Shawnee Smith and Emmanuelle Vaugier on 'SAW II' Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
October 25, 2005
In the 2004 surprise horror hit Saw, Shawnee Smith had a brief but memorable role: she played Amanda, a junkie whose head was fitted with a sadistic contraption that threatened to rip her jaw off. Much to her surprise, her harrowing, fleeting minutes became the film's signature scene. Now she's back for another round of twisted mindgames in Saw II, armed with a far more substantial part. The sequel is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who collaborated on the screenplay with original Saw scribe Leigh Whannell. Tobin Bell returns as the notorious Jigsaw, while Donnie Wahlberg, Beverley Mitchell, Franky G, Glenn Plummer, and Emmanuelle Vaugier join the cast as unfortunate pawns in the madman's bloody game of life and death. Saw co-creator James Wan serves as an executive producer.
In this interview, Shawnee and Emmanuelle talk about the making of Saw II and some of the wacky moments behind the scenes.
MEDIA: Emmanuelle, how would you describe your Saw II character?
EMMANUELLE: We don't get into this much in the movie, but she's supposed to be a prostitute, or a whore, or whatever you want to call it. [laughs]
SHAWNEE: A whore, a hooker, a lady of the night...
EMMANUELLE: [laughs] Like Shawnee said in the last interview, "It's all in the clothing. It's all in the wardrobe." That's where we get into it. But she's tough, and she's strong, and she's not your typical "little, screaming, running away from the scary monster" type character. And she tries. She puts up a fight, and she's strong.
Shawnee, are you surprised at the twists and turns this sequel takes?
SHAWNEE: Yeah. Well, they were constantly re-writing the movie while we were shooting. And any re-writes we got, we had to turn in our old pages or we would be disposed of by a shooting squad. [laughs] It was high secrecy.
What were some of the biggest changes?
SHAWNEE: Well, the ending was an evolution. That kind of solidified at the very end. And I had my own ideas, that I discussed with the director, of where Amanda was coming from, and her motivation. But I've been saying that it really blew me away, the amount of effort that went into this horror sequel. I mean, you're riding on the success of the first one, right? It would be so easy to be lazy. It would be so easy to get full of yourself and hire a big director and try and make it big. And they really stuck to their formula, and every department worked so hard. And I think it's a real tip of the hat to the fans...or, nod of the hat? [laughs] Ummm...sorry. [referring to being pregnant] I can't think of anything but that my pants are halfway down my butt right now, which happens at this point. But anyways...I think it's a real show of respect to the fanbase, because one thing you'd hear over and over again in the offices or in the prop department or in wardrobe is that you can't leave the tiniest hole, because these fans will find it. And we have to serve them with the sequel. And I think it really reflects that. And I really hope that the fans feel appreciated by it, and that they get what they deserve and what they're looking for.
Emmanuelle, your character gets her arms stuck in a slicing contraption that won't let go. What was that device made of?
EMMANUELLE: Plexiglass, and the actual blades were...I'm not sure what. It was like a plastic, I think. The edges were dulled. But still, when I put my hands in there, it would lock. And the reset with all the blood and stuff took forever. So there was a lot of times where I'd just be standing there. [laughs] I'd be like, "Hey, the blood's draining from my arms! Can't feel my arms, guys! Guys? Anybody?"
Do you have a fear of blades?
EMMANUELLE: Not really...I mean, yeah, the idea of like slicing. Even like shaving your legs and you get a little nick...I'm like, "Aigh! God!" Laser hair removal all the way! [laughs] I'm not a big "sharp object" fan.
SHAWNEE: Is anyone a big fan of blades?
That scene is rather "not nice"...
EMMANUELLE: It's pretty nasty.
SHAWNEE: That, by the way, is my favorite moment visually, in the movie--that scene with the blood in front of your face. That's my favorite moment.
So Emmanuelle, did you ever have any problems with those Chinese finger trap things as a kid?
EMMANUELLE: [laughs] No, no...
SHAWNEE: [laughs] I heard that was the inspiration for the trap.
EMMANUELLE: I think that's where it sort of started. And then they...
And Shawnee, what about the pit of needles that your character gets thrown into? How was that set up?
SHAWNEE: That was an incredibly industrious undertaking. I think there was like 100,000 needles. And there were poor, abused people in a room snapping off the real needle and then inserting the [prop needle].
But getting thrown into this pile of needles, fake or not, you could still get hurt, yes?
SHAWNEE: You know, you could have. Actually, I had a few bruises. But it was more the syringe part of it. But at the last minute, they put this goopy, slick stuff in it. Looked kind of like crystals. Visually, it worked, but also, it made it so that when I moved, they would move with me. I was hiding a three-month fetus in my belly at the time. [laughs] So I wouldn't have done anything that wasn't safe. But it was horrifying enough, right?
It's ferociously freaky. What is your own feeling about needles?
SHAWNEE: I'm not [into needles]. I remember when I was a kid, I literally ran out of the doctor's office. It took them an hour to find me. I was like two floors down, under the desk of some doctor's office. And he walked in and he's looking at this kid under his desk, and I'm going, "Ssshhh!"
What do you think about having the most nerve-wracking scenes (Saw's signature jawtrap and Saw II's needle pit) in both movies?
SHAWNEE: You know, it's kind of like a torment, but at the same time, it's an easy ride, because it's so horrifying that I didn't really have to do anything but just get in the trap for the scene to fly. I mean, if I thought about driving to work that day for the jawtrap or driving to work that day for the needle pit...[it] was very daunting. I'm like, "How the hell am I going to pull this off?" Right? And pull it off, and not cheese it, you know? But once you're in it, it's so horrifying and disturbing and upsetting that it's kind of easy. You know, it's a bit of a luxury. If you're in the horror movie, you may as well be horrified.
EMMANUELLE: And everything about the movie...The set design and all the traps and the contraptions...Everything was so well done that it was really easy, like you said.
SHAWNEE: The people worked so hard in every department and paid attention to every detail. And then when Tobin came to town, the prop department went like beyond the beyond. He had a list. He was so specific in his choices about this monster. He had a list of things no one will ever see that he wanted.
What was something on the list, for example?
SHAWNEE: [trying to recall] God, what was...Uhhh...Oh, crap.
EMMANUELLE: I didn't know about the list. I'm hearing about the list for the first time today. [laughs]
SHAWNEE: It was really obscure, like, "I want a miniature garden gnome in the back right corner of my room, on the floor, in a crevice."
With Halloween coming up, we have to ask: What are some of your favorite horror movies of all time?
EMMANUELLE: I'd say The Exorcist. But I won't be able to sleep if I watch that again, so I don't think I'll be watching that. [laughs]
SHAWNEE: I do not like being frightened. I, by accident, walked into a movie when I was like six. I was at a friend's house, and there were chopped off heads flying around. [laughs] There was only one nice dream I had with the heads--they gave me a birthday party. The rest were really upsetting.
EMMANUELLE: The heads gave you a birthday party?
SHAWNEE: Yeah. I was like somehow coming to terms with it in my psyche. They gave me a birthday party. But yeah, I get scared. I mean, I get freaked out. I don't prefer to be in that state. [laughs]
EMMANUELLE: I used to think I could handle it, and my mom would get so angry with me because I'd go over to a friend's house, and we'd watch like Pet Semetary, which, now, looking back, is not so scary. But at the time, it was just horrifying! And I'd come home and my grandmother would have to come and sleep in my room with me. And my mother would just shake her head. "Why would you go and do that? Why would you go watch that movie?" [laughs]
SHAWNEE: We're deranged animals, human beings. I mean, we want to put ourselves through that for those thirty seconds, or however long you look at the horror.
Shawnee, if you were to do a third Saw film, in what direction would you like to see it go?
SHAWNEE: You know, I think that it would have to go in a totally different...I don't think it can go any further in the direction that it's gone. And whether I'm a part of the next one or not, I look forward to where Leigh and James and the team take it, because I can bet you anything that it will be a total departure and just as filled out. I mean, honestly, I have no idea. I'm not attached or connected in any way to the future of this--hopefully potential--franchise. But nobody slacked on part two. I don't see slacking on part three.
Having been in both Saw films, what did you think about being the veteran on set the second time around?
SHAWNEE: Well, it was kind of a joke because I was on the first movie for a half a day. [laughs] It was kind of nice to come back and be a bigger part of [the movie]. I mean, nobody knew when I did that half a day that that scene would become the poster, or would become such a memorable part of the first movie. So after the fact, I really got to know everybody, and involved.
Did anything funny happen on set that ran contrary to the story's intense atmosphere?
SHAWNEE: Oh, it was a loose set. [laughs]
EMMANUELLE: There was that one incident with the stunt coordinator and Gregg Hoffman, one of our producers. [laughs]
SHAWNEE: Oh, you have to tell that story.
EMMANUELLE: Franky was supposed to kick Glenn Plummer in the nuts, or vice versa. It was something like that. And the female stunt coordinator was like, "It's going to be fine. You just have to use your foot like you're kicking 'behind.'" So they're like, "Let's demonstrate." And so Gregg's like, "All right, cool." So Gregg stands there, and the stunt coordinator goes to kick him. [laughs] And I guess she just sort of "pinched" him. And you just see his face [freeze up]. And everybody's like, "Are you okay?" And he's like, [high pitched voice] "Mmm-hmm." And there was silence, and everybody just burst out laughing after that. It was a high moment!
Is that fair to have a female coordinator coordinate that stunt? Not to be sexist or anything...
EMMANUELLE: [laughs] Yeah, really!
SHAWNEE: It was the only way that stunt was going to get done.
Ouch. Any other light-hearted, oh-so-happy moments?
SHAWNEE: It was cute when my six-year-old daughter showed up on set and started ordering everyone around.
EMMANUELLE: Oh really? I wasn't there for that.
SHAWNEE: Poor Donnie. It was kind of like two different shoots. We did all the house stuff, and then Donnie and Tobin and everyone came up for the other set, basically. And Donnie has some very intense, emotional stuff in this movie, which I have to say, he did very well. And so he's getting into it, and [my daughter is] sitting next to Darren. It's his first movie and he's got this little six-year-old. He put the headphones on her. He's all, "You say action." "Action!" And you see Donnie like [looking around].