Cary Elwes interview: Saw 3D, Glory and The Princess Bride

Ahead of Saw 3D’s Halloween release, Duncan caught up with Cary Elwes to talk about the success of the Saw franchise and his roles in such films as Glory and The Princess Bride…

Getting to interview Cary Elwes was another chance to meet another of my long standing cinematic heroes, who, for my money, was never embraced by Hollywood as eagerly as he deserved.

Known to most of us for his part in the fantastic The Princess Bride (“As you wish”), he’s appeared in films such as Days Of Thunder, Hot Shots, Dracula, Robin Hood: Men In Tights (shame on you, film industry, for never casting him as a ‘proper’ Robin Hood), Kiss The Girls, Shadow Of The Vampire and, of course, the original Saw.

However, just last year I picked up a copy of Glory on DVD for a few pounds, which I’d wanted to see or ages, mostly on account of the great cast, which includes Elwes as well as a young Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Matthew Broderick. The film blew me away and makes for incredibly powerful viewing, so I’d urge you to see it, even if you’re not a fan of war movies. Just don’t make the mistake of watching Platoon straight after it.

The interview took place at Thorpe Park and was set inside the Saw Maze (which I’ve still yet to experience, despite feedback that it’s utterly terrifying), with Cary Elwes sat in a room containing body parts and the distinct look of a bathroom all too familiar to his character in the first Saw film, Dr. Lawrence Gordon.

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To add to the ambience, you could hear constant screaming outside from people on Saw: The Ride, which I had the chance to experience afterwards and am now slightly obsessed with. It’s one of the longest lasting roller coasters made and filled me with so much adrenalin, I can’t wait to experience it again.

But back to Mr Elwes. Sporting a moustache, jeans and an RAF-style bomber jacket, he looked every bit the British gentlemen we all know and love, yet like another of my heroes (Pierce Brosnan), his accent now dips between his original Brit tones and American.

So, in the name of all things early Elwes, I did my best to enunciate in order to coerce the more traditional side of him out…

When you first signed on for the original Saw film, it must have been impossible to predict what a global phenomenon it would become.

I had no idea. I don’t think any of the filmmakers did. We made the film on a shoestring budget, we shot it in eighteen days and for about a million dollars. And then the opening weekend it made like $100,000, I think. We were all quite stunned and, obviously, delighted and here we are, you know, seven years later.

How surreal was it to have witnessed the series growing, especially having been there from the start?

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Well, that is why I am back, really, for the fans. It is the fans that campaign. I really have to thank the fans out there. Thank you for campaigning for me to return! They wanted to know what happened to Dr Gordon and so they wrote in a lot. Thank you for all your letters. And they blogged a lot. Thank you for your blogs. And so we thought that this being the last in the series, it was appropriate to bookend the series with answers for some of the questions about what happened to Dr Gordon.

And how did your experience vary this time, from your involvement to the process of filming?

Well, now they film the whole thing in Toronto, in a studio out there and the studio has really been built for that purpose only. So, it is almost like a Saw factory. You know, the props room is just filled with all of the traps and the wardrobe room is filled with lots of pigs heads and things.

But it is the same team of people. I mean it is a wonderful team. They really do have an incredible crew there and they work long hours. They work very hard and they’re on a strict budget and a tight schedule, but they get it done.

It was a thrill for me just to go up there and experience how the franchise now has taken off and become this thing that’s bigger than all of us.

I think what’s best about the Saw films is that another generation growing up now have their own horror franchise. I grew up with A Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday 13th and now there’s a new legacy left behind.

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And we have them to thank, really, because they were the pioneers in this genre. I, personally, maybe I’m biased, but I think these films are much more interesting, because they require thought processes on behalf of the audience and they are not just gratuitously violent horror films. They really have a thread and you know they have a strong theme and a message and the characters are well drawn. I think that is the reason that fans are so attached to them. I think!

I just recently saw Glory, an incredible film and utterly devastating in its own way. I wondered how that was, looking back, to film, because it is such an uplifting, but also disheartening film.

Yeah, it is a beautiful story. History was one of my favourite subjects at school. Still is, really, so I am often drawn to historical films and scripts that are sent to me, that have historical value to them.

I knew the writer… at least I got to know him, Kevin Jarre, who is actually in the film. He is the guy that yells, “Give ‘em hell, 54” on the beach there. And when we met it was like meeting a kindred spirit. He is an avid historian and his attention to detail is phenomenal.

Maybe I am biased, but I think it is one of the best Civil War movies made because it is an incredible story, a story that they don’t teach in schools. It’s not part of the American school curriculum. And I was fortunate enough to go to a school that required me to study both British history and American history, and even with that education, I was never taught that particular aspect of the Civil War, so I thought it was important.

The film is now shown in schools as part of the curriculum, so I am very proud of that. It is a well made movie and culturally important.

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I think it’s a film that deserves more of a mention…

Thank you. I appreciate that.

I just wanted to ask your fondest memory, the first thing that comes to mind, of working on The Princess Bride, because I, like so many people, adore that film.

Aw, thank you. Fondest memory? The whole film was a treat for me. It was so much fun and I love Rob Reiner and André, of course, was… he won all of our hearts. He was such a sweet man. He went to France. He didn’t care for the British food on the set at all. So he drove to France in his truck, because that was the only thing that fit him, and he brought back the most incredible food and wine for the crew. I don’t think the producers were too keen on wine being given to the crew, but they couldn’t try to stop André from doing anything.

But he made sure that we were all incredibly well fed from then on and won the hearts of a lot of grips, who were used to chip butties all day, who had never tasted goose liver pate and fine cheeses and wine. There were a lot of people who put on quite a few pounds by the end of the film. But besides that, he was just a really warm guy and very sweet and a joy to be around and I still miss him.

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[It was difficult to tell, but as he reminisced about his old friend, he looked distinctly misty eyed, which made me all the more grateful that he’d shared so openly. A gentlemen, indeed.]

Cary Elwes, thank you very much.

Saw 3D is released at cinemas Friday October 29th.

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