The actor tells us why he returned to the Saw franchise, explains the cross-gender appeal of No Strings Attached and reveals how unsettling it was to get inside the head of a serial killer like Ted Bundy.
English actor Cary Elwes was probably best known in this country for his comedic work as the stable boy-turned-swashbuckler Westley in The Princess Bride and as the titular character in Robin Hood: Men in Tights until he took the lead role in Saw. That shocking 2004 film with a budget just north of $1 million grossed over $100 million worldwide and launched a successful horror franchise as well as a slew of imitators. Elwes's Dr. Lawrence Gordon character—who sawed off his own foot in the original to escape Jigsaw's deadly trap—returns in a pivotal role for the seventh film in the series, Saw: The Final Chapter, which is available now on DVD, Blu-ray and as Saw: 3D on Blu-ray 3D.
Movies.com: Were you surprised that you character, Dr. Lawrence Gordon, was alive all this time when they called you up for Saw: The Final Chapter?
Elwes: No, actually. I had the fans to thank for that because they campaigned quite heavily to bring Dr. Gordon back. I got a call from the filmmakers around Saw IV or V. I said to them, "I think it behooves us if we bring back Gordon on the last one, so why don't you come back to me when you're ready to wrap up the series and we'll talk then?" I thought it would be a nice way to bookend the series.
Movies.com: Saw: The Final Chapter was released in theaters and on Blu-ray 3D as Saw: 3D. Are you a fan of 3D movies in general?
Elwes: I enjoy them, actually. I was incredibly surprised by how well Kevin Greutert directed this film. I thought the 3D effect was incredible and it lends itself particularly well to our series because of how the film is made, with the intricate traps and what have you. I think 3D is here to stay and has its place. There are certain genres that lend themselves very well to three-dimensional viewing and when it's done well, it's done well.
You've starred in Gothic horror with Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula
and have kind of opened and closed the book on torture horror with Saw
and Saw: the Final Chapter
. What do you think is next for the horror genre?
I really don't know. I hope it evolves. What I liked about our series is, in a perverse way, the movies had their own morality tales to them. The plots were clever—they required thinking processes from the viewer—and they all tied together in one larger tale. I thought those elements are what make the series stand out when compared to others. They're blaming us for what they call "torture porn," and I say that those films really are in that they don't really have any social redeeming value to them. You know, a guy jumping out of the corner with an ax—we haven't seen that before! [laughs]
Movies.com: You play Dr. Metzner in No Strings Attached alongside Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. How is it different from other rom-coms?
Elwes: It's a wonderful romantic comedy. I teach Natalie and a few young medical students and train them to become doctors, and I'm one of the more serious characters in the movie. Ivan [Reitman] is a fantastic filmmaker. It's the first romantic comedy that I've seen that isn't geared just towards women, which seems to be the norm of late. He managed to cross audiences and get both sexes involved, and I thought that was very cool.
Movies.com: Portman and Kutcher play best friends who have sex and then try to keep it all casual with no strings attached. Has that ever worked in real life?
Elwes: I think it depends on the length of that relationship and the compatibility of the two parties. I firmly believe in love and always like to promote that. I know I'm doing the other thing with Saw—a distorted viewpoint to have of oneself—but this one is just a sweet comedy.
Movies.com: Your very first credit in your first movie, Yesterday's Hero, is "disco dancer." Are you a maniac on the dance floor?
Elwes: I don't know where that credit came from. I visited the set once or twice, but I'm not in the movie as I can recall. It was made by my stepfather, who produced the film, but for some reason some blogger or someone who owns the film now think it's important to make some money by including my name in the credits. I defy anyone to get a copy and show it to me, because I don't recall being in the film.
Is it true you are voicing George Harrison in the upcoming remake of Yellow Submarine
It's not a "voicing," it's actually a motion-capture film. It's not an animated movie where you just come in and front of a microphone. I'm a big Beatles fan, and I think it's going to be an incredible movie.
Movies.com: Everyone loved you as Robin Hood in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Did you see Russell Crowe as Robin Hood and, if so, which one of you is the king archer?
Elwes: [Laughs] You're trying to put me in trouble? I haven't actually seen it, so I really can't give an honest answer, which is probably a relief. I'm sure he's very good because I enjoy watching Russell and I'm a big fan of Ridley Scott. I'll get around to seeing it at some point.
Movies.com: You've played Ted Bundy and a young Pope John Paul II in television movies. Is it more difficult for you as an actor to get in touch with your dark side or religious side?
Elwes: I'm glad the Vatican didn't see the former one! I just approach each role with the same kind of due diligence. If I'm playing a real person, obviously that has an added element to it that is exciting because you have a lot more resource material to play with. Ted Bundy and Pope John Paul II are two diametrically opposed characters. Do I favor one over the other? I didn't particularly like living in the headspace of a sociopathic serial killer. Having to read a lot of that stuff was hard because it becomes a lot more visceral with details about real people that were abused, tortured and killed. That was not a pleasant place to be. Whereas with the pope, it was remarkable to go to Poland and meet people who knew him and still love him—he's such a touchstone for people's faith. That is the incredible legacy of this man.
Movies.com: Although Saw: The Final Chapter does seem to wrap up the story of Jigsaw, the studio could always resurrect the franchise at some point in the future. Would you be tempted to return again?
Elwes: Well, I think the title speaks for itself. I wanted to come back and do the last one, and it feels like the series has run its course.