"Piecemeal the body dies, and the timid soul
has her footing washed away, as the dark flood rises."
That's an excerpt from a poem that Tobin Bell referred me to as we discussed his long-running stint as the serial killer-cum-moralist "Jigsaw" in all five Saw films. I admitted to him that I'd only recently seen the original Saw for the first time, and that I was surprised to feel that it didn't seem to fit the "torture porn" bill that people have hung on the franchise. But most surprising was Bell himself, who shared his thoughts on acting and the significance of the Saw movies with an alacrity and wit that I found very refreshing. Here's the product of that conversation, and here are a few more thoughts from the reigning grandmaster of fear.
On his character's pivotal role in the Saw films:
"It’s always fun to be central. But I learned from the first film of any real consequence that I did, Alan Parker's Mississippi Burning: I didn't come into that film until halfway through, and I did not have a big part in it, but on a certain level, the point where I arrived in the story was really very powerful. It really helped jump-start people's recognition of me in film."
On Saw being lumped in with "torture porn:"
"I don’t want to bash anyone else’s movie, but I think I know what you’re talking about. The kind of films you’re talking about, I don’t think they have the intelligence or the storytelling that our films strive for."
On relating to a character who faces his own mortality:
"D.H. Lawrence wrote a poem called Ship of Death. It’s a favorite of mine, it makes you think and gives you pause and makes you think about where we are all headed – and we are all headed there."