SHAWNEE SMITH on 'SAW 3' Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
October 21, 2006
In Saw 3, the insidious Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and his parter in crime Amanda (Shawnee Smith) return for a third and decisive round of twisted, gruesome games. Debilitated and bedridden by his terminal disease, the meticulous sociopath kidnaps a young doctor (Bahar Soomekh) to care for him, while Amanda monitors an unsuspecting man (Angus Macfadyen) as he navigates through a series of horrific tests designed to exploit his innermost desires of vengeance. But as Jigsaw's magnum opus reaches its crescendo, it becomes clear that he has masterminded a plot that is more intricate than his victims could have guessed.
A minor player in the first Saw and part of an ensemble in Saw 2, Shawnee moves into the role of a central figure in the third installment of the franchise--and without a doubt, she is the highlight of the film. Amanda graduates into a fully realized character, and Shawnee plays her with a perfect blend of insanity, fear, and rage, resulting in a screen villain with formidable presence--a woman scorned, who proves more unpredictable and dangerous than Jigsaw ever was. It's a surprising transformation that Shawnee's longtime fans will appreciate, and starkly contrasts the many sweet and comedic characters she has played in the past.
Saw 3 is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, with a script from franchise co-creator Leigh Whannell.
In this exclusive interview, Shawnee talks about bringing Amanda to life, going head-to-head with co-star Bahar Soomekh, and contributing to the film's soundtrack. We also toss around a theory on what would happen if her iconic Becker character Linda were to cross paths with Jigsaw...
RadioFree.com: Your performance in Saw 3 easily makes you a nominee for Villainous Vixen in our annual movie awards...
SHAWNEE: Oh my gosh! I can't take the pressure!
How did you like playing the villain, rockin' the red and black outfit, and lookin' all kickass?
Man, I've been saying all day, if I had to audition for the part of Amanda in Saw 3, I would never get it. [laughs] The only way I could [get] a character like that was from the inside out, and kind of through the backdoor.
And it all started with a minor, half-day gig on the first Saw...
Yeah...That I didn't want to do, because it was so awful.
One of the big treats for fans in Saw 3 is the way it revisits moments from the first two films and fills in some of the gaps. How anxious were you to see how all the intricacies came together?
I haven't seen the movie yet, but I can't wait. Somehow, inadvertently, I've become a fan of this friggen story! [laughs]
How did you contribute to the film's soundtrack?
Very good friends of mine are in it--one of my favorite bands, called Hydrovibe. And I tried to get them on the Saw 2 soundtrack, and it didn't happen. And they're finally on Saw 3, and it's the first female vocal in any of the three soundtracks. And they're great. And Heather, the lead singer, is like stunningly beautiful, and has this voice that just rivals any of the men on the soundtrack. So it's like she's really kind of the musical voice for Amanda. And the song is very apropos. It's called "Killer Inside." They invited me in to just throw in a few lines and do some background vocals.
So this is in no way a cut from your band, Fydolla Ho?
No, Fydolla Ho is retired.
I recently saw a Spanish dub of your early film The Blob, called Mancha Voraz...
[laughs] I remember back in the day, we were joking about [how] there was a Spanish poster, and it was "El Blob." [laughs]
In that movie, you were sporting the big '80s hair, and in both Becker and Saw 3, you go through several hairstyles...
Yep. It's ridiculous. And then in the movie I just wrapped last night, I wear a wig through half of it because I go undercover. [laughs] Like every movie, this is a story about an actress and her hair.
Did they ask for the different styles on Becker? Or was it just a freedom they gave you?
Yeah, it was a rare license, because usually when you're on a TV show, you're not allowed to change a hair on your head. They like you to just stay the same, and it's a big deal to do anything--like just to curl it a different way. So it was a pretty unusual license to show up blonde for season four. [laughs]
Some of your most chilling moments in Saw 3 come when Amanda is terrorizing Bahar Soomekh's character. How did you feel about roughing up your co-star?
Well, these moments sometimes surprise you, and then after [they call] cut, you kind of come to and feel horrible, and make sure they're okay. [laughs] And Bahar is a trooper. There were a couple scenes where I think she got a little abused and didn't say anything. She said, "No, no, I'm fine. I'm fine."
Bahar described you as being very strong...
She's really strong. It was funny, [for] the first scene we filmed together, we did it the first way, and Amanda's just written as like this real badass...And it wasn't working. It was like two chicks fighting each other, you know? And I had to go to Darren...I'm like, "She's too strong, you know? Like I need a weapon. Otherwise, it's going to be like this force hitting force, because she's strong." So then I went and got the knife, and then it started working.
When I saw the film, people literally jumped during your confrontation scenes with her...
Oh, yeah, and the jawtrap goes [off]? Yeah, I jumped when I saw that in the looping session. There's some good scares.
After watching all of your intensity in Saw 3, I seriously had to decompress by watching a few episodes of Becker. It's like the Saw antidote...
Yeah! [laughs] It is. I'm going to TiVo a few of those for...when I see the premiere. I'll have to make sure I got some Beckers TiVoed. [laughs]
How do you think Linda would handle Jigsaw, if she were to find herself in one of his traps?
How would Linda handle Jigsaw? [laughs] I don't think that he would prey upon Linda, because she's a pretty present person.
Linda's good at being unexpectedly clever. I think she would escape the traps immediately and be walking out of the room before Jigsaw finished reading his instructions...
[laughs] That's a great spoof! We should do that! Special features.
Darren was talking at great length about the psychology behind Amanda's cutting scene...
Yeah. Isn't that interesting?
Was it really that deep...
No pun intended.
[laughs] Of course. Was the scene really that deep, or was it just an excuse to have you take off your pants?
Yeah, please. No one needs to see that for no good reason. No, it was very deliberate, and it came out of the research. [When] I started on Amanda for Saw 3, my approach started with just reading some books of some really horrifying childhoods. And I had an intuition that she's a cutter. And so I started reading books on the stories of these women who do this, and all the dots connected with Amanda. And I connected with them, and it really started shaping her as a character. And I talked to Darren about it, and Darren said, "I want to film it." And Darren loved it so much and fought for it so much, because it wasn't connected to the plot in any way--it was just a true character moment. And in a movie like Saw 3, the producers are like, "What is this? This isn't Shakespeare! It's Saw 3!" And at the same time, with all the extreme gore and traps in this one, there's something that's even more disturbing and upsetting. And when we shot it, there were people who had to leave the set--that never left a set in all the traps we do--because it struck a chord. It was awful. But very telling.