been with us since the first film.
They are certainly a lot smarter than they've been given credit
It's a collaborative thing, which is unusual for a film. Most
of the film - and television - that I've experienced is hierarchical,
it operates from the top down and you do what's on the page.
That's not how the Saw films are put together. They're
put together with someone like Darren looking to his department
heads and actors for their thoughts and then it's up to him,
as the captain of the ship, to say: "Hmm, interesting,
I hadn't thought of that".
a great creative environment and I think the films have benefited
from that. It's very unusual. For film and television, time
is money, but sometimes it takes time to work these things
out. I'll give you an example. Ten days before we started
shooting Saw II, Donnie Wahlberg and I started working
on the dialogue with Darren. It took us ten days to get it
where we wanted it for those six scenes we had together. We
whittled it, we honed it. Donnie would call up me up at midnight
and say: "I thought we had it but we don't. I just realised
this doesn't make sense". So we'd talk some more, or
find ourselves down in the bar with Darren again.
I have to know what I'm going to say: if there's one thing
that John Kramer doesn't do, he doesn't hem and haw. He knows
what he's going to say, he's right on it.
a constantly evolving process that's served us and continues
to serve us.
Did you have any idea on the set of Saw that it would
become an annual event?
No. Not at all. We had no idea. I did it because I thought
it was dramatic and theatrical. I liked the surprise, I did
not anticipate the last moment at all. I thought if they shot
that well, it would just be a remarkable moment. And they
did and it was.
it gave me a chance to work with Danny Glover who I've always
admired. That's why I did it. I wasn't thinking that it was
something that might turn into a sequel.
John / Jigsaw must be a fun part to play.
It is a fun part to play. He's grand. He's extremely committed
to what he does, he's multifaceted, he's a reader and a scientist
and an engineer. He's interested in the world and in politics.
It's as good a part as you might want to play.
You've appeared in Seinfeld, Alias, The X-Files,
Murder One, Charmed, ER, 24, NYPD
Blue, The West Wing, Stargate... You only
need a voice part on The Simpsons and you'll have every
great show of the last 20 years covered.
I have done a lot of TV. But I've also done scenes with Clint
Eastwood and Tom Cruise. I've done four films with Gene Hackman.
I've worked with Holly Hunter. I've been blessed. Alan Parker
hired me to do Mississippi Burning, and that kind of
got me started. Sydney Pollack picked me out of the void to
appear in The Firm. It's been great. Oh, and I had
a gunfight with Sharon Stone in The Quick and The Dead...
any one of those films I could have retired and felt that
I had worked with sterling people. You can't ask for more
than that as an actor, you really can't. One per cent of Screen
Actors Guild actors make a living. To have had an opportunity
to do a scene with Gene Hackman
? It doesn't get any
better than that.
a good day at the office. And if the scene goes well, it's
an even better day at the office. You get home, sit down and
Mississippi Burning, my first scene was in a cobbler's
shop. I walked in with Gene Hackman and had two or three lines
- and good lines. But it doesn't matter how many lines you
have, the lines relate to the story. It's not about the words,
it's about how it plays out, how it fits, how it contributes
to the story. That's what's rewarding. And I was crammed into
this little cobbler's shop, with Alan Parker, Gene Hackman
and Pruitt Taylor Vince played the cobbler... Essentially,
it's those little moments that you remember. Not the big stuff,
not the commercial stuff.
I remember sitting around outside just talking with Frances
McDormand who wasn't a big name then. Actors are like everyone
else, we just do our job. It's just that our job sometimes
sees up on this 60ft screen. It might seem like it's very
glamorous but it's not really.
Mississippi Burning, the first thing I had to do was
run through all this mud, this quagmire. And it was so cold,
and four in the morning, we'd been waiting all night for this
and we got drenched. I remember standing on the edge of that
puddle thinking: "Oh god..." And I said to myself:
"My friend, you've been waiting 17 years for this, don't
shrink from it now
After playing Jigsaw / John, do you find the public looks
at you differently now?
One of the funny things is that people come up and say: "Hey,
you're... you're..." and I think they're going to say:
"The Saw guy" and they'll say: "You
were Bleecker Bob in Seinfeld".
was on a field trip with my son, a science field trip, and
we were in a cafeteria and these 14-year old girls were walking
towards us and my son said: "Oh, here we go..."
and they got to the table and said: "Hey, you're the
guy from Charmed". I'd been in one episode as
this blind guy with long hair but they were huge Charmed
now though, we're in the 'Saw Zone', so my visibility
is quite high and that's a nice thing. I still have some privacy
but I can also get a decent table!
Thank you for your time.
thanks to Chloe Larcombe at Greenroom Digital
IV is released in UK cinemas through Lionsgate
Films from 26 October 2007.