Horrors! How ‘Spiral’ filmmakers got Samuel L. Jackson snared in that insidious ‘Saw’ trap
A note for “Saw” fans: There are no “Spiral” spoilers below you didn’t see in the trailer.
The “Saw” torture horror franchise has taken scores of victims with the most insidious traps since the first low-budget 2004 indie film — generally played bylesser-known actors and actresses.
And certainly not Samuel L. Jackson.
That’s why even “Saw” fans were surprised by the surreal sight of the legendary actor suspended in the air from multiple wires looking like a hapless, living marionette in the final scene of the “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” February trailer. It was all part of executive producer and star Chris Rock’s idea for a reboot (opening Friday).
Director Darren Lynn Bousman, a veteran of the “Saw” series, says the complicated scene, with the superstar actor in a harness beneath his costume, was the biggest challenge of the film.
“And we’re dealing with Samuel Jackson. I was really cognizant of that,” says Bousman. “It felt completely surreal to me because while I’ve always worked with people I enjoyed throughout the ‘Saw’ franchise, we’ve never had the caliber of actors we have in this movie.”
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Samuel L. Jackson in "Spiral" (Photo: Brooke Palmer, Lionsgate)
It took 40 minutes just to get the actor in the air. So there was limited suspension time to play out the pivotal scene of Jackson’s retired police officer Marcus Banks in peril by a trap-obsessed killer as Rock’s Det. Zeke Banks tried to save his onscreen father.
“Pardon my French, but that scene was a (expletive) nightmare,” says Bousman. “That would be a great behind-the-scenes feature, just how many crew members it took to pull that off.”
Bousman even took a moment to inquire, in downtime while the actor was in the air, why Jackson agreed to do the horror film.
“I was standing underneath him, and I said to him, ‘Sam, I’ve got to ask you, what made you decide to do a ‘Saw’ movie?’ ” Bousman recalls. “He literally said, ‘Any time that there is interesting death or violence, I’m in.’ “
“Spiral” certainly offers that, especially in the horror trap-filled finale. “I honestly think it was the last three minutes of the movie that sold him on it,” says Bousman.
The director didn’t take Jackson’s good nature for granted after he strode on set the first day and shared “Pulp Fiction” stories with the crew in down time. To prepare for the terror scenes, Bousman had his team ready to roll and walked Jackson through every shot with meticulous storyboards.
Samuel L. Jackson's retired police chief finds himself drawn back into action in "Spiral: From the Book of Saw." (Photo: Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate)
“Everything is planned with those scenes because we knew that it was a compromising position and not comfortable,” says Bousman. “So we just had to make sure that we could get in and out.”
There was about a day and a half of work with Jackson in the riggings where the actor was a true pro, but not exactly chatty.
“These riggings are really intense with tons of pressure being put all over your body to be able to suspend yourself,” says Bousman. “So there’s not a lot of talking done when you’re up there like that.”
(L-R) Samuel L. Jackson talks with director Darren Lynn Bousman and Chris Rock on the set of "Spiral." (Photo: Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate)
But Jackson, along with Rock and Max Minghella (who plays Rock’s partner Officer William Schenk), pulled off the scene early in the horror film’s production. Bousman was so pleased that he edited the footage and sent it to his stars for viewing.
“That helps boost morale on set because you realize how cool this scene looks,” he says.
Jackson did have a more typical “Pulp Fiction” moment during filming when he was able to unfurl one of his trademark swears.
“We shot him saying, ‘You want to play games. All right. I’ll play (expletive),” says Bousman. “You should have heard the cheers on set after he said that.”
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