‘Saw X’ Filmmakers on Bringing Back Jigsaw & Amanda and What Could Come Next

Eric Goldman
Movies
Movies

Heading into the franchise’s 20th anniversary next year, the?Saw series?is back this week with a tenth installment, Saw X, that goes old school in a big way.

With central antagonist John Kramer/Jigsaw dead since 2006’s Saw III, the Saw films have had to work hard to keep him an onscreen presence in the years since, whether it be via flashbacks, recordings the character made, or surprise timeline reveals, such as 2017’s?Jigsaw?turning out to partially be set in the past. Saw X though takes a much more direct route by simply letting us know the entire film is set in the past from the get go, picking up shortly after 2004’s original?Saw. With just months left to live, John (Tobin Bell) learns about a miraculous new experimental procedure that can apparently cure his cancer, only to then find out he’s been taken advantage of by con artists. Con artists who are about to learn just what a mistake they have made when they find themselves in some grisly new Jigsaw traps.

Longtime Saw producers Mark Burg and Oren Koules, returning director Kevin Greutert (Saw VI, Saw 3D) and a newcomer to the series, production designer Anthony Stabley, spoke to Fandom about the film’s timeline setting and putting a bigger focus on John Kramer than ever, creating traps worthy of Jigsaw, and where the series might go in a potential Saw 11.

BELL LEADS THE WAY

Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw in Saw X

It’s impressive how much Tobin Bell has appeared in Saw films even after Jigsaw’s on screen death, but some installments only included him briefly compared to others and, even if events Jigsaw set in motion before his death were playing out in the present day, it wasn’t possible to keep him at the center of many stories, given the scenarios occurring. That changes in a notable way with Saw X, which makes Bell the true lead of the film in a way that’s never been the case before, as we see the entire story play out through his perspective.

Oren Koules said that as the series hit a remarkable tenth film – a rarity for any franchise – they relished the opportunity to put Bell center stage. “He’s such an incredible actor. And we really wanted this story to see him as an actor, as John Kramer.”

As Koules noted, with the film following John trying to reconcile that he will die soon, only to then believe he has found a cure and then discovering he’s been duped, all before he gets going with the creepy puppet and the traps, “The first, I don’t know, 25 minutes of the movie, he’s John Kramer. And so people get a little bit of a glimpse and he’s the beginning, he’s the middle, he’s the end, and we love that… This is Tobin’s story from beginning to end.”

HORROR’S DYNAMIC DUO

Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young and Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw in Saw X

Also integral to Saw X is Shawnee Smith returning as Amanda Young. While later films in the series would reveal John had been recruiting others to his cause even before her, Amanda was the first onscreen reveal of one of John’s famed secret apprentices, which was a huge moment at the end of 2005’s?Saw II,.

However, 2006’s?Saw III thought would then depict Amanda and John at odds with one another, as we discovered she now had her doubts both about his methods and his perception of her. In addition, Amanda, just like John, would ultimately die by the end of that film. Saw X therefore?stands out in the franchise because it allows us to see Amanda and John when they were much more in tandem, as she works to eagerly assist him as sort of a depraved Robin to his diabolical, torturous Batman.

Said Greutert, “I was really pleased when I first read the script to see that Amanda had been included in it and in such a big role. And yes, it was an important challenge for me to try and bridge that gap between this sort of fragile, hurt junkie [in the first Saw] and then the kind of sassy Jigsaw doubter that Amanda is in?Saw III.”

Koules gave Greutert – who edited the first five Saw films before moving into the director’s chair for the sixth and seventh – a lot of credit for encouraging them to make the film’s setting earlier in the timeline than first intended, recalling that the initial plan was to set Saw X between Saw II and Saw III, before Greutert suggested “No, this needs to be right after Saw I.” As Mark Burg explained, this was entirely “Because of the relationship between Tobin and Shawnee [as John and Amanda]… Their relationship changes and we had to set this before that.”

Added Koules, “We thought their relationship was newer and purer between Saw I and II. So this movie takes place, literally, probably three weeks after Saw I.”

TRAPS 101

Paulette Hernandez as Valentina in Saw X

Saw films are known, of course, for the elaborate traps Jigsaw puts people in and the grisly results that occur when someone fails to escape one – though honestly, it’s usually pretty gristly even when they do escape.

Burg noted that in the writing stage, placeholders are often put into these spots in the story, explaining, “We work with the writers, we come up with a script, and it’ll be ‘Trap 1, Trap 2, Trap 3.’ And then you get on location, you find things, the production designer comes up with ideas…” On top of that, he added “Production designers from previous movies will call us and go, ‘Hey, I thought of this idea for a trap.’ [Saw II, III, IV, Spiral director] Darren Bousman or somebody else will come up with an idea. And we kind of put it all together.”

As for Saw X, Burg exclaimed, “Anthony Stabley crushed it on this movie with the traps! He built them all. He had a whole trap team that did nothing but build the traps.”

Stabley described building the traps as “A lot of fun, because they’re challenging. We’re trying to match John Kramer’s mind. We want to make sure that the audience feels that they’re believable. We’re able to integrate the medical aspects, also the Aztec lore, mythology, in addition to the fact that we’re in this factory setting and then there’s this challenge to make sure everything’s working. All the gears and and having all these tests with all these different departments, including prosthetics, stunts, and mechanical effects.”

While John Kramer is a brilliant engineer, in Saw X, he’s working more quickly than he normally does thanks to what has occurred, needing to build his traps away from home, in Mexico, where he traveled for his supposed medical procedure. Noted Burg, of the Saw X traps, “They’re all simple. They can all be built from stuff you could find at Home Depot, which was important to us.”

Said Stabley, of the collaboration that occurs to build the traps and make sure they operate on screen, “It’s really like a theater production. There’s people behind the chair, behind this wall, and it’s a lot of fun, actually.”

Added Greutert, with a chuckle, “We’re trying to show a genius at work, even though we’re not geniuses. Well, I’m not, anyway!”

WHAT’S NEXT

The most recent Saw movie, Spiral, was more of a spinoff than the other sequels, focused on an entirely different group of characters with no actual connections to John Kramer or his apprentices, though one of the characters was a Jigsaw copycat. Still, beyond where that film left off, there are questions about other aspects of films in the series like Saw 3D and Jigsaw, which had Jigsaw apprentices like Dr. Lawrence Gordon and Logan Nelson still active. So would Greutert be interested in jumping back into the present to continue some of those threads in possible future installments?

Replied the director, “Yes, although I think one of the strengths of this film is that you really don’t have to know anything about Saw to appreciate it. And I think maybe we started to get a little bit convoluted after Saw III, when John Kramer dies, knowing that we needed to include his character in the story, but having to do it all through flashbacks. So I’m not particularly interested in focusing as closely on tying up the threads from the other episodes. I’m happy to do some of that, but I don’t want to alienate the new audience for the series.”

Spiral was the only film in the franchise that Bell didn’t appear in at all (outside of photos) and as the series goes into its third decade, Burg observed, “I think it would be hard to do a Saw movie without Tobin Bell. We love him, the audience loves him, and at the end of this movie, there is a couple of questions that need to be answered. So should this movie work, I think fans can expect to see Tobin Bell in the next Saw 尘辞惫颈别.”

One lingering question raised by the end of the seventh film, Saw 3D, was the identity of even more apprentices of John, or at least others who had taken on his methods, as we saw Gordon working with two other masked accomplices who are never identified. It was revealed that at one point during the development of that film, they considered making them?Ryan and Brad, two Jigsaw trap survivors from the beginning of Saw 3D, but that was never filmed and isn’t considered canon. So could we ever get a definitive answer to who those two were?

Though Burg replied “You will!” when asked this question, Koules added, “It’s interesting… If they greenlight Saw 11, I’m gonna see if there’s a way to incorporate that in… We’ve got to figure that out!”

Saw X opens Friday, September 29 in theaters.


Eric Goldman
Eric Goldman is Managing Editor for Fandom. He's a bit obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, theme parks, and horror movies... and a few other things. Too many, TBH.
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