I recently interviewed Cary Elwes for MSN Movies while attending New York Comic-Con 2010 earlier this month. A couple of quotes ended up in my overview, but we also were able to chat about much more during our private discussion. In part due to rabid fan demand, Elwes returns today as Dr. Lawrence Gordon in SAW 3D: The Final Chapter. While many moviegoers thought that he died at the end of the first installment — although he escaped his trap, Jigsaw followed him soon after, and a corpse that looked like the surgeon popped up at the end of SAW II — it seems like dear Dr. Gordon did not perish after all.
A man whose diverse career has extended from The Princess Bride to Twister to SAW, Cary Elwes spoke to A.D.D. about the SAW franchise, his thoughts on the recent horror resurgence and just a smidgen about the upcoming Yellow Submarine remake being directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Have you kept up with the SAW series?
The SAW series redefines the term “revisionist history” because they keep adding more to the back story and always find a way to bring new characters into the continuum.
It’s a very complex thread that the diehard fans are very clued in about. My hat’s off to the producers for being able to do that because it’s a real jigsaw, if you’ll excuse the pun. It really is.
What can you tell us about this new film without giving away any spoilers?
I can’t tell you anything because I’m contractually bound not to discuss the plot. I kind of get it because I think it’s unfair to the fans if we do a interview where we spill the beans about the plot because then it lessens their excitement level when they go and see the film.
Are you satisfied with the way that they brought Dr. Gordon back?
I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t. It’s an extremely intelligent script. I love the director, Kevin Greutert, I’ve known him for a long time. He edited most of the SAWs and is a sensitive director. In my humble opinion, I think this is the best one.
Are you cool with all of the blood and guts?
I’m not going to encourage my daughter to it anytime soon — she’s only three, so I am going have to keep that one off the records for a while — but I know there are fans that are going to be delighted at the prospect [of seeing it in 3-D].
The horror genre underwent a massive resurgence throughout the last decade, but I feel like we’ve hit the apex because there are so many horror movies out now.
I think it’s a genre that’s found its place again. If you want to talk politically about it, if you look at the history of film, whenever there’s been a scare in this country — back in the Fifties it was the Red Scare and you had a lot of aliens and giant insects; that was the Communist thread, and now we have a terrorist thread — I think audiences and studios have found a way to deal with mass fear that makes them laugh at it in a way.
Over the last decade zombies became popular again, and that echoed the political landscape metaphorically.
Vampires have gotten big in the last year or two, and it wouldn’t surprise me that, even on a subconscious level, it echoes the economic downturn and what it stands for.
That’s a good analogy. I never would’ve thought about it that way.
Werewolves never seem to get their due, however. We need a good werewolf movie.
I thought Benecio [del Toro] did a really good job [in The Wolf Man remake]. It’s unfortunate that the film didn’t get its proper due, but I thought it was fairly well made.
It just didn’t really grab me that much.
You know why? It’s a tale that you knew the ending [to]. It was a little formulaic, but he’s always wonderful to watch. My personal reason for why films have gotten more graphic is because the horrors of 9/11 were so graphic, and what you see on the news today is so graphic, that we’ve been desensitized in a way. [laughs] This film is a perfect example of how desensitized we’ve become. We’ve reached a new level of gore, but thank goodness in this case I can say that at least it’s not gratuitous. There’s a sensible plot behind it and a morality tale in every SAW movie, so it is not just violence for violence’s sake.
Is this your first Comic-Con?
My first Comic-Con. It’s amazing. I took some video and just uploaded it now. I saw a guy with a box on his head, and that was his disguise for the day.
Just a box?
Just a box. I thought, there are some New Yorkers here who are very creative about their role-playing. That guy was definitely fishing this morning through the garbage. [laughs]
“Whenever there’s been a scare in this country — back in the Fifties it was the Red Scare…now we have a terrorist thread — I think audiences and studios have found a way to deal with mass fear that makes them laugh at it in a way.”
Is there any costume that you thought was particularly impressive?
That was impressive in that he felt that that was the best he could come up with today, and he certainly caught my attention, so I guess it worked.
Are there any other ones that impressed you?
Listen, what I love is that they’re everywhere on the streets. I thought Halloween had started early, and I realized that we were approaching the Javits Center. I had no idea, I had no idea. It’s quite amazing.
Were you a comic book fan growing up?
I was a comic book fan, but I never got involved in dressing up as Boba Fett or an Ewok or anything like that. People here really take it very, very seriously. I’m impressed, I can’t lie. It’s really quite something.
What else is coming up for you?
I’m doing Yellow Submarine in April.
That’s right. You’re playing George Harrison. I love the original and was bothered by the fact that they wanted to remake it. What can you tell us about this new version?
I can’t discuss anything about it, except to tell you that it’s going to be really amazing.
Were you a fan of the original?
Obviously. I’m a fan of the Beatles period. Trust me, this is going to blow people’s minds. It’s really, really something.
Were you a George Harrison fan growing up?
A huge George Harrison fan. He was actually my favorite Beatle. I love them all, but he was definitely my favorite.
How are you going to channel him in this?
I can’t discuss it, I’m sorry. They made me sign a waiver, but I can tell you it’s really cool.
You’ve had quite a varied career, from film to television to little bit of theater. What keeps you motivated and energized after all these years?
I’m inspired by filmmakers who are incredibly creative because I feel blessed to be doing what I’m doing. When I get to work with people who feel the same way and who are incredibly energetic and have an amazing vision, that turns me on. That’s really all there is to say about that. It’s an incredible gift. I feel very blessed. I’ve had a wonderful career. Look, I’ve made some good movies, I’ve made some bad ones, and I’ve learned from both.
What do you think is your most underrated film?
I don’t want to focus on that. I look backwards, I live in the moment. Sometimes I look forward to the future, but mostly I try to just live in the present.