‘Jigsaw’ Actor Tobin Bell’s Guide to Creating an Iconic Horror Villain

Kim Taylor-Foster
Movies Horror
Movies Horror

The Saw franchise is a juggernaut. It has grown exponentially from its humble beginnings as a low-budget, sleeper horror hit into a staggering eight film movie behemoth, establishing itself as one of the world’s highest-grossing horror franchises.

The most recent entry, Jigsaw, picks up 10 years after the death of the Jigsaw killer, when a spate of new murders being investigated bare all the hallmarks of the Jigsaw killings. One of the creepiest and most deranged psychopaths ever to appear on screen, the original Jigsaw killer – otherwise known as John Kramer – has made his mark in the horror annals.

But what does it take to construct an enduring horror character? The man behind the Saw films’ main antagonist, Tobin Bell, exclusively shares with FANDOM his top tips for creating a seminal screen villain.

1. Make him complex and surprising

“The audience will know you’re the bad guy. You don’t need to hammer on that. What you need is to make him interesting. We’re all very complex, so make him complex; make him surprising. Figure out why his mother loved him.”

2. Figure out the human qualities

“For me, I need to know what are the human qualities of this person. The plot will play out the way the plot plays out. You can form your own opinion about me based on what you see. I don’t need to do that as an actor. What I need to do is figure out who this person is.”

3. Understand what motivates them and why

“What’s interesting is what motivates them and why; that‘s what actors can bring. They can make that very real, or not.”

4. Don’t count on the director or writer

“I do not count on a director or a writer. Writers can point you in the direction, the destination, but how you get there…. Directors are often very good at what they do but they’re not actors. Most of them.”

5. Believe what you’re saying and know what it really means

“The camera sees everything, so I have to believe what I’m saying, what the dialogue is — and what does he mean by it? Because I can say ‘I love you’ and … there are all shades of that. You can say you love somebody and you could hate them at the same time.”

6. Decide what turns that key

“How you get there — every good actor has to decide what turns that key in them. And then you get help from directors, you get help from writers.”

Jigsaw hits movie theatres in the US and UK on October 27th.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.