Saw VI: Interview with Costas Mandylor
By: Michael Helms on October 31, 2009  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Saw VICare of the distributors of SAW VI (Hoyts) expatriate actor Costas Mandylor found himself holed up on the 21st floor of Crown Towers in central Melbourne a week before its opening to talk to various media outlets. When this writer encountered Mandylor he seemed more interested in arranging a massage between interviews for his back, which hadn't travelled well on his first visit in 11 years to his former hometown. The actor who isn't adverse to taking on roles in all sorts of genre productions (from FIST OF THE NORTH STAR & VIRTUOSITY to LAST EXIT TO EARTH and the more recent THE CURSED and HYENAS) also felt pressure to reveal very little about his latest venture into SAWdom. It didn't help that no one in the room had seen SAW VI including Mandylor. Still, the man whose character of Detective Steve Hoffman has been easing himself into the shoes of SAW's vengeful master manipulator, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) since SAW III, was happy to wave his arm over the spectacular view his room offered of South Melbourne, the suburb he was raised in, and work on some questions.

MH: I understand you can make 'em but you can't take 'em – is that true?

CM: Well, when I make them I make sure everybody laughs and gets through the day, because otherwise it gets boring and mundane. But sometimes you see certain scenes when they're complete and it's, "Oh, do you think you can get away with that?" So I'm not going to have any sleepless nights but sometimes I do think, "Oh, that's heavy!" That's the way it goes. But I make sure that, through the process of making it, everybody laughs.

MH: Did anything funny happen on the SAW VI set?

CM: I'll tell you the funniest thing and the joke was on me. It was on SAW IV where I walked on to the set near the end of the movie and — you know the table where they did the autopsy? There was a naked actor laying on the slab. You know, real naked!! And I go, " Oh, cover that man up!! Is this a porn scene or what? Please, cover him up." I could see everything – genitals, pubes – everything! And, as I got closer, I realised it was a dummy but it was like him, that real. That was one of the funniest things that ever happened to me. I actually thought it was him. Those effects guys should be winning awards. Honestly, you see the dummies and you meet the people and they're really alike: that's how real they look.

MH: In SAW V we last saw Detective Hoffman disappearing in what looked like a glass coffin while his nemesis was crushed by moving walls…

CM: I'll tell you about that coffin. The air was running out because we were taking our time doing it but they were good enough to open up the door every 5 minutes. Listen, people are out there digging ditches, building houses, laying bricks and stuff, so being in a glass box is pretty easy. You won't find me complaining as long as they let me out. That was exciting because in that sequence it looks as though I'm actually going to get it, and in the last second you think 'oh, he's gone'. Wait until you see him in the next movie.

MH: So it connects, carries straight on?

CM: Yes. And it gets ugly, very ugly.

Saw VI Poster
MH: Bones out of elbows — going further? – more gore?

CM: I think they've always pushed the envelope but the main thing is that they haven't dropped the level. So I think that the people who love this stuff, who love this particular franchise, are going to be very satisfied. That's what I've heard. I haven't seen it yet. I'm going to be in the audience in a week and a half, see it with the gang and see what they think. It's the best thing to do, to watch it with an audience. Fantastic. Without giving too much away, because they'd kill me, basically he gets a little overwhelmed, gets in a little bit over his head. Originally he was very philosophical. He tried to teach lessons in V but things go a little haywire and he puts himself in some pretty bad predicaments.

MH: What about Jigsaw?

CM: I think it's impossible to make the movie without Tobin Bell. You've got to have him in there somewhere. I mean, he is the face of the franchise. I just try to help him along. (chuckles) Well, there's a couple of scenes but, in general, I think it's more about myself and Shawnee Smith (Amanda) fighting for his attention. (OK) There's a little bit of a love story. I'm trying to prove myself stronger than she, and she stronger than me. So we'll see what happens. And it's funny, because a lot of the time she's not sure how they got it together. So it's going to be a surprise for all of us, which is great because, as an actor, you usually know what's going to happen but here, I don't know which way it's going to go. I don't even know whether I'll live.

MH: Are you signed up for VII?

CM: Well, there's talk about it but it's not solid yet because there's 3 different endings. We usually shoot 2 or 3 different endings and I honestly don't know whether I live or die. I don't know how it ends, which makes it exciting for me because I'm going to watch it with the people.

MH: So you've actually filmed your own death scene?

CM: Yes. And the agents aren't very happy about that.

MH: Seen many of the traps in the new one?

CM: I haven't seen many. I've seen parts of some. I tend not to be around when they do the traps. I don't want to see it because I want to see it in the movie. I've been acting in the movie but, in this particular type of film, I tend not to be there when there are traps. I still prefer to be an audience member and be intrigued, so I watch it that way.

Saw VI Poster
MH: SAW was originally created by Australians — has this made any differences when you're making a SAW movie?

CM: No. It just means that somebody from my home town did something really good and something to be proud of and the fact that they're from my here and they made something that I get involved with and I'm here in Melbourne overlooking South Melbourne where I grew up, it's a thrill.

MH: Did James and Leigh visit the set?

CM: Not the last couple. They've been busy doing other stuff but I think they're proud of the fact that their little baby is still sailing.

MH: This is your 4th SAW?

CM: Oh, yeah. It's a dream gig because it's its own monster to begin with and they invited me in and I just try not to screw anything up. The fact that I'm still alive means I've done something right, which is OK by me.

MH: What was your awareness of the series before you appeared in it?

CM: That it made a lot of money!!! But I grew to love it. If you're going to be there, you might as well check it out.

MH: What did you think of the first two films?

CM: I had no idea. I wasn't surprised it was popular because it was so unique.

MH: How do you feel about working with special effects?

CM: … um … sometimes it's tedious but once you get the stuff on it's very cool to see yourself in a different way. I mean, they're very good at what they do and I love it when other actors are in traps and they've got fake guts etc hanging out. It's a good laugh at their expense. I make fun of a lot of the actors because they can't get out of their traps, so it's fun for me.

MH: How was working with director, David Hackl in V?

CM: He's fantastic. Every director is different. I've worked with Darren Lynn Bousman on III & IV and they all get the joke when it's time to be funny and they're very specific and know what they're doing. I think every one of them has done a good job. Everybody there has either proven themselves or is wanting to prove themselves, so they know it backwards and forwards, which is easier for me because I can trust what they're doing.

MH: How is Toronto as a place to work?

CM: Very cold. The good thing is that you're inside most of the time. It's not like you're outside trying to deliver speeches with your teeth chattering, trying to talk to a girl and you're going …. er-er-er .. it's hard to speak. So we're mostly inside with this one.

MH: Aren't the general aesthetics of SAW being grungy and grimy a little depressing?

CM: Yes, to be honest. When we did III there was a beautiful lake outside the studio. That was really depressing but the beauty was that you could go outside, sit by the water and recover."

MH: What have you most liked about the series?

CM: Working with people who know what they're doing, the fact that it's kept it's level and people are still interested in it, so you can be proud to be part of that. And the fact that I have lived long enough to be here talking about the next one.

MH: You've met James Wan and Leigh Whannell?

CM: Yeah, I met them before they ever made the 1st one. I met them briefly. They met my Dad, who was a cab driver in Melbourne. My old man pulled out a picture of me and said, "My son's in Hollywood." "Oh, yeah, we know who he is." So I met them out the front of the building one day. They said, " We're doing a little thing called SAW." I said " Good luck to you, fellas." A year later—explosion!!!!! They made it. The boys did good.

MH: Are you finding yourself recognised in many non-English language territories?

CM: Oh, yeah. They're all crazy. I've been in New York, catching trains, ferries and whatnot, and people come up to me from every country in the world. 'What are you doing here?' It's pretty big everywhere. Sometimes they shake my hand and they start shaking. (laughter) Some of the kids, they come up and I'm like 'hi' and give them a little hug or something and they take a picture and you feel the body quivering…yeah.

Saw VI Poster
MH: Where do you see the series going?

CM: That question cannot be answered by anyone except those writers because I really only find out at the last minute. Every time I've ever done one, the last 20 pages are only handed to me at the last minute. So I'm in the dark; which I like because it keeps you on your toes and keeps it exciting. If people come to see VI, then they will make VII. I'll be up for it but not sure if I'll be in it. I'm actually cool about it.

MH: How was working with your latest director, Kevin Greutert?

CM: He was editor for II, III, IV & V so he's seen every frame of every one of them and he knew what he was doing and apparently he's done a really good job. But, you know, they keep telling me that everybody has their favourite trap, their favourite instalment but they say VI is as good as 1, or right up there with it. That's hard to do but that's what they've told me. You just have to see it.

MH: From your experience any advice to horror film makers?

CM: You can't advise anybody. Everybody just use your imagination and go for something unique if you can. I mean, if it's just about chopping people up it's not that interesting because everybody has seen that. But if you can make it smart and a little bit unpredictable, I think that's the way to go.

MH: Are you into generating your own projects?

CM: I've got a couple of things I really want to do. One is an Aussie Rules story that Louis (Mandylor — his younger brother) created and there's a Russian mob thing I really want to do. So I'm starting to venture out to make my own stuff because I think that's the way to go. The pioneers of that in Hollywood were Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster with SPARTACUS and things like that and now Clooney is doing it, and Brad Pitt is doing it so, why not get on the bandwagon and make your own thing. Why wait for somebody to hire you when you can hire yourself?

MH: So you're into writing yourself a starring role?

CM: Absolutely. I'm not a good structural writer that does particulars but the one thing I think I could do is help write dialogue and chop it away. Edit it, essentially. One of my favourite things is that Steve McQueen used to give all his lines to everybody else. And I'm into that: share it with everybody so I don't talk too much. Some people want a lot of lines: I don't. One line can say a thousand things instead of too many lines and too much verbiage.

MH: Did you do that in SAW?

CM: Yes, I do that all the time. Steve McQueen is one of the greatest behavioural actors; didn't talk much. It's not what you say, it's what you do. Every now and then a great speech is good. That's it. I feel I talk too much. (chuckles)

MH: Is there anything to look out for in this latest instalment of SAW?

CM: There's a lot of wild stuff in it but I think the ending is going to blow everybody away because I'm just getting that message from everybody. I'm not sure what it is but they say it's going to be insane.

Saw VI

Saw VI is in cinemas now.

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