Someday, 20 years from now, some kid is going to write his thesis on SAW and you want this to be the definitive interview.
E.C.McMullen Jr. I'm on the phone, talking to SAW creators James Wan and Leigh Wannell.
With this allegedly last SAW movie of the series, let's take a quick retrospective. A lot of myth has built up over the years on various websites about SAW and it's origins. IMDb has one story, Wikipedia has a contradictory story, and it drifts around on others. So I'd like to set the record straight.
James: You want this to be the definitive interview.
ECM: Of course! So in the beginning, you two made your short movie, SAW in 2003.
Leigh: SAW started around 2000. James and I had gone to film school in Melbourne around 95 - 97. We messed around for a few years with ideas in the late 1990s. It was about 2000 that we decided to make a film with a video camera, Blair Witch style. In 2001 James said, "I've got an idea. 2 guys stuck in a room." That was the moment for SAW.
I went off and wrote the film, Our manager liked it and suggested we take it to the states.
James: We were very militant about making it ourselves, but our manager finally convinced us to option it to a producer in Australia.
Leigh: We couldn't get the funding in Australia so we went to Los Angeles. But we didn't want to just go to LA with a screenplay. So we shot a part of it, with a mid-point and a closer, but a contained scene.
James: That short got us a lot of attention. We did a "lap around the town" as Leigh would say, and the very first meeting we had was with Evolution, which became Twisted Pictures. But they gave us what we wanted. Evolution let me be the director and Leigh be the actor.
ECM: But why Los Angeles? Why didn't you make it in Australia?
Leigh: The Australian Film Commission, where independent films get made, basically, wasn't supporting Horror movies then.
James: And not just SAW. WOLF CREEK, THE UNDEAD, and a few others.
Leigh: They wanted nothing to do with it. It was the worldwide popularity of SAW that made the Australian film commission realize they should have supported Horror films.
ECM: That kind of attitude from the land of MAD MAX and PATRICK?
James & Leigh: Yep.
ECM: And RAZORBACK?
James & Leigh: Ha! Yeah!
ECM: So originally, Lionsgate wanted to simply shove SAW to the Direct to Video shelves.
Leigh: All three of our producers really fought for it to be in theaters. There was a Lionsgate studio exec. who really wanted this to go to video. Lionsgate wasn't really in the theatrical world at that point. They looked at SAW, thought it was part of their direct to video business model.
James: It wasn't until our first test screening of the film that turned it all around for us.
ECM: According to various sources, Writer and Director Darren Lynn Bousman came in to direct SAW II before SAW was released, and after SAW was released. Which was it?
Leigh: No. Before.
ECM: So this is why there's so much confusion!
James: Does it really matter?
Leigh: Why would people care so much?
ECM: Because they care about your movies. SAW is this rare thing, a Horror movie series that doesn't treat the audience like a bunch of half-wits just because they like Horror. When Darren came in only matters because there are conflicting stories about it. If it wasn't there, it wouldn't matter, but because there is this misinformation, it stands out. It's human nature to want to know the true story.
James: Someday, 20 years from now, some kid is going to write his thesis on SAW and you want this to be the definitive interview.
ECM: I like to know that I'm not adding to the bullshit.
Leigh: I'm pretty sure that, after we had taken our short to Evolution, Darren came to them with his script, The Desperate. He had the same problem we did: People thought his story was too violent. But it was similar to ours in some ways.
ECM: SAW was a story waiting to be told, essentially.
Leigh: In a sense. We definitely owe a lot to the movie THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. We wanted Jigsaw to be intelligent like Hannibal. Not silent or wise-cracking. Then we wanted to make sure that Jigsaw would never be confused with Hannibal. Do you like that series?
ECM: I really like MANHUNTER and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.
Leigh: You don't like RED DRAGON? Ed Norton is awesome in RED DRAGON!
James: Yeah! I want to direct Ed Norton!
ECM: Ed Norton was the best in that movie, but have you seen MANHUNTER? Brian Cox, William Peterson, and Tom Noonan are awesome in that. Noonan gives a silent emotionally charged energy to Dollarhyde's demons.
Leigh: I'll have to watch that again.
ECM: So you heard about Darren.
James: When we signed on to Evolution, they didn't have a lot of money. Leigh and I agreed to take a little up-front and share in the back end profits.
ECM: That's usually a pretty big risk for creators even for a profitable movie. This town is filled with sad stories.
Leigh: We trust our manager and producers.
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