With Saw: The Ride opening at last to the general public on Saturday 14th March in Thorpe Park, producer Mark Berg was here to promote the phenomena that are the Saw movies, so successful that they now have their very own roller coaster, as well as the recent release of Saw V on DVD and Blu-ray.
Over the years he has produced movies as diverse as Airheads and John Q, but now finds himself firmly in control of every Saw movie made. And with more of them to come, we caught up with him to find out how he’s managed to nurture his property into five (with a sixth on the way) films.
Congratulations on Saw 5!
It’s another successful one.
Yeah it worked. Did you see it?
Absolutely. I’ve been a big fan since the start.
Thank you, well you know it all originated here.
Well when Entertainment released Saw 1 it was the first country in the world to release the movie.
So we picked up on it first?
That’s strange because I interviewed Bruce Campbell just the other month and he was saying that the whole Evil Dead series started here as well.
Well, originally Saw was coming out in September, Saw 1, and then they pushed the release date to Halloween and the UK couldn’t change their date because all the cinemas were booked, so they’re like “Screw it, we’ll release it here without any help from anywhere else” and it came out here and it was a giant hit.
And now it’s fantastic that we’re here at Saw – The Ride.
I’m amazed… you don’t understand this to me is literally… it’s unimaginable what’s going through my mind because it’s one thing to be able to make Saw 4, Saw 5, Saw 6, but this takes it to a whole other level.
It’s like a massive landmark just to commemorate the movies.
That’ll hopefully be here for the next twenty years and, hopefully, as we continue to make Saw movies, I can give them more traps because as the roller coaster itself goes through traps, it’d be kind of fun to annually update the ride.
I think as well just watching Saw 5 this week, was a reminder that the biggest strength of the films is that they’re like a literal roller coaster ride. People use the term all the time when they talk about horror films, but with the Saw movies it has the same adrenalin-filled rush where I find myself reacting the same, sitting there laughing out of glee.
So do I still trick you with the endings? Do you see the endings coming or no?
No, no there’s still part of me that, particularly with Saw 5, thought well something might have to happen, but even when it’s happening you still react, particularly… well I don’t want to give away the end…
So you just watched Saw 5 recently? And as you finished the movie what was the question you asked yourself, because people always ask me the same question.
What happens next or…
For the most part they come up to me and they go, “Okay what’s in the box?”
Ah yes of course! The wife has the box…
Yeah Betsy (Russell), who’s here, who plays Jill, Tobin’s wife.
I think what I like most about the series is the continuous use of a stream of actors, particularly Tobin Bell, even though his character Jigsaw was dead at the end of part three. I love seeing him return because every time he comes back into it, he brings this certain gravitas.
Well people, the studios, everyone was saying, “Mark you can’t kill your lead!”, but we built it up to where I had to, because I think, had I kept him alive, even though people were like “Well his cancer can go into remission, he can come back” it wouldn’t have been true, to me it would’ve felt false and I think our fans that support our movies wouldn’t have bought it, you know? I had to kill him off.
I think Saw 3 was particularly strong because of his back story…
And it made him more human…
So now, as you know, I bring him back in each movie in a couple of small pivotal scenes and he actually has a great, great role in Saw 6 in the back story of why he chose Hoffman and who he’s asked to carry on his legacy and is his ex-wife complicit? Did she know what he was doing? Was she part of it? Was she not part of it?
[At this point the mosquito that’s been circling my head finally makes its move and I exclaim “I’m being attacked!”]
You’re being attacked by one mosquito, it’s like an animal!
It’s hungry for my blood, I don’t know why!
See I bought ‘em with me.
[I laugh] I think as well one of the greatest things about the Saw movies is that as a kid, I grew up with the Nightmare On Elm Streets, the Friday The 13ths…
You and me both.
And now another generation of kids have their own horror franchise for them to be invested in.
For me and my partner Oren (Koules) it’s hard to continually come up with good stories every year… we wanna keep it going, I don’t know how many more we can really do. In our mind there’s probably two, maybe three more that we have outlined. Like I know the story of where I am now, the script to Saw 6 I think is far and away the best script we’ve ever had, it really is, you read it from page one and go “Oh my god what happens next!” Literally when I give it to the actors for the first time, I make everybody come to my office to read it, because I don’t want the scripts going out, I don’t want people talking about it, I don’t want people reading the ending, because they’re always great twists.
Like Lionsgate here – I only send them the first eighty percent of the script and nobody knows the ending of the movie, and then we’ll shoot two, sometimes three different endings, just so that the cast doesn’t really know which one you’re going to pick. In my mind I know, I know exactly where we’re going, my partner Oren and myself know what we’re doing, but we’ll shoot for maybe one extra day and we’ll shoot two different endings just to confuse people, because there’s one hundred and fifty people on the crew and the cast – I don’t want people talking about the ending. So it’s not until the very end that the director, the editor and myself can all get it together.
The surprise of the traps work well too. It was strange when I was talking to my girlfriend about things that I could ask you, as she’s a big fan of the series as well, and she said that again the traps seem so fresh, nothing seems like it’s been reused.
Listen, all the traps are different in 6 – we have some scary traps. I mean we sit around my house, the writers, myself, Jason Constantine from Lionsgate and say “Alright, let’s come up with different ways to kill people.”
It’s got to be fun.
It is – it’s kind of sick. We’ll go on the internet and start looking up torture and looking up serial killers and then the production designer David Hackl, who’s done most of the movies and directed Saw 5, calls me up and says, “Well I know I’m not part of 6, but I was thinking about this trap… what do you think?” and I’m like “Guess what you’re now part of 6!”
There’s seems to have been a consistent Saw family with the cast and the crew…
All the same crew, everybody. Just because you die in Saw movie, doesn’t mean you can’t come back in a flashback, but it’s been the same production designer, costume designer, editor, producers, everybody’s the same.
If there’s a Dina Meyer flashback that’d make me happy.
Oh really! [laughs]
I’m a big fan of hers and it was nice to see her in a big, successful franchise, but then of course she duly died… [the last question is signalled]
We did a good job killing her, didn’t we?
The one where we opened that trap… [he gestures the ribs being torn apart] oh dear! [laughs]
For the last question, I wanted to squeeze in something just quickly – I was fortunate enough to see Repo! The Genetic Opera.
Isn’t it great?
It’s fantastic. It blew me away.
It’s fresh, original, different and I’m glad people here are supporting the movie.
There’s a whole lot I could ask you about it…
Did you get a chance to talk to Darren [Lynn Bousman] when he was here?
Actually, one of our writers’ did when he was over last year. If I can just ask regarding Repo! – Although you already had the successful Saw movies, it was a very bold move in Hollywood to make something so original.
I’m a very loyal person and Darren was loyal to me, directed three Saw movies, kept our franchise going and when he came to me with Repo! it probably would not have been a movie I would have made, but he was so passionate about it that Lionsgate and myself backed his passion and I went to Lionsgate and said “Guess what? We’re doing the movie.” So I’m glad we did because it’ll be around forever and hopefully it’ll be a cult movie that will play for years and years and people will find it. It’s one of those movies that people will find eventually; they may not find it in the cinemas on opening weekend but eventually they’ll find it, they’ll talk about it, they’ll show it to their friends and it will live on.
I hope so.
Thanks to Mark Burg for taking the time to speak to us.
Both Saw V and Repo! The Genetic Opera are available to buy now on DVD and Blu-Ray. Saw – The Ride, will be opening at Thorpe Park on Saturday14th and looks utterly terrifying!
A short interview with actress Betsy Russell (Jigsaw’s on screen wife, Jill) to follow shortly…