The Chance Encounter That Landed Chris Rock A Role In Spiral

Comedian Chris Rock has been making audiences laugh for nearly four decades. The former "Saturday Night Live" cast member has put out some of the most memorable stand-up comedy specials of all time, and has enjoyed an impressive acting career, appearing in films like Kevin Smith's "Dogma," the dark comedy "Nurse Betty," his starring turn in "Down to Earth," the Adam Sandler remake of "The Longest Yard," and he even provided the voice for the outlandish zebra named Marty in DreamWorks' animated film franchise, "Madagascar." 

Chris Rock has become synonymous with all things comedy, so it was shocking back in 2019 when it was announced that he was joining forces with director Darren Lynn Bousman to reboot the "Saw" franchise. That's right, Chris Rock, the same actor who joined Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, and Rob Schneider in "Grown Ups" was going to dive into the Jigsaw killer's world of torture, mayhem, and buckets of blood.

The "Saw" films became one of the most profitable franchises in horror history, and from 2004 to 2010, every Halloween season was christened with a new "Saw" film. The series was intended to end after the release of "Saw 3D," but returned seven years later with "Jigsaw." The film received mixed-to-negative reviews but brought in over a whopping $103 million at the box office against a $10 budget. 

"Saw" was back in a very big way, and it was only a matter of time before a full reboot of the franchise was in order. Chris Rock joining the team? That was an angle no one saw coming.

It's about who you know, not what you know

Chris Rock is a lifelong fan of horror films and a sincere fan of the "Saw" movies as a whole. Knowing that comedy is his strong suit, Rock had been looking for an opportunity to enter the horror sphere and find a new playground to perform in. Rock felt that there was potential in breathing some comedic life into the "Saw" series, and found his chance to pitch the idea at a wedding in Brazil, of all places. 

Due to the planets aligning or some other cosmic form of happenstance, Rock wound up seated next to Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns. He saw his opportunity and took it. "You ever think about a little comedy in 'Saw'," Rock asked Burns. He says he saw Burns perk up, and shortly after their wedding conversation, Rock found himself in a meeting with the head of Lionsgate. "Next thing I know, I'm on a set shooting a movie."

While the initial news reports described "Spiral: From the Book of Saw" as a reboot, the film can be more closely described as a spin-off set in the same universe. It exists in a post-Jigsaw/John Kramer world, with the events of the previous "Saw" films presented as canonical. Rock executive produced the film as well as contributed to the script with screenwriters Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger who previously wrote "Jigsaw" in 2017. 

"Spiral" sees Rock as Detective Zeke Banks, a member of the Metro City police force who sees his fellow officers targeted by a Jigsaw copycat killer hellbent on clearing out and punishing the corruption from within the MCPD. The film also brought back Darren Lynn Bousman, who previously directed "Saw II," "Saw III," and "Saw IV."

Laughs were injected into the story, but not the main focus

The original run of "Saw" films had the occasional moment of levity thrown in from time to time but were overwhelmingly serious horror films with out-of-this-world moments of brutality. "Spiral" is still very much a "Saw" film, but is littered with humor from both Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson who plays his father, Marcus Banks. According to Darren Lynn Bousman, Rock didn't want to turn the movie into a comedy, but rather treat it as a standard "Saw" movie that just happens to have humor interspersed throughout in ways that feel authentic. Human beings sometimes laugh or tell jokes when the world gets too tough to manage, so seeing someone crack the occasional one-liner out of discomfort is part of human nature. 

Of course, with comedy coming naturally to Rock, there was plenty of ad-libbing on set. "There is a whole bunch of extra Chris Rock stuff that is awesome," Bousman said. "In my first edit, which was about 50 minutes longer, I had every Chris Rock-ism in there." During a driving scene featuring Banks and his new partner, Detective William Schenk (Max Minghella), Rock apparently ad-libbed so much comedic gold that Bousman was sad to have to cut it out. "It got so goddamn hilarious, and we're supposed to be building dread," he said. 

The reviews of "Spiral" were mixed, but many found the strongest aspect of the film to be Rock's refreshing new tone and the film's attempt to combat systemic corruption in the police force. Darren Lynn Bousman told The Boo Crew in 2021 that he hopes to continue the story started in "Spiral," separate from the planned "Saw 9" and "Saw 10." And to think, all of this was possible because of Chris Rock's seating assignment at a wedding. Rock said it best, "If you got an idea, if you have an opportunity in front of you, say it, you never know."