Iran News ...


11/2/06

Saw III: Bahar Soomekh's Halloween Nightmare

By Darius KADIVAR

 

 


Shawnee
Smith and Bahar Soomekh in Saw III ©Lionsgate Films' 2006


Pain: it's part of the puzzle. Blood: it's the price of freedom.
Death: it's not that easy
-Tagline of Saw III


Staff at a UK cinema have had to call emergency services three times in one night because of a spate of people passing out during horror film. According to the BBC news service, One woman was taken to hospital and two other adults had to be treated by medics after they fainted in Stevenage. No this is not a rehearse of the making of a Steven Spielberg JAWS remake but noticed reactions to the third sequel to James Wan’s Horror movie SAW directed for a second time by Darren Lynn Bousman. “If know you're squeamish, don't go," warned a spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service. "This is obviously a blood-thirsty film. Some of the scenes are fairly horrific," Matthew Ware told the BBC News Website. All the incidents took place on Friday evening, one of the busiest nights of the week for emergency crews, he added. A woman in her twenties was discharged from the Lister Hospital in Stevenage after being treated. And the two other cinemagoers - who had been at the town's Cineworld complex - were left "in the care of friends and relatives" without needing to be taken to hospital. A man aged 34 fainted at the Showcase in Peterborough, Mr Ware said. There was also a case of a 22-year-old woman passing out at Cineworld in Cambridge on Friday, but it had not been confirmed that she was watching Saw III, he added.  The slasher movie - currently number one at the North American box office - was released last week in the UK

As strangely sentimental as it may it may sound, relationships are as integral to the SAW universe as any of the bone-snapping, tendon-stripping, audience-pleasing traps it showcases. From Dr. Gordon and Adam to Detective Matthews and Kerry; Daniel and Amanda to Zep and Jigsaw, the “family” tree on which its key players hang bears all of the drama and twists of an afternoon soap opera. Except this is a soap unlike any you have ever seen, of course—a splashy Grand Guignol concoction of mayhem, sacrifice, deception and revelation. In fact, with the advent of SAW III fans will soon realize just how deep the relationships cut among some of its returning cast (like Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith as John “Jigsaw” Kramer and Amanda, respectively) and new victims Jeff and Dr. Lynn Denlon.

The latter, a dejected surgeon played by 31-year-old Bahar Soomekh, is pulled into Jigsaw’s machinations more out of necessity, in this chapter, than lesson-learning…or so we think. He needs her expertise to keep him alive for one final game (a moral passage experienced by Jeff, played by Angus Macfadyen) before he succumbs to the cancer that has been devouring him over the course of two films. In the event that Lynn tries to escape Jigsaw’s lair, a lethal, almost Cleopatra-esque collar has been rigged around her neck to ensure her dedication to the cause. To further complicate matters, Lynn must contend with Jigsaw’s former victim/now partner Amanda, who doesn’t take kindly to the fact that her mentor’s attention is being redirected elsewhere. Needless to say, it’s this kind of blueprint of deadly liaisons (scripted once again by Leigh Whannell) that actors love to chew on—especially a thespian who, until now, has had only bit parts on television and supporting big-screen roles.

Mark Amin
Iranian born MARK AMIN, Vice Chairman,
Lions Gate Entertainment ©
Lionsgate Films'

Soomekh, a self-confessed squeamish viewer of anything remotely scary, had not seen the SAW films until she was offered the role of Lynn. Coming off the Academy Award-winning CRASH and this past summer’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III, the Iranian-born actress owns up to facing her differences (i.e. “being scared shitless”) with horror head-on when she signed on to Bousman’s film—an initiative to spread her career across a wide palette of genres. It certainly helped that she found Whannell’s script compelling, the franchise is hot and the character gave her plenty of material to draw from.

“Now that I know the SAW world, I believe each one takes it to a different level, and this one is much more emotional than the other films,” Soomekh says, choosing her sentences carefully so as not to spill the beans on plot specifics, even as she speaks to Fango less than a week prior to the film’s release. “I knew this was going to be a different kind of place than I had ever gone before; that’s why I wanted to challenge myself.” And in doing so, the actress took measures to prepare herself, such as “going into therapy so, mentally, I was able to switch in and out of this character, because it’s a hard place I go to. When I was in this role, I was there all day, every day, and it came into my dreams and life and was a hard thing to switch off. Maybe I didn’t understand the intensity of it, but I did know it was going to be a rough journey.”


Saw III ©Lionsgate Films' 2006

Assurance that this trip would be a non-damaging one came at a small price, as the raven-haired beauty with the drop-dead smile will tell you. “When I went in to meet Darren, I said to myself, ‘Can I trust this guy to watch over me while I go to this dark place? Can I make sure he’s going to take care of me?’ “ Bousman’s energy and collaborative nature with his cast quickly set her mind at ease, however, even during a small mishap with the collar she wore throughout the shoot.

“That thing was real metal, and it was heavy,” she sighs, hands wrapping over her collarbone. “It was over my shoulders and on my shoulder blades the whole time. There’s this scene where I go over to the jaw-trap [from the first film], which is sitting on a table in Jigsaw’s lair, to see what it is. I get close and the thing explodes to life. No matter how many times you do it, you’re going to get scared, because there’s this big pop when it goes off. During one take I jumped, and in the process the collar, loaded with triggers, just hit me in the chin. I got cut and was bruised there, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back that day. The floodgates got going, and while I was emotional the whole time, that just got me crying. Like, ‘Get this f**kin’ thing off of me!’ So they gave me a nice foamy one I could use from time to time.”

Collar aside, a threat of another kind looms over Lynn during the film. For the most part, she has little to fear from a frail, dying man on a hospital bed. It’s the observant, roaming firecracker named Amanda (who’s being groomed to carry on Jigsaw’s work) whom Lynn has to tread carefully around—a tough feat given the close proximity in which they’re forced to enact their battle of wits. “There was some real tension there,” Soomekh recalls. “The dynamics of Lynn and Amanda are so intense and powerful. There’s such a jealousy on Amanda’s part, because I have taken on the role of protecting and taking care of Jigsaw.

Lynn is scared of Amanda,” she notes. “I want to kill her, and at the same time I’m depending on her to keep me alive because I know in a heartbeat that she can destroy my life. So, there was such an unbelievable intensity between Shawnee and me. There’s a moment where she was choking me and pushing me against the wall. I knew she was going to flip out and grab me, but I didn’t expect Shawnee to take me like that. I mean, she was hurting me, she had my jaw in this grip and I was trying to fight her off—it was animalistic, man! Pure animalistic hatred and fear. When Jigsaw tells her to back off and I say, ‘You f**kin’ freak!’ while she’s walking out of the room…that was genuine, that wasn’t in the script. That was pure anger from me. And I was just left there crying. When Darren called ‘Cut,’ Shawnee came running over and gave me this big hug and was like, ‘Are you OK?’ It was so weird for me because a second before, I was so angry at her—but you discover you’re in this moment. That’s what is so fascinating about this job: You have to flip a switch all the time.”

Despite the schizo nature of the profession, Soomekh recalls there being a supportive atmosphere among the SAW III cast between takes. “We were always dissecting the characters, making them rich and fleshing things out, taking emotional journeys and really getting to the heart of it so the dynamics would be real,” she says. “I’ve never, ever dissected something so much, and because of Darren, the characters were made meatier too. I gave him all I had and all the ranges of emotion that Lynn would go through—from anger to fear to love.

 

Photo of The 78th Annual Academy Awards,  Matt Dillon, Bahar Soomekh

The 78th Annual Academy Awards (2006) (TV) - Matt Dillon, Bahar Soomekh starred together in Paul Haggis’ Oscar Winning film (CRASH)

 “One thing we wanted to do was, as Amanda is moving further and further away from Jigsaw, Lynn and Jigsaw develop this creepy closeness between capturer and captive,” she continues. “Jigsaw is peeling away her layers and getting to the heart of why Lynn has felt dead inside. That’s a cool dynamic we worked on. Tobin sketched out what we wanted to do, which fuels Amanda’s jealousy but makes Jigsaw and Lynn closer. So much so that you get the impression that Jigsaw might even protect her.

"There was a fight sequence between Amanda and Lynn that was very intense," Soomekh concludes, "but Darren ultimately pulled the scene out. Lynn was fighting for her life in that scene, though; she’s a smart woman and she knows what’s going on. The character could’ve been played totally differently—whimpering her way through it—but we wanted to give her some strengths.”

Produced by Lions Gate, it  is interesting to note that another Iranian is indirectly involved in the production of SAW III which could explain why Bahar Soomekh was chosen to cast in this movie.  Mark Amin is currently Vice Chairman, Member of the Board of Directors, and one of the largest shareholders of Lions Gate Entertainment, the leading independent producer and distributor of films in the United States. Throughout the past three years, Lions Gate has received nine Academy Award Nominations of which it won three. This year, the company boasts three nominations for Shadow of the Vampire and Amores Perros.

Mark Amin founded and acted as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Trimark Holdings, Inc., the parent company to Trimark Pictures, from 1985 to October of 2000, when the company merged with Lions Gate Entertainment. Trimark Pictures was the leading publicly traded, independent video and film production and distribution company in the entertainment industry throughout the 1980's and 1990's, distributing motion pictures domestically and internationally, providing licensing to the broadcast industry through Trimark Television and providing product for the video market through Trimark Home Video.

Amin's film credits as Executive Producer include the critically acclaimed feature Eve's Bayou, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Lynn Whitfield, which received seven Image Award nominations including Best Motion Picture. Other films include Sprung, starring Tisha Campbell, and Diplomatic Siege, starring Tom Berenger.Amin graduated from the John Anderson School of Business at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) with a Masters of Business Administration in Marketing in 1975. He was previously awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics by the University of Kansas. Mr. Amin was born in Rafsanjan, Iran, in 1950, and lived there until the age of 17, when he moved to the United States. Mr. Amin is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

SAW III is yet another cinematographic testimony, if needed, of the rising influence of the Iranian Diaspora community in Hollywood. One should nevertheless hope that this growing influence of talented Iranian Artists and successful producers will not be limited to a film genre that is mostly popular amongst staunch aficionados of horror movies.

 

Author’s Notes:

 

Official Website: http://www.saw3.com

 

WARNING FOR VIEWERS : MPAA (The Motion Picture Association of America ) : Rated R for strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language.
Runtime: 107 min / Canada:107 min (original release)

 

 

 



About the Author: Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian,  and Columnist of the OCPC Magazine USA. He operated as Paris based Head of PR & Press for
WAALM® 2nd annual Awards 2006.

 

 

 

 

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