Interview with Saw actress Betsy Russell

Duncan loves Saw movies. He seemed the ideal person to go and have a natter with Betsy Russell, then...

I’ve said before, but I’m a self confessed Saw-whore and the franchise as a whole has become a curiosity to me, from the way it started out, to how far the sequels can be pushed.

It’s interesting that fellow Geek writer, Ron Hogan, came to the same conclusion as me – that the Saw films are this generations’ equivalent of the Friday The 13ths and Nightmare On Elm Streets, which so many of us were raised on. That point, in itself, makes me cut the Saw films an incredible amount of slack, as every generation should have its own horror icon and Saw is no more guilty of exploiting the genre than any franchise that came before it.

I certainly, would rather watch any Saw sequel over the likes of A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2, or Friday The 13th Part 9. Yet, for some reason, poor Saw finds itself lambasted for all its flaws, when even Saw VI (which I watched on Monday) was entertaining enough.

Don’t get me wrong, Saw VI was a gold star movie (enjoyably bad), but at least it was fun. From the completely overboard opening my girlfriend and I were rolling around in hysterics, while kept amused in between the usual bursts of gore, by Costas Mandylor’s character/performance as Hoffman, which is truly terrible. Never before has one man looked, sounded and behaved like a serial killer at all times, regardless of his surroundings and the scene where the two other detectives become suspicious of him, has to be seen to be believed – it’s a master class in stupidity, like watching the SWAT team getting munched in The Relic – making me wonder if perhaps the future of Saw is as a work of comedy genius. Either way, it’ll be more amusing than any of the Scary Movies.

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 It’s curious from the comments on Ron’s Saw related articles, that people have suggested the word ‘reboot’ as a way to keep the films going. But Mark Burg confirmed that they’ve already got up to at least Saw 9 planned and my money would be on continuing the films as straight to DVD releases (it is the 80s way, after all).

Try to stay positive, though, Tobin Bell is always fantastic and at least the sequels have provided a reliable, if repetitive, source of gore and fun, but like it or not, Jigsaw, like Freddy and Jason, is here to stay.

Following on from my interview with the Saw franchise producer Mark Burg, I was fortunate enough to have a quick informal chat with Betsy Russell, the actress who plays Jigsaw’s long suffering (ex-)wife in several of the Saw sequels.

This interview actually took place back in March of this year, when the Saw ride was just on the verge of opening.

How did you first get involved with the franchise?

Well, Mark Burg is my fiancé. That’s a very easy way to get into it! [laughs] But I’d been retired from acting for about ten years to raise my kids and so one day Mark said “You know there’s a couple of small parts going, so do you want to do get involved?” and I said, “Well I guess if you have to pay somebody, it might as well be me!”, so I had a tiny part in 3 and then writers wrote me a huge part in 4 and I was just kind of suddenly involved! [laughs]

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You’re now a part of the Saw family as well as his actual family…

Exactly! So I guess I have Mark and Oren (Koules – also producer of all the Saw movies to date) to thank for the first one and then Patrick (Melton) and Marcus (Dunstan – writers of Saws 4-7, as well as the fantastic Feast) to thank for the next one.

It’s strange for me because I’m a big horror fan, that the Saw movies even managed  to hook people like my sister, who doesn’t sit still during films, but was gripped by the first film when it came out. I was amazed by the widespread appeal of Saw – it’s like a phenomenon really.

I know! We’re in shock ourselves because I was with Mark, our first date practically, at the Sundance film festival where they screened Saw, the first one, and we weren’t really sure as we weren’t huge horror fans then – we are now! – but thought this (film) is really cool, but we don’t know what’s  going to happen with it and then it kind of blew up. So now to be here at the theme park and the Saw ride, I mean we’re just in shock. And for me to be acting again and part of this huge franchise is really just amazing and I think people love Saw because it is a little bit different than just killing people, it has a good message, it’s more like a thriller, with gore, so makes you think and it’s just very hip and cool and edgy and shot really, really well and I think it’s just a great thing to be a part of.

I think another great thing to come out of the Saw films that I noticed, is that people like Mark Burg are helping to set up all these directors (I was full of love for Darren Lynn Bousman’s Repo! The Genetic Opera at the time), as they all get to start as part of the franchise, then push out on their own and it’s great that the franchise allows for that.

I think they’re very entrepreneurial and giving in that way. You know, David Hackl, who was the art director for all the Saws, had his first debut directing in Saw 5 and did an amazing job, and then Kevin Greutert, the editor, is now getting a chance to direct. Was Darren Boussman – had he directed before? I don’t think so [he seems to have done two shorts, but that’s it], but he did the scripts for Saw 2 and I think Saw 3, so, yeah, they’re good at giving everyone all these opportunities. It’s pretty incredible and they’ve used the same crew over and over and over, and yeah, they’re just a great group; they’re very giving and understanding and they know what they’re doing! For sure!

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We had a brief informal chat about what she had planned, in which she said she was heading home the following day (and the ride wasn’t working that day, which lead into)…

So, fingers crossed, you get a go on the ride today as you haven’t yet…

No, that’s all right! I don’t like rollercoasters and this one looks really scary anyway!

Well, thank you for taking time out to talk to us!

Thank you!