Jigsaw doesn’t need to stalk after victims or wear a mask to be scary. He only has to talk to set up his terrifying moral traps. Even without the tape distortion, Tobin Bell commands attention with his calm, smooth voice.
“I think the whole voice thing came about as a result of in Saw I, you heard my voice throughout the film,” said Bell. “You heard all the tapes and everything and it was probably one of the reasons why they wanted me to do the film in the first place because those tapes had to be compelling in a certain way. It wasn’t just a matter of imparting the information.”
Saw III continues the story of Jigsaw. We won’t spoil any of the new mythology, which is what keeps Bell intrigued by the franchise of horror movies. “What I like about this saga is that you don’t find out everything about everybody all at once. I like that. I particularly like that I can speak about Jigsaw, there are little things that you find out about him in Saw II, about what he’s thinking about and what’s on his mind. And when 15, 16 year old kids, six of them will come up to me with their skateboards and they’ll say, ‘You’re the man, you’re the guy’ and I’ll say, ‘Well, yeah.’ And they say, ‘We love Saw, when’s the next one coming out?’ I say, ‘A couple of weeks.’ And I say, ‘So what is it about Saw that you like?’ And they say, ‘Well, geez, it’s so whoa.’ And the power of the whole thing, but then one of them will say, ‘And you know, it teaches you stuff.’ And I say, ‘Well, what do you mean by that? What is it teaching you?’ And they said, ‘Well, like when you said to the guy, “If you knew the exact moment of your own death, how would it change how you live your life?”’ The fact that 16-year-old kids are thinking about that or 15, is just great.”
While Jigsaw asks his victims to fight for their lives, in a way atoning for the sin of taking life for granted, Bell feels his character is not judgmental. When he selects you, it’s his way or the highway, but he’s actually quite selective about his morals.
“He makes judgments but he makes them in very specific windows, very small windows. There’s a lot of other stuff that happens every day that he just lets go by. He’s not more judgmental than any of us are. We all make judgments or observations about things. We’re all prejudiced in our own way perhaps. But I think he thinks very specifically and very scientifically. Somebody asked me yesterday, ‘How would he feel about college students who pretty much take a lot for granted. They don’t particularly appreciate their blessings. They’re always looking for the next excitement. Would he approve of that?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I think he would. I think he’s smart enough to recognize that people are 19 only once in their life and it’s going to take them a while to be able to learn what the values are for them.’ That’s what I mean by he’s not judgmental. I think he makes judgments and then he acts on those judgments very specifically. But much, he lets much escape from outside that thing. I think he sees things and goes, he sees and he goes, he sees and he goes, and then he’ll talk with Amanda and something will happen within that conversation and they will zero in and decide to act on a particular course because of a particular reason that’s this big. So yeah, there’s a judgment the same as there’s hard judgments to be made for all of us. Do we quit or do we go on? Do we ask for a raise? Do we not? You know what it is? We live in a world that’s not black and white. It’s a grey world. There’s a lot in between yes and no.”
Bell was a successful character actor for years. Now he is a major movie star, but totally identified with Saw. Bell is not worried about typecasting. “If you’re an impressionistic painter and you want to paint expressionism, you’ve got to change. You’ve got to figure out a way to do it and do it. If you’ve been playing jazz all your life and you want to start to play rock n’ roll, blues, then do it. I’m an actor. The fact that I’m involved in Jigsaw, I don’t approach Jigsaw any differently than I approached The Nordic in The Firm or FBI Agent Stokes in Mississippi Burning. It’s the same deal. It’s just that the effect is sometimes different. So I say, people ask me, ‘How does it feel to be a horror icon?’ I’m thrilled. It’s great. If what you’re talking about is are people only going to see me as Jigsaw, well, so be it. I can’t control any of that. All I can do is do my best work, try to create the best kind of moment to moment reality that I can do. That’s what I do. I’m an actor. And all the rest of it is like baseball. You hit the ball. Sometimes it goes in the hole. Sometimes it goes to the player.”
Saw III opens Friday.