'Spiral': How a chance encounter at a wedding led Chris Rock to make a funny 'Saw' movie

Horror fans heads were spinning in 2019 when the news broke: “Chris Rock Rebooting the Saw Franchise.” Yes, the Saturday Night Live alum and A-list comedian Chris Rock. And yes, Saw, the grisly franchise that churned out seven installments and a spin-off better know for its intricately torturous death traps than its cast members.

But Rock was a genuine fan of Saw, and horror in general. He had always wanted to enter the genre — especially if he could inject a comedic twist — and was just waiting for an appropriate moment to make his pitch. So it’s no wonder he seized on a chance encounter at a wedding in Brazil, of all places. Rock found himself seated next to Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns and leapt into action.

“I said, ‘You ever think about a little comedy in Saw?’ And you could see him perk up,” Rock told Yahoo Entertainment (watch above) in a recent interview (watch above). “And next thing I know I’m in a meeting with the head of Lionsgate. Next thing I know I’m on a set shooting a movie.”

That movie is Spiral — more spin-off than reboot, since it follows the events of past Jigsaw-focused Saw movies. Rock, who executive-produced film and also worked on the script with Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger, stars as a Metro City detective whose unit members start getting picked off one by one by a vengeful Jigsaw copycat killer. Director Darren Lynn Bousman returns to the series after helming Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006) and Saw IV (2007).

Chris Rock in 'Spiral' (Lionsgate)
Chris Rock in 'Spiral' (Lionsgate)

Viewers will know almost immediately that this is a new breed of Saw movie. The opening finds Rock’s Det. Zeke Banks going on a random, hilarious tirade about Forrest Gump. Yet the horror and suspense is never sacrificed for laughs, which play out like little Chris Rock comedy interludes to break up the bloodshed.

“One thing that Chris was very vocal about was, ‘This has to be a Saw movie. I don’t want to turn it into a comedy. It has to be Saw with just some interjected humor,’” Bousman recalls.

That didn’t stop the iconic stand-up from ad-libbing on set, essentially offering co-stars like Marisol Nichols and Max Minghella front-row seats at the most intimate of Chris Rock shows. “There is a whole bunch of extra Chris Rock stuff that is awesome,” Bousman says. “In my first edit, which was about 50 minutes longer, I had every Chris Rock-ism in there.”

Bousman points to one scene in particular, when Banks is driving with his new partner Schenk (Minghella) and starts ranting about wives and the divorce his character had just endured. “That went on, and it kept going on,” Bousman says. “I think Chris was going through a divorce, or he had just gone through a divorce [with Malaak Compton] so you saw a lot of his stand-up coming out in that. We had to cut half of it out just because it got so goddamn hilarious, and we’re supposed to be building dread.”

For the 56-year-old Rock, though, the experience of fulfilling his dream to make a Saw movie from a chance wedding encounter proved one thing.

“If you got an idea, if you have an opportunity in front of you, say it, you never know,” he says.

Spiral opens Friday.

Watch the trailer:

-Video produced by Jon San and edited by John Santo

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