Belzebuth Star Tobin Bell Talks His New Film, Love for Horror, and John Kramer's Future

Actor Tobin Bell has had a lengthy and diverse career, but following his debut appearance as John Kramer in the original Saw, the actor became a staple of the horror genre, going on to reprise his Kramer role in a number of sequels and making him a familiar face in any genre effort. Despite those numerous and varied performances, you've surely never seen Bell quite like he appears in the upcoming Belzebuth, where he plays a heavily tattooed priest who has a powerful connection to the world of demons. Belzebuth is out now on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, and VOD on July 7th.

In the film, "Special Agent Emanuel Ritter leads a police investigation into a series of shocking deaths. But after a priest from the Vatican finds a link between the murders and an ancient demon, a descent into horror ensues. Bezelbuth is a dark, terrifying new tale of demonic possession." recently caught up with Bell to talk his latest project, his connection to the horror world, and what the future might hold for John Kramer.

belzebuth movie tobin bell
(Photo: RLJE Films) You're well-known and beloved in the horror community thanks to a variety of projects, but would you yourself claim to be a horror fan?

Tobin Bell: I am now. I mean, you can't work in this field for the amount of time that I have, or in this genre ... I've rubbed shoulders with so many devoted horror fans. I've been so impressed with, unlike historical drama or period pieces or romantic comedies, horror fans are very devoted to this genre. It's not just a hobby with them, it's a part of their lives. It's not just, "Well, we'll go see this rom-com tonight or go see Star Wars." Well, sometimes Star Wars people are the same way. But horror fans are extremely smart and they love their genre.

When people are dedicated to something the way horror fans are, you end up getting impressed because they will travel a long way to see a film. I've always been blown away by that. And again, of course, I've worked with a number of different directors who were also extremely devoted to horror and to historical horror. They study the genre, having learned that you can accomplish as much in this genre as you can in any other genre and that it simply comes down to good writing.

I love horror because you have the visceral experience of the scares and life is full of fearful things, but if the writing is good, you can layer it with care and concern about the characters and about their relationships. Horror has a huge amount of potential. I mean, this goes back for as far as you want to go. A lot of Shakespeare has some pretty scary stuff in it, and life itself is pretty scary, so horror mirrors some of the things that we experience here on the planet.

I think the first time I ever saw you in anything was Seinfeld, so despite your prominence in horror, I know what draws you to a project is ultimately the story and the character regardless of the genre.

Yeah, that's exactly right. When Emilio Portes, the director of Belzebuth came to me, it wasn't the script that I was overwhelmed by, I was very impressed with his specificity regarding visual effects and regarding the look of my character. He sent a very talented woman from his office, a key makeup person, to Los Angeles to finalize my look for this film. She came all the way up here and we did some tests, and he showed me extensive storyboards on how he was going to shoot the film. He's a rather good visual artist. And of course, film being a visual medium, you want someone who has a strong sense in that way and he does. He has excellent visual taste.

When we first see your character, you're shirtless and covered in tattoos. When you first saw yourself in this makeup, did it change how you developed the character or did it merely heighten what you were already aiming for?

I knew right away because frankly, it was the very first thing that Emilio sent me when he first called about this, was a sketch that he had made of the character and what his look was. That immediately got my interest. Sometimes, it would take as many as two-and-a-half, three hours to prepare that look every day and I like that sort of thing. It can be wearing at times, but I like it and I felt it helped the character.

Generally, most of what I do as a character, I've prepared ahead of time. It's really a question of answering a lot of questions about who the guy is, what his motivation is, how long he's been doing it, what's at stake for him, things like that. I like to know all of that as an actor.

Some of the things that do affect you is when you end up in a tunnel and you're surrounded by demonological icons and scary stuff. I mean, that definitely penetrates. And we shot in a lot of pretty scary locations, which I appreciated because you get to see the artistry. For example, you'll start one shot in a tunnel and actually go downstairs into a tunnel. But you don't end up necessarily being in that tunnel the entire time. I mean, I've shot scenes on boats, you're downstairs in a huge sailboat, but you're really on a stage in a studio and they moved the walls of the boat so they can get the cameras in.

I did a film with Clint Eastwood called "In the Line of Fire" and I'm talking to Clint on a dock and I said, "Come with me," and we go downstairs into the boat. We shot the exterior on a dock in Maryland and we shot the interior of the boat in Los Angeles at the Sony Studios. But you never would know it in a million years. All of that's pretty damn fascinating.

We were working at the Churubusco Studios [for Bezelbuth], which is a historic stage in Mexico City. A lot of the time, they have some incredible craftsmen there, carpenters and set designers. When you see that stuff go on, it's pretty amazing how magic is created.

John Kramer is a huge role of yours, so do you feel a sense of ownership over him where, if the Jigsaw-Signal goes up in the sky, you're ready to play him again at a moment's notice, or do you think your time with the character has concluded?

John Kramer is a King Lear-like character. He's huge. His world is very large. And if the writing is amazing, he's a character that any actor would be thrilled to have an opportunity to occupy.



Bezelbuth is out now on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, and VOD.