When James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s horror masterpiece, Saw, was dropped upon us back in 2004, it was something of a revelation. Nothing pointed to the film being a success, let alone being an iconic entry into the horror movie lexicon due to its premise, the traps, iconic scenes like the leg sawing bit, and Jigsaw as the mastermind antagonist.
Yet Saw proved to be the little scary film that could, becoming one of the most successful horror movies ever, and it’s even more unbelievable when you consider that the movie only turned out the way it did because of a migraine and Mad Max.
When James Wan and Leigh Whannell were still in the writing stages of Saw, Whannell was suffering from migraines due to stress and unhappiness over working at a dead end job he hated.
Convinced his migraine was a brain tumour, he went to see a neurologist and while waiting in the waiting room, he had the thought, “What if you were given the news that you had a tumor and you were going to die soon? How would you react to that?”
After combining that admittedly dark thought with the idea of someone putting others into a literal version of a life or death situation with only a few minutes to choose their fate, the memorable character of Jigsaw was born.
As for how Mad Max came to influence Saw, it wasn’t Mel Gibson or the grim look that inspired Wan and Whannell. Rather, it was Mad Max‘s ending where Max gives a baddie – who is handcuffed to a burning car that’s about to explode – the choice to either saw (heh) off his own leg (which will be quicker) or sawing through the handcuffs (which will take longer).
This iconic scene more or less directly inspired the ending of Saw where Dr. Lawrence Gordon is basically given the same choice in order to escape death, except that the difference is the baddie dies whereas Lawrence ultimately ends up (improbably) surviving.
Inspiration comes from the most unexpected – and occasionally painful – places and it certainly was the case for James Wan and Leigh Whannell when it came to Saw, which is still as memorable today as it was back in 2004.