Spiral Director Explains How Jigsaw Almost Returned

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The Saw franchise has officially become a billion-dollar property after Darren Lynn Bousman’s Spiral repeated at the top of the domestic box office last weekend. The filmmaker is no stranger to the series having directed the second, third and fourth outings, and while reviews haven’t been unanimously positive, a tenth installment in the main saga and a TV series are both in active development to ensure the brand keeps churning out new content.

Bousman didn’t want to invite too many comparisons to Saw or Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw when it came to putting Chris Rock hot on the tail of a copycat killer, to the extent that he publicly tried to dissuade people from referring to Spiral as ‘torture porn,’ despite the fact that the very first scene of the movie ticks most of those boxes given its gruesome and grisly nature.

The filmmaker also explained why he didn’t include Billy the Puppet, either, and it’s all to do with trying to let Spiral stand on its own two feet and exist within the Saw mythology while still operating independently of it. That being said, Bousman did reveal in a new interview that he’d toyed with the idea of having Bell make a cameo appearance right up until the final day of shooting.

“We were talking about putting Tobin in up until the last day of filming. There was a constant struggle with us and I think we all went back and forth on it. It was a hard thing because the minute you put Tobin Bell in the movie, it becomes Saw 9. If you think about Jigsaw or some of these other films, he had like two minutes of screen time and that was it.

I killed him in Saw III, I killed him 16 years ago, so to keep finding clever ways to bring him back in, I didn’t want to do a disservice to this film. No one can compete with Tobin Bell, you can’t, he is Jigsaw and there’s no way to live up to what he brings onscreen, so I didn’t want to f*ck with it, I didn’t want to do it. It was, I felt, a disservice to this film and previous films to try to do that.”

I did have a really cool idea that I was really bummed didn’t go through and it was a way to put the feeling of Tobin Bell in the film. Tobin Bell is a singer and he’s got a great voice. I found a song of his that he recorded, which was a Johnny Cash cover, and it was this amazing, very haunting song. I had an idea that, the end of the movie, the finale and the big gunfight, was all overdubbed to that song. So basically all the sound goes away and it becomes Tobin’s voice in it. But, again, it felt gimmicky when we tried it. It sounded awesome, I loved it, but it was too wink-wink, nudge-nudge to the audience, so we ended up losing it. It was a struggle.”

It was probably the right decision in the end, when the film already had to strike the difficult balance between delivering a fresh spin on a formula that ran out of steam a long time ago, while also trying to reinvigorate a franchise without using its two most recognizable icons. Spiral is a success by any measurable metrics, though, and the Saw universe looks to be entering a brave new era.