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Saw 3D – Cary Elwes talks about his return to the popular horror franchise

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Saw 3D - Cary Elwes
Dr Gordon (Cary Elwes) © 2010 Lionsgate

For fans of the popular Saw franchise, the biggest piece of news in the newest and most likely final installment, was that actor Cary Elwes would be reprising his role as Dr Lawrence Gordon from the original film in Saw 3D. Although details of his storyline were being kept strictly under wraps, Gordon is one of several characters from the previous Saw films that will be making a return appearance.

For the British-born Elwes, whose previous credits include such diverse fare as The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The X-Files and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, meant a welcome return to the horror genre. During a recent appearance at New York Comic Con to promote Saw 3D, he shared some of his thoughts on the series…

What was it that brought you back to the franchise for this film?

Saw 3D - Teaser Art 2 poster
Teaser Art 2 poster © 2010 Lionsgate

The reason I’m here really, is because of the fans. They’re the ones who campaigned heavily to bring Dr Gordon back. They got involved in writing to the studio and e-mailing and in the blogosphere and chat rooms so I really have them to thank.

When the producers came to me and when they showed me the script, I thought it was very clever the way they brought Gordon back. Seeing as how this was the last one, I thought it would be a nice way to bookend the series and answer a lot of unanswered questions about what happened to him.

When you finished the first film, did you ever think your character could return?

I thought he was dead! I thought anyone who had sawed his leg off with a rusty hacksaw was not going to get very far, but this is filmmaking and these guys are very inventive in the way that they brought characters to life that were seemingly not going to see the light of day again.

Did you try and bring your own contribution to the films, or do you just leave that up to the writers?

I originally went and met some neurosurgeons over at UCLA just to get a sense of what it was like to play one so I was privileged enough to do the rounds with them. But James [Wan, the director] and Lee [Whannell, the writer on the original Saw] had written such a full character for me and a lot of it was on the page, so a lot of the hard work was done for me.

How does it feel that these films have now become such a huge franchise?

It’s incredible. I never expected it. I think I can speak for the original filmmaker James and Lee that none of us had any idea that it would turn into this huge thing so we’re obviously thrilled. It’s the fans. They keep coming back and they’re really involved and passionate about it so we have them to thank.

Some people were baffled that your character who’s a surgeon wouldn’t have sawed off just his heel instead of his entire foot in the first film.

[Laughing] That’s a good question. I don’t think he was thinking too hard at the time but that’s a good question for a professional surgeon. I know Shaq sawed off the wrong foot [in Scary Movie 4]! I’m not the writer; I just take direction.

Are you a big horror fan yourself?

I grew up on Hammer horror films as a kid, because I grew up in England, so those were part of my childhood and they were obviously very popular and successful. And then I naturally progressed to films like The Shining and The Exorcist and I’m now a big fan of Guillermo del Toro. I think he’s brilliant, but the director Kevin Greutert outdid himself on this film.

I saw it a couple of weeks ago and hands down, it’s without doubt the most graphically violent movie I have ever seen. At one point, I was laughing hysterically, because it was so unbelievably intense. It’s not a film I want to sit through a second time. You can’t believe this kind of thing is taking place in front of your eyes. It’s unbelievable!

What was the experience of shooting this film in 3D like?

I found it very enjoyable. It’s the first 3-D movie I’ve made and I think it was a very wise choice on the filmmakers’ part because as I said, I saw the film and it lends itself particularly well to 3D. There are lots of limbs flying at you and it’s brilliant. But the filmmaking process really wasn’t that different.

Kevin gave us some notes here and there to change a movement or very slight variations in terms of movement to help with exploiting the 3-D process, but for the most part we didn’t want to do anything gimmicky.

Do you think the Saw franchise has bought a new audience to your other work?

I don’t know how many fans of The Princess Bride will come and see Saw or vice versa, but I hope so. You’re lucky as an actor to be remembered for anything or to be a part of anything successful like those films have been so I feel very blessed and very grateful for that.

Are you looking to do any comedy again?

I’m doing Yellow Submarine. We start shooting that next year and that’s going to be a lot of fun. I like to mix it up a bit. I try not to do too much of the same thing, although this film is a return for me, but it was such an interesting script and I loved the director, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. And like I said, the fans really demanded that I come back.

Have you thought about the continuing legacy of the Saw films in terms of the genre?

I’m proud of the fact that the films are all little morality tales. I’m glad that they’re not just violent for violence’s sake. I don’t want to be part of that, so at least they have something redeeming about them.

Saw 3D opens October 29, 2010