This Spiral Scene Was Agonizing To Film

When it comes to "Saw" traps, it's hard to judge exactly how favorable one is over the other. How can anyone really compare and contrast the benefits of being ensnared in a reverse bear trap as opposed to a bottomless pit of used syringes? Yet, in the most recent installment, "Spiral: From the Book of Saw," veteran actor Samuel L. Jackson had to endure the very real agony of being strapped into a complicated suspension rig. He played retired police chief Marcus Banks, the father of Zeke (Chris Rock), a hardened detective who finds himself increasingly incapable of saving fellow cops from the wrath of the Spiral killer.

While the trap isn't as gory as some of Jigsaw's aforementioned creations, it proved to be a real challenge for Jackson — it would test the endurance of any actor, let alone a living legend in his 70s. The stunt is the perfect climax for the film, but capturing it was nearly too much for everyone on set to bear, including director Darren Lynn Bousman

Let's unpack exactly what went into filming this integral scene with some incredible insight from Bousman and Jackson.

A high-profile victim

Let's be honest, the "Saw" franchise hasn't exactly boasted high-profile star power. While the inaugural 2004 film featured performances from Cary Elwes and Danny Glover, this is about as A-list as the franchise's cast has ever gotten. This doesn't mean that "Saw" films have never featured great performances, though. Shawnee Smith's recurring role as Amanda, a survivor-turned-accomplice to Jigsaw, is certainly one of the best in the franchise. However, the grim, grisly kills inherent to this particular horror series have never been a huge selling point for established actors. To be fair, many "Saw" characters have little else going on for them besides having various human vices and then waking up in some rusty Jigsaw-patented contraption.

What makes "Spiral" so different is that star Chris Rock himself was integral to the conception of the film, as he was personally interested in exploring the horror genre as an actor. Rock's involvement made it eons easier to attract fellow celebrities' interest, and it turns out that Samuel L. Jackson was totally on-board to play the comedian's on-screen father. According to Bousman, a veteran "Saw" director with three sequels under his belt, Jackson's presence on the set was particularly "surreal." Apparently, it felt truly special to have a beloved actor of Jackson's "caliber" eager to work on such a violent horror spectacle. The film's dark premise never dampened the veteran actor's spirits, though, taking the time to chat with the cast and crew about his experience filming "Pulp Fiction" in-between shooting scenes on set. 

Suspended in mid-air

Not only was Jackson on set, he was ensnared in the Spiral killer's mechanical clutches. Even if you haven't watched "Spiral" in its entirety, the film's trailer details the gist of Marcus' trap, which essentially transforms him into a human marionette. He's suspended mid-air via taught wires, though they're actually revealed to be IV tubes that are slowly draining him of blood. If Zeke doesn't make a split-second decision — requiring him to compromise his police code of conduct — Marcus will die of massive blood loss.

While the fictional trap sounds horrible enough on its face, the real-life mechanics of hoisting Jackson into the air proved to be its own kind of torture. Bousman was aware that this process would be "intense" from the get-go, particularly due to the bodily pressure of mid-air suspension. Sure, the actor may have a tough guy legacy, but even the most spry of 70-year-olds would have a tough time with this process. It took a grueling 40 minutes to get the actor strapped into the rig and suspended, leaving Bousman with only a finite amount of time to get the shots he needed. In the director's own words, filming this scene in particular was a "f***ing nightmare." The director has even joked that the behind-the-scenes mayhem of executing this specific trap merits its own featurette. For now, Bousman's expletive-laced recounts will simply have to do.

Samuel L. Jackson's enduring interest in the macabre

Let's not kid ourselves, though: Samuel L. Jackson is no newbie to onscreen violence. As such, the actor has had ample experience enduring what's necessary for his blood-spattered art. This simple fact didn't stop Bousman from asking Jackson just what drew him to "Spiral," questioning the actor during a lull while he floated in the rig above him. Even in clear discomfort, Jackson responded with succinct poise, stating that he'll tackle any project that incorporates "interesting death or violence." For a man who'd spent the better part of an hour being harnessed, that's a more than suitable response — and one that also makes total sense. 

In fact, Jackson's response was so compelling that Bouchman concluded that this scene in particular is probably what sold the actor on the "Spiral" script in the first place. The film's fatal final three minutes juxtapose a serial killer's twisted game with the senseless real-world violence of policing, a juicy conclusion that ultimately leaves an ambiguous message about what constitutes "justice." Considering Marcus' horrible fate in "Spiral," it's hard to say if Jackson will be on-board for the expected sequel, which would be the tenth installment in the "Saw" franchise (sure, his character seemed to die, but that hasn't stopped the "Saw" franchise before). It's unclear if any other big-name celebrities would be interested in entering any of Jigsaw's (or one of his various copy-cat's) ill-fated traps — that is, at least willingly.