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One of the highest grossing Horror franchises of all time is back, taking the Jigsaw killer’s signature brand of twisted scenarios to the next level. We chat to directors and twin brothers Michael and Peter Spierig [Undead, 2003; Daybreakers, 2009 & Predestination, 2014] ahead of JIGSAW’s release.

Hey guys thanks for chatting to Forte! Coming into such a prestigious franchise, was it daunting at all?

Michael: Daunting? Challenging I think is more the word. We certainly felt a responsibility to honour what had been done in the past, but we also didn’t want to just repeat the past as well, because this was the eighth film in a long running successful series and we didn’t want to just do the same thing again. We just want to offer something new and a little different and exciting.

In doing that, how did you approach offering something new while creating the movie?

Peter: When we went in to pitch on it with the producers, what we wanted to do was something that was less brutal than some of the things that had been done in the past. We were such big fans of the first film and the first film, while there are some blood and guts in there, it’s mainly a mystery. As the films progressed, they got more and more violent and some of that stuff is totally cool and really exciting, but there was also some stuff that was just getting really, really gory and gross. We weren’t interested in making the most goriest and most violent film in the franchise – that wasn’t our goal. Our goal was to go into it and make the thriller aspect of it far more pronounced and far more in the foreground than the blood and guts of it all. But for fans of the blood and guts, they won’t be disappointed.

Ah yes, I’ve only seen the trailer but from what I can tell it looks pretty intense!

Michael: That’s exactly right. That was our intention, to make it intense but not necessarily ultra, ultra gory, just mildly gory.

You guys mentioned you were fans of the first film, what drew you into wanting to do this?

Peter: We read the script, and Lionsgate Films was a company we had worked with on two movies prior to this. They asked us to read a secret screenplay in a board room and said we can’t leave with the script, and chained us to the desk. We read the script, and we actually didn’t know it was a SAW film, it had a fake name. What we loved about it was that it was a total page tuner. It was super exciting and we loved the mystery and the thrills in the script.

You said it was a page turner, is it difficult to translate the twisted scenarios from paper to actual screen?

Michael: The ambition was to always try and do as much as we possibly could for real, and that been said, there’s a certain about of engineering and R&D that goes into designing this stuff. Difficult? Well it takes time to craft it and put it together and coordinate it safely and all of those things, so it is a time-consuming process. I think was interesting about this was that the writers had a script and we all injected our ideas into what the traps were – we had thoughts, the producers had thoughts, the writers had thoughts, it sort of became this melting-pot of ideas and it was fun to play it around and see how twisted we could go. Also the ambition is to try to find some new things to do as well. There’s been so many movies now made and there’s been a lot of scenarios played out so it’s also trying to be a homage to stuff that’s been done before, but also offering up something new and that’s where the real test lies.

Absolutely. So in doing all this, did you have to watch the SAW films over and over again to try ad avoid repeating scenarios?

Michael: We did watch the films several times, but we also had the original producers on this film who have been there every step of the way and know everything intimately so we had a great resource to draw from. If we were heading too close to something that had been done before, they would be like ‘woah we kind of did that in SAW V’ and we had the most knowledgeable people in the world right by our side.

Were there any moments when you guys were making the film, or even when you were reading the script that you thought were a little bit too much?

Peter: I mean yes. The musical dance number was a bit of a problem for us… I’m kidding, I’m kidding. There definitely were a few moments in the script that were extreme and it was extreme in a way that we didn’t actually feel was good for the story, it was going to be impossible to shoot and it was just ridiculously violent without it actually serving a function so we kind of dug into those things and tried to come up with a different way to do it. Like I said, our goal wasn’t to make the goriest SAW film in the franchise, so we just tried to figure out other ways to do things.

And the film touches on, well not touches on, it is very much about that area of morality and the will to survive, is that the main theme that you’re hoping people take out of it, or is it just entertainment?

Michael: Absolutely. I mean John Kramer, essentially his whole philosophy is he kind of creates this confessional environment for people to atone their sins which I think is really fascinating, and that is the main theme of this story. It’s also a detective story but absolutely we were still very true to the whole John Cramer whole philosophy.

This is sort of jumping away a little bit, but looking back at the first film you did, the Undead (2003), which was more of a low budget zombie horror comedy, do you find it easier or more difficult going into a film with a large budget and legacy?

Peter: The reality is that Michael and I’s philosophy on how we make movies hasn’t changed since Undead in that we go in as prepared as we possibly can be, we story board as much as we can, we prep as much as we can, pre-production quite often makes or breaks these types of movies. You really have to prepare them well because the time on set is so limited and so we’ve always had the same attitude which is to be prepared regardless of what the budget is. I mean when you have more money, you have more resources to solve problems but even on films like JIGSAW while the budget is significantly higher than Undead, there’s a whole bunch of other problems that’s involved with having more money and having more resources, so it all sort of works out the same. It’s all relative.

Jig 2

In regards to the cast, in Predestination, you had quite a well-known cast, and in some of your other movies too, but in JIGSAW it seems the story doesn’t seem to focus on the actors themselves. How easy was it to find the right actors for the movie?

Peter: Yes absolutely. One of our goals with JIGSAW was to find the best group of actors we could, but also to find people that were relatively unknown. They’ve certainly all done stuff and they’ve done some really good work, but they’re not as well-known as Ethan Hawke or the likes, but the fun part of that is there’s an unpredictability to that. In other words, you don’t know what the actor might be doing – are they the good guy, bad guy? You don’t know. In a movie like this where anyone could be the killer or anybody could be doing this or that, it makes it far more interesting I think.

Now looking at you both working together, were you agreeable from the start or was one of you more on board in terms of taking on this movie?

Peter: We were actually both in complete agreeance. We both had a thought on what this could be, and what we could do for the franchise. We knew that it was coming back and we felt like we could steer it in a certain direction that we as fans wanted to see it go in, so we both completely agreed on that, and the entire time filming we both had the exact same ideas for what it could be.

To round it all up, how have you found people’s response to making an eighth SAW movie, have people been apprehensive?

Peter: Well we went to Comic Con in San Diego recently and there was this overwhelming excitement about it and that was where we premiered the trailer and everyone was excited about it. It really was one of those things where I think, and we’ll see come Halloween, that people are keen to see the franchise return. I guess the box office will tell us. But the franchise could have come back five years ago, and the reason it didn’t, largely was because everyone was waiting for a really good script and a reason to bring it back to the theatres and nobody wanted to do it just because it was a moment to cash in on a franchise, it really is one of those things that we’ve all worked really hard to try and make something worth an audiences time to go back to the theatres and see it.

And how long has this been in the process for?

Peter: Well the SAW franchise sort of stopped about seven years ago, and there’s been developments on the script since two or three years after the franchise stopped, but it was just a constant evolving thing where a number of scripts were written, and they just weren’t quite there so these things tend to evolve over a long period of time and sometimes things just don’t work, and they throw them out and they try something different. So it’s probably been the best part of four years or so that this has been in development in different forms.

Thanks so much for the chat, we’re looking forward to seeing it. I better not get nightmares from this!

We hope you do! Thank you for having us.

JIGSAW creeps into cinemas November 2 (with Halloween advance screenings October 31).