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October 2005
Saw II: An Interview with Donnie Wahlberg

Saw II: An Interview with Donnie Wahlberg

By Wilson Morales

When "Saw" came out last year, it was viewed as independent film that captured the attention of many. There hasn't been that many films that plays out like a puzzle and "Saw" kept you, as gruesome as it was played out, focus. The success of that film ultimately drove the producers to come up with a sequel and now it comes, "Saw II". In this film, Donnie Wahlberg plays Detective Eric Mason, who's been targeted by Jigsaw to come and play a game with him. At the same time, Jigsaw locks a few unlucky people in a booby-trapped shelter; where they must find a way out before they inhale too much of a lethal nerve gas and die. But they must watch out, for the traps Jigsaw has set in the shelter lead to death also. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Wahlberg goes over his character and why he chose to do the horror film.

Let's talk about your character, Detective Eric Mason. What did you expect would happen when you took on the role?

Donnie Wahlberg: What did I expect? Well, I've learned not to expect anything other than focus what I can control, so expectations are always out the window; because if you expect a little, sometimes you'll get surprise and you expect a lot, you usually get disappointed. But in terms of the project itself, I had concerns and hopes. The hope would be that we could do a slightly higher quality job that could come close or be better than the original; and when I say more quality, they had no money to make that first film. Obviously, they would have more resources this time, so I would hope that would translate into better quality, but the success and what they were able to do with that first movie, we would have to work really hard to match that in terms of what's on screen, not box office. It's about surprising the audience and making the audience go through all the different changes that they went through in the first one and have them cringe and all the other stuff. On top of that, it's a sequel and there's a real danger in doing a sequel. There are some benefits, but that all hinges on how well you execute. Quite frankly, most sequels don't execute well. I made it a priority to make sure that every time I was on set, we were trying to execute as good as possible. I think that was one of the reasons they wanted me to do the movie. Being that it was a first time director, they (the producers) know what I bring to the table. I work hard in everything I do and I'm not a selfish actor and I'm not worried about me looking better than anyone else. I think that was really it. I wanted to make it the best it can be.

I understand you added some changes to the character from the original script?

DW: Not changes to the character; it was more changes to the dialogue. The whole Jigsaw/ Eric relationship was dicey to me. There was a fundamental difference between our film and the first film in that you have two people have a dialogue in both films, while there's all this danger going on and all this craziness, but in the first film, the two guys were chained in a room and they had no choice but to be there. In our film, no one is chained in the room with the two guys who are sitting there. My character has a choice whether or not he wants to be there. In some ways, you can say that he doesn't have a choice. Ultimately, the choice is he makes is that, "I don't have a choice, I have to sit here." When you cut from eight people in the house and getting tortured and dying and one of them has a relationship with my character, to me, it had to be more plausible that my character had to sit there and ultimately whether or not he's able to stay there. That's really what the game is, isn't it? To me, when I first read the script, it wasn't the strong part of the script. I didn't the audience to sit there and watch the movie and say, "This is stupid!" There's even a scene where Jigsaw is rambling on about metaphysics and my character just says, This is bullshit. What are you talking about? You want me to sit and talk to you. You want me to do what you want me to do, but you're not saying anything. Say something to me." That little scene was the whole issue with the script for me. I was reading it and saying that this guy would not sit there. I wanted the script to be stronger. I wanted the whole dynamic between Jigsaw and Eric to be more plausible so that I can actually sit there and play it. If it wasn't believable for me then it certainly wouldn't be believable for the audience.

How was it working with Tobin Bell?

DW: Great. I don't want to toot my own horn, but it's rare that I come across actors who are willing to work as hard on the material as I am and he was all the way, ready to go. Once it was time for the two of us to work together, we were just relentless. I would finish shooting and go to the hotel and re-write the scenes and work it and try it different ways and try different ideas and different lines; and we made sure we always brought it back to what's important. He would throw me a curveball and try to irritate me. He was just so willing to work and I really admired that in him. Ultimately in the end, it's the director's choice. It's the director's and the producers' and the studio's choice of what they are going to use, but we gave them so many different things and that's really a tribute to Tobin's willingness to work it. He had the same concern as me. It's a lot easier when the person you are sitting across from wants to make it the best it can be as well.

Why do you think your character was reluctant to get involve in the case?

DW: I think he's a selfish person. He's the type of person who's incapable of concerning himself with other people's feelings including his son's. In his mind, he probably has bigger issues. As we discover, he's not the most ethical person in the world. It all makes sense if you think about the first movie and what Jigsaw's mode is; what his MO is. This is a guy who doesn't really care anymore and he's kinda mailing it in. It's no mistake that he's brought into this case. It's by design and I think Jigsaw probably knew that this guy wouldn't want to get involved in the case and that's why he singled him out. When his name is on the ceiling, he's basically saying, "You are going to be my next subject." If my character was a little less selfish and a little less self-absorbed wasn't in a world of self-loathing, he might have been smart enough to realize that he was being pulled into something. That's sort of like life. We are at time so worried about ourselves we miss other stuff; and if you get carried away with that like my character does, it could really get you. In most cases and in real life, we figure it out before it's too late.

Was that the appeal of a playing a screwed up character?

DW: I never really thought about that. I didn't think about whether the audience would care this guy or not. My character didn't care about himself. I hope that audience would get that he cares about his son, but that doesn't mean I expected the audience to have sympathy for him. If they believe that he knows he made a mistake, that's good enough. I didn't the audiences to say, "What an asshole!" I don't know if women in the audience care about Cary Elwes from the first Saw film. I think they still thought he was a bastard even if he didn't sleep with that woman. His mistake put him in that predicament and in real, if you mess around on your wife, you're probably not to going to end up chained up in the bathroom somewhere with a saw, but you can still make a mess out of things. What I kept zeroing in on with my character and his son is when I talk to my son, I tell him I love him every time I hang up the phone. I say, I love you" when I drop him off at school only because I want to make sure that the last things I say to him is something wonderful. That's one of the things we added to the script. That was one of the best moments for my character, to see what was the last thing he said to his son. When Jigsaw asks him that, that was something I had to have in that scene. If you are a parent, you will say probably say to yourself, "That's not good." That's the thing that you have to live with.

With your role in "The Sixth Sense" and this film, what do you think about being in a film that's like a puzzle?

DW: I don't know. It doesn't matter to me if it has a surprise ending or not. I usually go for the material or the project. In this case, I didn't really think about doing a horror movie. It wasn't something I was really interested in, but when this film came my way, there were a few reasons I gave it more consideration than I would any other horror film. One of the aspects that convinced me was the ending. That was a compelling thing for me. When I read it, I was like, "Yes, this is good for me." These are the right filmmakers to do this genre with. If you think about the number of horror films to come out since "Scream", what's been really great? Do we really need to remake "The Exorcist"? or remake all these 70s horror movies? "Saw" came from two guys, and they could have made that from their garage. The core audience of that film, the young folks who went to see it, are inspired by that film. For young filmmakers, "Saw" is a perfect film. To me, it's how a movie should be made. It doesn't cost the GNP of almost every country of the world. It's a million bucks, surprised the audience, broke the rules and redefine the genre and it really raised the bar. With the internet, the kids today learn things quicker than we do and they have everything there is to see, so you have to do more than just remake some old 70s film. They saw the original. When they say that the box office is down, it's because they rather be home on the internet. This film and the original film are going to pull them back in.


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